The Future Of Freight Forwarding – The Trends You Need To Know [2019 Update]

The Future Of Freight Forwarding – The Trends You Need To Know [2019 Update]


If you are in the freight forwarding industry, you have most likely heard that digitalisation is the next big thing that will impact logistics on a global scale. In fact, it has already started: the days of faxes and paperwork are gone – or at least close to extinct. 

But aside from all the predictions around how technology will revolutionise the industry, there is more to come. 

Read on to find out the major trends in the freight forwarding and logistics world. 


Digitalisation introduces us to new ways of handling data. We now expect to know where hundreds of millions of things are and where they are going, and be able to act on the data as things change. Technology is becoming the standard. The below provides an overview of some of the concepts fueled by digitalisation. 

Just In Time deliveries (JIT)

Previously just accessible to a select few, just in time deliveries could become a norm as digital technology makes deliveries, schedule management, route planning, and cargo monitoring all possible in real time.  

transportation digitalisation


Systems will be able to connect with the environment and companies can prepare for the integration of intelligence with material handling equipment: workers will be operating intelligent machinery while working side by side with autonomous forklifts and robots in operations that will be highly automated.

Internet Of Things (IoT)

As it applies to freight and logistics, IoT refers to using databases, chips, readers and cloud-based systems to transmit information. It’s a way of getting inanimate objects, such as parcels and containers, to send useful information automatically and autonomously to the cloud. Using radio frequency identification (RFID), the freight industry can effectively track shipments through the supply chain 24/7.

Advanced Machine Learning (AML)

Through AML, companies can analyze data, identify patterns and make business decisions based on real-time performance. This will enhance forecasting and resource utilization.
For example, AML can analyze which routes and ports are most cost-effective.

changes in distribution channels

Better Connectivity

The adoption of 5G connectivity on a global basis, which is happening now, when enhanced by IoT devices, could offer a host of new functions to logistics businesses. 

Cloud-Based Solutions

Experts say the freight industry will exponentially increase in productivity as data on the capacity of private fleets becomes more readily available. By using cloud-based solutions, freight companies will be able to reposition empty containers on the go and increase efficiency, productivity and profits. 


The implementation of blockchain will be the next big development that improves existing processes, increases efficiency and cuts costs. From customers being able to track products and trace the whole lifecycle of their products, to shippers being able to verify all transactions during the flow of goods, information will be drastically more transparent. A single ledger will be accessible by all parties to judge authenticity, and track origin, place of storage, and other records.

Nonetheless, all the above advancements will require effective training of the people in order to prepare the workforce to use such tools. 

freight forwarding prediction

End-To-End Logistics Management 

Freight forwarders and transport giants are already using their network to serve their own customers. Maersk, one of the world’s largest container-terminal firms, ran its sea- and road-logistics businesses almost entirely separately until 2016. Its latest decision to reinvent itself as an integrated container transport and logistics provider is a good example of the trend of parties trying to provide a one stop shop for all logistics service needs.

More Mergers and Acquisitions Ahead

A trend that started a few years ago with the introduction of shipping alliances, vessel-sharing agreements among steamship lines are becoming commonplace today. For Non-Vessel Owning Common Carriers (NVOCCs), the latest mergers once again prove that being able to scale and join forces is becoming increasingly critical every day. There are only a handful of steamship lines left compared to even few years ago. 

NVOCCs trends

Shifts In International Trade

Shifts in international trade are already visible, e.g. in the rapidly growing numbers of train trips from China to the EU. New trade routes will open and existing ones will expand, as emerging economies become more connected to the global economy.

Shifts in international trade are driven by:

  • establishment of free trade agreements
  • emergence of trade wars and barriers to trade resulting from regulations
  • globalization of transport businesses,
  • infrastructure development (especially in rail and road as well as through the Belt and Road Initiative supported by the government of China).

Sustainable Logistics

shipping and pollution infographic carbon footprint

IMO 2020 and Hydrogen Fuel

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) created a regulation which dictates that shipping lines must limit the sulfur content of ships to 0.5% or install scrubbers from 01 January 2020 world-wide. Following this, Maersk announced it would offer a carbon-neutral product, using biofuels. 

Many ship owners are starting to consider hydrogen fuel cell technology to satisfy evolving emissions regulations. With the Water-Go-Round project in the US close to its first voyage and other projects like the HYSEAS III project in the United Kingdom or the HYBRIDskip project in Norway at different stages of execution, it is clear that maritime hydrogen technology is rapidly progressing from concept to creation on a global scale.  Similar to the mainstream acceptance of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel, hydrogen will likely achieve similar widespread adoption.

When launched in mid-2019 the Water-Go-Round will be the first commercial fuel cell ferry in the world


Load Optmisation

More freight per load equates to fewer required loads, which ultimately leads to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions, less fossil fuel consumption, and better profit margins and freight rates. Still, transportation department statistics show that somewhere between 30 and 40% of the available space on loaded trailers is not being utilized. Some of the most exciting trends in sustainable freight are targeting this wasted space.

The good news is that there are several improved optimization software programs on the market that maximize available trailer space by considering not only product dimensions but also their complete 3D profile, density, and susceptibility to damage. By implementing optimization software, shippers and carriers could substantially increase the efficiency of their trailer loads.

One Last Tip

Understanding the latest trends in freight forwarding and supply chain technology is key to shippers’ success. Challenges are increasing. Volume is rising. Demand is growing. Also, pressure for savings in logistics spend are at an all-time high.

Importers and exporters need to rethink their international shipping strategies and this includes considering the use of a freight forwarder to handle the process. Freight forwarders can help move freight through ocean carriers, ground transport, and air. This will enable growth when the most significant logistics trends become a reality. 


Should you have any questions regarding this please contact your ICE team member on 1300 CARGO1.

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