Career path in the TFL industry

The TSL or transportation, shipping and logistics industry has had a difficult time with the pandemic, which has halted many shipments and frozen the ability to cross borders quickly. Despite the many challenges, business analysts indicate that a rebound in demand will occur later this year and continue in future years. Earlier, in 2019. Polish carriers took the leading position in the European Union in terms of freight work performed. The importance of the Central and Eastern European region in the TSL industry has also increased. According to CSO data, employment in the sector grew by 2.3 per cent. y/y in the period from January to July 2020.

What does a Freight Forwarder do?

A freight forwarder is a person who plans the transportation of goods or people so that it is an efficient and safe process. What does the job of a Freight Forwarder entail? We outline his typical duties:

  • coordinating the transportation of products or people – this is the entire process of activities that must be carried out in order for the transport to be carried out in a safe and timely manner,
  • monitoring of orders handled – factors to be monitored include. the stage of the process (loading, unloading, shipment en route) and the time of execution of a given stage,
  • service and communication with the principal – The freight forwarder is in constant and systematic contact with the principal, so as to keep him informed about the process, and also to respond to changes and challenges that may occur during transport,
  • acquisition of new customers – this may be one of the tasks unless an account team has been appointed. new customers,
  • acquisition of new carriers – this can be one of the tasks, unless a team for the acquisition of new carriers has been appointed. new carriers,
  • direct cooperation with carriers, including, for example, negotiating transportation rates
  • oversight of the profitability of transport orders – profitability is one of the more important elements of the process that needs to be monitored.

Yes, as you’ve noticed, the Freight Forwarder’s activities are the overall transportation process from receiving the order from the customer, selecting the right carrier and monitoring the parameters of the process until the shipment is delivered to the customer. Depending on what branch of freight forwarding you are involved in, you will additionally need to acquire knowledge of a particular field, for example, aviation or international law in transportation.

Key factors in employment in the TFL industry

Despite the fact that the knowledge related to transportation and forwarding is quite extensive, more and more companies are choosing to hire Candidates without experience and referring them to appropriate courses or training. Some companies themselves run 2-week or monthly training programs so that new employees can learn and systematize their knowledge related to shipping. If not experience, then what skills and competencies will work in your favor:

  • knowledge of foreign languages, and minimally English at a communicative level. Freight forwarding is quite an international specialty – most job offers are for international forwarding, which requires you to be well prepared to work with customers. The ability to communicate freely in a foreign language is an absolute minimum to join the recruitment process for the position of Freight Forwarder. Before the interview, be prepared to answer some questions in that language,
  • customer service – one of the daily tasks of the Freight Forwarder position is to work with customers. You will contact selected customers on a daily basis to arrange transportation with them, schedule activities or close the shipping process. The ability to communicate with customers and provide good customer service is something you Recruiter can pay particular attention to. If you have experience in business customer service then this is one of the most important points to include in your resume,
  • planning – optimal planning of transportation activities is half the battle. Often, in addition to planning the activities to be carried out one by one, for example, it is necessary to plan the itinerary and budget. There is no room for spontaneity in the transportation process, everything must be carefully thought out and planned to minimize the risk of failure and loss in transportation. Recall all planning activities so that you can present them during the recruitment interview,
  • negotiation – this is something you will encounter every day – customers will expect the fastest and cheapest possible transportation, and carriers will expect the highest possible payment for their services. You need to learn how to negotiate with one group as well as the other, so that you can effectively carry out the transportation process. Negotiation is one of the most important skills in any industry – learn it and improve your negotiation skills.

Before you start interviewing potential employers – review the above points, take them as advice for a novice shipper on what to focus on and analyze expectations from the job offer. Based on this, you can prepare for yourself a list of tasks/obligations that you have carried out before and that can influence the positive consideration of your application. Think of specific examples that you can present to Recruiters during the interview. Think about what the task taught you and what lessons you learned for the future.

Career path in TFL industry

Candidates with no experience most often start their career path in TFL with the role of Assistant Freight Forwarder or Junior Freight Forwarder. In this position, you most often receive on-the-job induction training and can learn under the guidance of an experienced employee how best to carry out the Shipping process. As you gain experience and skills, you can advance to the position of Independent Freight Forwarder or Senior Freight Forwarder.

Depending on your aptitude and ambition, you can become a high-level specialist in the role of Freight Forwarder and serve new markets, but you can also rise to the role of Team Leader for a team of Freight Forwarders. In order to become a Team Leader, one must first and foremost hone one’s skills in managing a team, projects and motivating employees.

In the beginning, it’s a good idea to start with small steps – free materials, webinars or courses to see if team management is something that will be for you. If so, it’s a good idea to talk about your development and the possibility of promotion with your supervisor, who will show you what steps you need to take to be promoted to Team Leader. Some employers may offer you training that they already have, or may offer to co-finance more expensive courses or training.

Click and find out more about different ways of sourcing candidates.

Trends in the TSL industry

Technological development is accelerating year by year streamlining many processes related to logistics and transportation. The TSL industry, which is constantly growing and changing, and also follows global trends that will allow the development and optimization of operations throughout the industry. Two trends that stand out significantly are Automation and Artificial Intelligence.

Business process automation is the use of bots or IT systems that take over repetitive tasks so that an employee can take care of something more important and complex. In order for process automation to be effective, it is necessary to identify what are the steps in the shipping process, then select those steps that are standard and repetitive for the process – this could be, for example, information about receiving an order, sending an invoice or notifications on the next stages of transport sent to the customer. If we are supported by automation, the employee can, in the meantime, take care of activities that require more involvement and are more advanced and, most importantly, add value for the customer.

Artificial intelligence could revolutionize the entire industry – from determining the right route, recalculating stopping hours for drivers to driverless trucks. Artificial intelligence can facilitate the work in Shipping on a very large scale – because by entering specific parameters it can plan all activities, lead times and support the driver at every stage of transport in a much faster way. It is the man who will always have the last word, but support tools that are able to give the best solutions based on a few data strongly support efficiency in the work of any Forwarder.

Automation and artificial intelligence will not cause layoffs in Shipping departments, it will only redirect employees’ activities from monotonous and repetitive to more complex and advanced ones. Consider these tools as work support that strengthens the effectiveness of the entire team.

Piotr Pawłowski

TFL career

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