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A freight forwarding company is a service company that organizes the transport of goods . This originally includes the organization of the freight transport . The freight forwarder is provider of transport services by rail , truck , aircraft , transport wheel , sea or inland waterway , which he often used by carriers ( English carrier ) buys.


Shipping companies usually offer other services related to transport and handling. Not only the purchase of individual transport services, but the organization of complex service packages consisting of transport , handling , storage and additional logistical services is the focus of the business of a modern forwarding company.

The freight forwarding industry has been divided into numerous groups of specialists who cover a wide range from nationally and internationally active sea ​​freight , air freight , motor vehicle, rail and inland waterway freight forwarders to service areas such as food, groupage, project and customs freight forwarders cover. Despite nuanced discount almost all German transport companies conduct their business on the basis of the German Freight Forwarders (ADSp) as industry standard Terms and Conditions from. Other terms and conditions can only be found where consumers are involved in transport processing , such as in furniture and moving companies or with parcel service providers.

Legal basis

In Germany , the forwarding business is regulated by § 453 ff. Commercial Code (HGB). As part of the reform of transport law on July 1, 1998, the legislature took account of the changed picture of freight forwarding practice.

Terms and Conditions

Most freight forwarders (and many freight carriers and warehouse keepers ) in Germany still work with the General German Freight Forwarders Conditions ( ADSp ), which - as far as legally permissible - partially deviate from the regulations of the HGB (e.g. in the area of ​​liability) in favor of the freight forwarders , Carrier and / or warehouse keeper. The last versions of the ADSp are from 2003 and 2016. In October 2016, the German Freight Forwarding and Logistics Association (DSLV) as well as various loading and transport associations published a new version, the ADSp 2017, the application of which is recommended from January 1, 2017.

The general terms and conditions that have also continued to exist on the market to date , namely the contractual conditions for road haulage, freight forwarding and logistics companies (VBGL) (last as of 2015), as well as the German Transport and Storage Conditions (DTLB) (last as of September 2015) should be effective from 1 January 2017 will probably not play a role at all on the transport market, at most an insignificant role, as their respective editors now also recommend the ADSp 2017 to be used.

In addition, many freight forwarders work on the basis of the logistics terms and conditions in order to create a uniform legal basis for non-transport-related logistics services.


The forwarding company is generally developing into a logistics service provider . The apprenticeship as a freight forwarder did not take up the field of specialized commercial services until the 19th century. The logistician is used today for the apprenticeship occupation. The development from a pure forwarding agent to a logistics service provider was taken into account in the Vocational Training Act, in which the former apprenticeship as a forwarding agent has been known as a forwarding agent and logistics service provider since August 1, 2004 .

Range of services

Today the forwarding company offers a very differentiated range of services, including a.

Freight forwarders usually work on the basis of the General German Forwarding Conditions (ADSp). The ADSp only covers normal forwarding services. This applies to all types of activities, regardless of whether they are forwarding, freight, storage or other business that is usually part of the forwarding trade.

Many freight forwarders have developed into logistics companies in recent years. They not only organize transports for their customers, but also offer them a wide range of additional logistical services. B. related to the supply, production and distribution of goods. This is characterized by the fact that they take on activities that are directly related to production (e.g. pre-assembly), packaging , trading in goods (e.g. shelf service). If no special contracts ( contract logistics ) are concluded between the freight forwarder and the customer for this business , the German Freight Forwarding and Logistics Association ( DSLV ) recommends using the logistics terms and conditions in addition to the ADSp (see also logistics contract ).

Freight forwarder as carrier

The freight forwarder is usually not the carrier himself. If at least one of the three special cases according to Sections 458 to 460 of the German Commercial Code ( HGB) is present ( self-entry , fixed-cost freight forwarder , groupage ), then the freight forwarder is largely treated like a carrier.

Self entry

As expressly provided for in the German Commercial Code, the freight forwarder can carry out the transports with his own vehicles within the framework of his right of self-entry . The right of self-entry is mainly exercised in road freight transport. If he makes use of this right, he only has the rights and obligations of a carrier with regard to the transport.

Fixed cost forwarding

A fixed-cost forwarding agent is a freight forwarder who agrees with his client on a fixed freight amount ("fixed costs", " at fixed costs ") for the handling of the transport, which includes the transport. Here, too, the freight forwarder has the rights and obligations of a carrier in terms of transport in accordance with Section 459 of the German Commercial Code.


Also with regard to the transport in groupage the freight forwarder has the rights and obligations of a carrier or carrier according to § 460 HGB.

Forming groupage loads means collecting shipments from several senders, combining them into one load and sending them with a freight contract. This is regulated in the HGB as a variant of the forwarding business. The logistical bundling of smaller shipments into groupage is of great importance for the transport economy.

The possibility of using high-performance transport systems in long-distance transport depends on the temporal and spatial consolidation of the volume of general cargo at the shipping and receiving locations. The collection and distribution is done with local transport vehicles that are specially used for this purpose or by others. The individual shipments are collected in the catchment area of ​​the dispatch location and bundled on the shipping agent's transhipment facility based on the receiving locations. At the point of receipt of the long-distance vehicle, the individual consignments are then distributed via the transhipment facility of the receiving freight forwarder. Larger individual shipments are picked up and delivered directly, which means that for reasons of cost and time they are not transshipped via the transshipment systems of the shipping and receiving carriers.

Freight forwarders accelerated their area-wide general cargo transports as early as the 1980s, so that 24-hour service is the norm today. Even foreign receiving locations up to 500 kilometers away are now served within 24 hours; for longer distances and when using ferries within 48 hours.

Groupage transports are also organized by freight forwarders in overseas transports using consolidated containers or air freight.

Order processing

The functions and tasks of the forwarding agency show a wide range of activities:

  • Procurement of transport and handling services: Conclusion of freight contracts with carriers or shippers for seagoing vessels for goods transport by land, water or air, including the issuing of the respective freight and accompanying documents, handling of loading equipment between carriers
  • Carrying out transport and transshipment services: Freight carrier activities, in particular in commercial long-distance freight traffic , transshipment services in our own or third-party facilities, overseas transport with chartered ship and air freight capacities
  • Organization and implementation of general cargo, parcel and express services : bundling of small shipments for groupage in the main carriage and distribution at the destination in national and European land transports; Consolidation in air and sea freight traffic
  • Warehousing and distribution logistics : storage and retrieval, goods handling, inventory management, order picking up to taking over assembly functions, delivery , e-fulfillment in e-commerce
  • Design and implementation of procurement logistics : Takeover of supply chain management for the integration of information and material flows, including the implementation of the necessary transport, transshipment and storage activities
  • Other services: The dispatch of goods, the transshipment and the storage are associated with a number of services that are hardly comprehensible in detail and which also belong to the range of services of the forwarding company:
    • taking over the handling of goods and goods (packing, repackaging, marking, labeling, sampling, quantity and quality control, mediation or provision of loading equipment)
    • Issuing and procurement of transport documents and accompanying documents for the bills of lading, e.g. B. the FBL - FIATA Multimodal Transport Bill of Lading as a through bill of lading (see types of bill of lading in the article Bill of lading in international traffic), consulate invoices , certificates of origin, health certificates , customs declarations , shipping documents
    • Carrying out customs clearance and handling customs procedures at home and abroad
    • Issuance of forwarder takeover certificates, forwarder (house) bill of lading, house AWB (Air Waybill German: air waybill ) and similar documents
    • Conclusion and brokerage of transport insurance and issuing of insurance policies
    • Collection and transfer of cash on delivery, bank-based processing of documentary business ( letter of credit )
    • Processing of claims and controls

Logistic services

Logistics tasks go far beyond the traditional business of optimizing the shipment of goods and transport chains. The mere dispatch of goods from the sender's ramp to the recipient's incoming goods gate is increasingly being replaced by system solutions that integrate the freight forwarder more deeply into the procurement and sales processes.

In addition to the organization of transport, transshipment and storage processes, it is the value-added services that represent added value for the customer when outsourcing :

  • Logistics advice
  • Call control
  • Inventory management
  • Quality controls
  • Central warehouse functions
  • Order processing for customers
  • Assembly
  • Assembly work
  • Picking, packing
  • Labeling
  • Shelf service
  • Invoicing and collection
  • Returns management
  • Call center
  • Tracking and tracing
  • E-fulfillment
  • Temperature control of goods


United Kingdom

In the UK , freight forwarding companies are not licensed . However, many of the companies are members of the British International Freight Association , which combines goods from different senders for the transport of goods to Europe ( groupage ).


Although no special licensing is required for logistics companies in Ireland , there are a number of umbrella organizations (such as the Irish International Freight Association ), which are supposed to ensure the standard and professionalism of the participating companies. Freight forwarding companies are one of the main pillars of the Irish economy with sales of 148 billion euros.

United States

In the United States of America (USA), companies involved in national freight transport must be registered with the United States Department of Transportation . These are companies that accept goods from a sender and are allowed to transport them with their own waybill. Companies that are active in international ocean freight must be registered with the Federal Maritime Commission as so-called "Ocean Transportation Intermediaries". The law differentiates between a sea freight forwarder ("ocean freight forwarder") and a non-vessel operating common carrier (NVOCC). The ocean freight forwarder is responsible for the documentation and logistical organization, but acts as an agent for a client and is therefore not liable for the freight itself. An NVOCC, on the other hand, is a sea freight provider that is authorized to issue its own bills of lading and is liable if the cargo is lost or damaged. In the USA, as in many other countries, air freight is licensed through the International Air Transport Association . In addition, companies that transport air freight must obtain a license as an Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) from the Department of Homeland Security .


The Department of Transportation in Canada ( Transport Canada ) is the body responsible for enforcing policies and programs related to freight forwarding companies. Most of the laws governing international cargo transportation are the responsibility of the Canada Border Services Agency . The Canadian umbrella organization of forwarding companies ( Canadian International Freight Forwarders Association - CIFFA) was founded in 1948 in order to ensure a constant standard among the members. However, the guidelines are not mandatory for companies.

See also


  • DSLV Deutscher Speditions- und Logistikverband (Ed.): Figures-data-facts from forwarding and logistics 2010
  • Wolfgang Oelfke : Freight transport, forwarding logistics, freight forwarding apprenticeship , Bad Homburg vor der Höhe 1999
  • Tax consultant industry handbook, commercial and professional features on tax economy, law , loose-leaf collection
  • Willy Kopf (Ed.): LORENZ Guide for Freight Forwarders and Logisticians in Training and Profession , Volumes 1 and 2
  • From pack horse to the transport industry , Kirschbaum-Verlag, Bonn 1978, ISBN 3-7812-1010-3
  • Wieske: Transport law quickly captured , 3rd edition, Springer-Verlag, Berlin / Heidelberg 2012, ISBN 978-3-642-29725-0
  • Koller: Transport law. Commentary , 9th edition, Munich 2016, Verlag CH Beck, ISBN 978-3-406-70113-9
  • Hartenstein / Reuschle: Handbook of the specialist lawyer for transport and forwarding law , 3rd edition, Verlag Heymanns, Cologne 2014, ISBN 978-3-452-28142-5
  • Practical Guide Transport , WEKA, Kissing, ISBN 978-3-452-28142-5

Individual evidence

  1. Information u. a. on the BGL website: Joint press release on the ADSp 2017
  2. DSLV: DSLV | Logistics terms and conditions. In: Retrieved July 22, 2016 .
  3. § 458 , § 459 , § 460 HGB
  4. § 458
  5. ^ Freight forwarding: moving goods
  6. Kevin Roebuck: Supply Chain Management (SCM): High-Impact Strategies - What You Need to Know: Definitions, Adoptions, Impact, Benefits, Maturity, Vendors .
  7. 49 US Code § 13102 - Definitions (8) Freight forwarder
  8. ^ Office of Transportation Intermediaries
  9. What is a freight forwarder? ( Memento of the original from March 16, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. IATA Cargo and Mail Security Forum 2014 ( Memento of the original from April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  11. ^ CIFFA's Rich History