How to verify Polish freight forwarding company – formal requirements

Thanks to transport portals and platforms, it is quite easy to find a company that provides forwarding or transport services. However, in this case, we usually limit ourselves to contacting the selected forwarder via messenger, e-mail or telephone. Lack of a direct visit to the company’s headquarters increases the risk that we will outsource transport to a dishonest or even non-existent company, which may have dire consequences. At best, the contractor will not pick up the shipment, however, the situation will be much worse when the transported goods will be damaged or the contractor will disappear along with our shipment. Fortunately, thanks to publicly available and free information on the Internet, the risk of incorrect selection of a contractor can be significantly reduced. So what information should we check before we start cooperation with a Polish company? How to evaluate and check the shipping activity in order to be sure that we have made the right choice? In this episode, we present what formal requirements a forwarding company should meet in order to operate, and how to check these requirements.

First of all, make sure that the shipping company with which you intend to cooperate really exists. To do this, check one of two sources:
– Central Register and Information on Economic Activity (CEIDG) – in a situation where the company is registered as a sole proprietorship or civil partnership.
– National Court Register (KRS) – for corporations, that includes limited liability company and joint-stock company. KRS is only in Polish language.

In both databases, one can verify the name of the business entity and its Tax Identification Number (NIP). Furthermore, you can find information about company’s activity profile based on PKD codes. The PKD codes inform about the scope of the company’s activity – e.g. the forwarding activity corresponds to the PKD code 52.29.C. One can investigate if the forwarding or transport prowess is dominant for the company’s profile, or perhaps only one of the many areas that the company deals with. While, for example, forwarding activities may be related to consulting or IT activities, e.g. when the company additionally provides consulting services for the forwarding industry or sells software), the wide profile of services provided by the company, e.g. forwarding, real estate, trade, construction, may cast some doubts – it is not known what the company does and what its specialization is. It may prove that the company deals with everything that brings any income, without paying much attention to the quality of the services provided.

In addition, the KRS allows you to check, inter alia, whether the company is bankrupt, and who represents it. On the other hand, in CEIDG we can find equivalents in the form of data about the owner of the company and its status: active, suspended or closed. In the above-mentioned databases may also contain information
about special permits, e.g. a license for brokerage in the carriage of goods.

Another important piece of information is to check whether the company is an active VAT payer. This information can be verified on the website of the Tax Portal (in Polish language only). Why is information on the taxpayer’s status important? One of the principles of VAT is neutrality, meaning that the burden of the tax is borne by the final consumer, not the entrepreneur. Therefore, it is generally accepted that VAT is charged on sales and deducted VAT incurred on purchase. However, in order for such a “chain” to fulfill its task, the entrepreneurs participating in it should be registered as VAT payers. Therefore – in case of doubt – it is worth making sure that the seller issuing the invoice is a registered entity.

In addition, the company should have a regulated legal situation in the field of its activity. The company should first of all have a license to perform road transport in the field of brokerage in the carriage of goods. Additional permits will be needed for the transport of certain cargo type, e.g. waste or dangerous goods. Unfortunately, in practice, so far offices provide information about entrepreneurs with a long delay (calculated in years) to the National Electronic Register of Road Transport Entrepreneurs (KREPTD). Therefore, there is often a situation where a company has the required licenses and yet does not appear in the registry. Therefore, this register is not very useful at present and it is worth checking whether the information on your licenses is not already included in the CEIDG or KRS entries. Alternatively, you can check if the license scan is posted on the company’s website or simply ask the company to send you the scan.

In conclusion, we check the shipping company in the following databases
– CEIDG (sole proprietorship or civil law partnership) or KRS in other cases
– Tax Portal (https://www.podatki.gov.pl/wyszukiwarki/).
– National Electronic Register of Road Transport Entrepreneurs (KREPTD) (usually not up-to-date)

How to verify freight forwarding company – company experience

It is quite popular to consider cooperation with a company that has been on the market for many years should be safer and more reliable. Some freight forwarding companies which operate merely several years on the market, present itself as solid partners with stable capital. Is cooperation with such companies riskier? Of course, it cannot be assumed in advance that these companies are risky. Longer market activity translates, at least theoretically, into greater experience, which is important in the TSL industry. The experience means better skills in dealing with every situation, as well as a more extensive network of contacts, facilitating the organization of transport and enabling the negotiation of favourable rates and conditions for the customer.
However, this is only the theory, because

  • Cargo forwarding for many companies is sometimes a side activity, which they put less emphasis on. This is the case with e.g. production plants that focus mainly on improving their product and technological process, thus treating freight forwarding only as a second-plan activity that can always be assigned to a subcontractor. Some firms also carry out many other side activities besides freight forwarding or even deal with any activity that is likely to bring profit. The quality of services provided by the latter companies is usually very low.
  • The company’s long-term market presence does not have to translate into its market experience. The management often does not analyze the company’s operations, does not draw conclusions from the mistakes made and does not build stable relations with its contractors. A customer is usually lured by lowering the price because the company puts a price as the decisive factor for the attractiveness of the service offered. This strategy means that the forwarding company operates on ever lower margins and is not effective in the long run because there will always be a company that will be willing to offer the same forwarding service even cheaper. Besides, you can’t lower prices forever.
  • Regardless of the long-term presence on the market, the company does not employ experienced employees. This may be due to the lack of vision for the company’s development as well as the desire to cut costs. Despite the considerable theory and practice regarding human capital management, the majority of Polish companies share the opinion that investment in employees and their competences is an unnecessary expense. The popular attitude of the local companies is that the more experienced employee the more expensive employee. Therefore, it is not worth improving employees’ qualifications, organizing training for them and pay twice: for the training and the salary bonus for the experience. However, in the TSL industry, contact networks are usually assigned to employees, which is the result of the interpersonal relationships in this business and its hermetic nature. With the departure of an experienced employee, the company usually loses part of the contact network assigned to the leaving employee. Inevitably, contact networks of employees with little experience in the industry will be small.

The above-cited arguments show that the long-term market presence does not always translate into the company’s experience and competence. Much more important is the experience of the company’s management and employees. It should be added here that Deneb employees have specialized education, certificated of the professional competence and many years of experience in the TSL industry. Furthermore, Deneb actively invests in its employees’ qualifications.

WPCargo — installation and configuration

The installation process is quite straightforward and similar to the installation of the most of other WordPress plugins. The plugin operates on WordPress default database and infrastructure, so there is no need for additional pre- or post-install tweaking in the web system. Thus, from WordPress plugins list we choose WPCargo and we select Install. Alternatively, one can obtain the software from the producer website, then upload  the uncompressedWPCargo.zip to the /wp-content/plugins/ directory and activate the plugin through the ‘Plugins’ menu in WordPress.

After installation, we have decent options for software customisation. The settings are divided into four categories:

  • Shipment,
  • Email,
  • Multiple Package,
  • Map.

The Shipment Settings tab allow us to define, among others, types, modes, statuses of shipments; places and carriers used in transport. We may specify also users’ roles or add our company logo for messages send to customers.

General settings tab
Shipment settings

The process of communication with clients can be customised in the Email Settings tab. After defining the statuses of shipments, the user can choose, about which of them clients should be notified via an email. One can define the most important option of the email template: header, addresses, subject, content and footer.

Email settings
Email settings

The Multiple Package Settings is used for orders which can include multiple packages. These packages can be tracked simultaneously, displayed in the shipment history, and included in the email updates.

The Map Settings Tab enables to view shipment history on a map. Unfortunately, the only choice is Google Maps, there is no option to include other services, e.g. OpenStreetMap. Before using the Google services, a user must obtain Google API key.

WPCargo – an open-source cargo tracking system

Visibility of the shipment, package or cargo is a key requirement during its transport. The interest in just-in-time, reliable delivery, cost-effective logistics, and maintaining the integrity of goods leads to the development of many cargo tracking systems. However, nearly all of these systems are commercial products which prices are relatively high for start-up or small companies. Furthermore, additional cost must be incurred when the software is to be customised to the needs of a company.

WPCargo is an interesting exception in this field. It is free open-source software with an option of paid premium add-ons. Although the free version lacks some important functionality, it still can be successfully applied for smaller companies which want to inform their clients about a transport process. The software works as a plugin of WordPress, therefore requires a PHP hosted webpage which is usually provided by most of web hosting services.

One of the big advantages of WPCargo software is an access to its code written in PHP. Thus, it gives unlimited possibilities for customisation and extension of the software. The licence allows users to create derivative works based on WPCargo, including amending of its source code or integrating it with other company systems. However, one must note that no distribution of the derivative works is allowed. Taking into account that the installation and configuration of WPCargo are quite simple, the system is an interesting option for an increasing visibility of a transport process without incurring high costs.