Freight forwarding companies are agents. In general, they never physically touch the cargo they are in charge of. Instead, they use their clout to bring together trucking companies, airlines and ocean shipping.
Most long distance goods are moved in containers. Forwarding companies work with each other and the shippers to allow businesses to combine their cargo within the same container. This results in a much cheaper shipping rate for small loads.
Workers, thus, need to understand logistics. They also need to be able to handle import and export regulations. Employees have to be able to ensure goods clear customs properly. They maintain long term relationships with carriers.
Most forwarders charge on a competitive quote basis, and salesmen need to be able to handle this as well as explain how their business works to the client company.
Logistics experts are hired to handle and inform on routing, and to determine the specific needs of a shipment. They need to work out when it is worth paying extra to send goods by air. Keeping their own costs down is important as well as the rate charged to the client. Sending goods by sea is cheaper, but slower. It is often valuable for workers to speak more than one language, with eastern languages being particularly useful.
As forwarders do not physically handle freight, they do not need their own vehicles or warehouses. However, they may broker deals with a warehousing company. They also may handle insuring shipments and other paperwork, such as that required for hazardous goods.
Freight forwarders also hire administrative personnel who handle secretarial tasks.
This is an important industry in the global economy and likely to continue to grow as companies globalize their sales and manufacturing.