The State of Freight Forwarder Response Time

31%. That’s the average response rate for a freight forwarder to respond to a quote request as uncovered in this unique approach by automation workflow company, RPA Labs. But don’t take our word for it. In this study, RPA Labs takes a look at quote request response rates by establishing a “faux” HVAC company, Griffith HVAC, to request container price quotes from the top 50 Freight Forwarding companies as listed by Armstrong & Associates

The transportation industry’s future hinges on the ability of shippers and service providers, such as freight forwarders, to maximize the efficiency of communications and offer desirable amenities to customers today. Changes in the consumer market require a stronger focus on automated communication systems. On-demand communications, real-time updates, and personalized services are becoming a necessity to stay competitive. While we’ve heard this sentiment time and time again, have freight forwarders really changed the way they respond to customers? 

RPA Labs took a closer look at the response time of eighty-six freight forwarders, half of them from the top fifty forwarders and the other half ranging from small to mid-size forwarders, by submitting quote requests online and recording how long it took them to respond – if they responded at all. 

Our Approach:

RPA Labs posed as Griffin HVAC, a large importer/exporter of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment, and submitted quote requests to freight forwarders using their preferred method of communication. The most common method was a live form on individual company websites, although some did request email, phone, and other forms of communication. The following are the shipping details that were submitted when requesting a quote: 

Origin: 425 S. Palos Verdes St. San Pedro, CA 90731

Destination: Antwerp – Havenhuis Entrepotkaai 1, Antwerp B-2000, Belgium
Weight: 40,000

Container Size: 40 ft FCL

Lead time: 14 Days

The study was kept open for seventy days to allow sufficient time to receive responses back from the forwarders. 


We’ll start by breaking down our findings into two categories: top fifty freight forwarders and small to mid-size freight forwarders. 

Small & Mid-Size FFs

Of the forty-one small to mid-sized freight forwarders we requested quotes from, twenty-nine did not respond (70%), twelve did respond (30%), and response times we did receive took as long as 397 days and as little as 1.5 hours. Thirty-five forwarders had a form on their website, but five of them were too difficult to use or were not working. 

Top 50 FFs

Of the forty-five top fifty freight forwarders we requested quotes from, thirty did not respond (66%), fifteen did respond (33%), and response times we did receive took as long as 222 hours and as little as four minutes. The average response time of those who responded was sixty hours. Forty forwarders had a form on their website, but twelve of them were too difficult to use or were not working. 

Overall & Analysis

Opening a line of communication with a majority of surveyed freight forwarders was extremely difficult or not possible. Overall, sixty-nine percent of forwarders that were solicited did not respond to our request for a quote. Of the twenty-seven responses we did receive, only five contained an actual quote. All other twenty-two responses connected us with customer service members manually requesting more information over email. One forwarder also attempted to call us for further information. 

What this tells us about the forms that are available on freight forwarder websites is that they are not dynamic and require customer service support to manually gather and verify the information from shippers. 

Of the quotes we did receive, there was no further correspondence needed with customer service teams. We were not reached out to for more details and were sent the quote within hours. Because of this we can assume automated systems were put in place to return our inquiry as fast and efficiently as possible. As for the other twenty-two responses, while they may have given us an actual quote in the end, customer service were required to reach out on a case-by-case basis to gather more information to manually generate the quote – a process that could take multiple emails over the span of hours or even days to complete. 

We understand and empathize with the challenges of manual freight spot quotes, as they include many areas of waste. For example, hours of wasted time emailing several carriers and awaiting their replies, compiling carrier quotes, and choosing one takes a ton of time. After all of the wasted manpower, they might leave behind incomplete information, leading to possible freight shipping delays. Overall, it is not practical, and it is not a sustainable, long-term solution for freight forwarders. 


Many challenges are inherent with traditional quoting. Instances such as overquoting and delayed quote times can be detrimental to shippers. However, software bots can instantly identify a quote request, even in email, review data sources, and upload the quote for a quick solution.

RPA Labs’ email and chat automation solution, RPA Engage, is built with a proprietary combination of RPA, AI (artificial intelligence), ML (machine learning), NLP (natural language processing), and a built-in language library of logistics terminology that is able to answer any logistics inquiry in seconds. This simple solution integrates seamlessly with email, chatbots, web forms, and any TMS/ERP system and can be implemented in just weeks. 

A leading benefit of automating freight spot quotes is the ability to respond to quote requests instantly. There is no waiting period, and the best possible rate is selected. Companies upload the information for the carriers; then, the spot quotes are assessed by analytics as software bots complete the rest. At the same moment, a carrier is selected and notified via email or their TMS, if applicable. 

By automating quoting, shippers resolve their issues with the carriers faster and build better customer experiences. In addition to faster resolutions for manual quote requests, automating freight chatbots can generate quotes for ground, ocean, and air on-demand, making it easier to determine which mode is correct for each shipment. This is designed to be the only touchpoint shippers need to get back on track. Freight forwarders no longer need to sit for hours waiting on back and forth emails. Freight management parties need to understand the challenges in traditional freight spot quotes and why RPA-driven quoting processes are the next advancement in freight management.

Without some logistics automation, this complicated multistep manual process of generating spot quotes is rife with risk for failure due to human intervention. Freight chatbots and email automation help prevent issues like delayed responses from freight forwarders. With customers only truly accepting quotes around 20% of the time, software bots that can work around the clock and find capacity partners, including forwarders or brokers with available transportation, can maximize efficiency.Spot quoting can be more accessible if logistics service providers and shippers implement chatbots. By automating quotes, it is possible to improve throughput by transforming transportation and logistics and getting more shipments to their final destination in record time. “The good news for companies looking to automate quickly is that the cost of entry into automation is much lower than in previous years. Developments in technology and lower costs for equipment are allowing small and midsize companies to explore automation,” states There’s literally never been a better time to invest in the future of your supply chain with chatbots and email response bots. Request a demo with RPA Labs to get started.

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