Understanding the Difference Between Freight and Carrier

Freights and carriers are similar in that they deal with goods transportation. However, the details of each service are much more different. Freight forwarders organize transport while carriers handle the transportation service.

In many cases, a single freight carrier company can handle both demands. However, it doesn’t mean the nitty gritty of the tasks is the same.

This article focuses on helping you understand the characteristics of each service as well as what sets them apart. Read on to learn the specific definitions of carrier service, freight forwarding service, and freight transport service.

What is a Carrier?

As the name implies, these are transport companies in charge of moving goods from one location to another. These companies usually have their fleet of vehicles or source chartered vessels to exclusively transport goods from one point to another.

Carriers are unlike freight forwarders in that their job description does not include handling the logistic bureaucracy involved in shipping documentation, customs clearance, and shipping taxes. Their sole aim and purpose are to pick, transport, and deliver.

Due to the streamlined nature of carrier services, they can often provide streamlined solutions to meet client needs. For example, some carriers may specialize in refrigerated transport while others may focus on heavy-duty transport. Carriers also have different types and sizes of trucks to meet their specific cargo needs.

Based on their mode of operation, carriers can be broadly classified into two groups;

Common Carriers: They cater to any individual or business and are likely to work with various shippers to fulfill their transport needs.

Contract Carriers: They provide transport services to specific shippers. This type of relationship is guided by a contract, usually over a long term.

Why You May Choose Carriers Over Freight Forwarders

Cost-Effectiveness: Carriers are often more cost-effective than freight forwarders. They allow for group services where costs can be shared among service users.

Specialized Transport Service and Features: Carriers can often offer specialized transportation services such as residential deliveries and tail lifts. This makes tailors the service more to meet the client’s needs.

Multiple Shipment Transport: Carriers can transport different shipments at once. This service can help save costs as it often requires fewer trips and faster deliveries.

When to Use a Carrier?

Carriers are recommended if shipping a smaller cargo. They are also the go-to option for faster deliveries or instances when a single carrier is needed. Carriers are also a great choice if you’re looking to split costs between a group with uniform cargo transport interests.

What is a Freight Forwarder?

Freight forwarders are individuals or companies that organize cargo transportation from one end to another. These logistic entities connect shippers with the right transport companies and ensure that all cargoes are moved correctly.

Freight forwarders often act as middlemen between carriers and clients. Carriers can also assume this role, especially when they do not offer the specialized transportation services the client needs.

The complexity of the freight forwarder’s job often crops up when goods require more than one transport mode. For example, an international cargo to be delivered by sea may also need to be transported by air to its destination country. Once at the destination country, it may need to be transported by road or rail to the final destination. The combination of multiple transport methods is known as intermodal shipping.

Why You May Choose Freight Forwarders over Carriers

Freight forwarders provide a turnkey transportation solution that caters to all needs from the cargo’s origin to its destination.

Freight forwarders provide support with custom clearance, shipping documentation, and additional paperwork.

Freight forwarders manage and optimize transportation for cost-efficiency and speed.

Freight forwarders often provide support with packaging and product/good warehousing.

When to Use a Freight Forwarder?

Freight forwarders are the perfect solution if you have a complex transportation requirement. They can work around specific transportation needs, including establishing an intermodal transportation line, to address your needs.

They are also known for their expert shipping knowledge and connection, which can make custom clearance and common delivery problems easier to manage. Additionally, freight forwarders can help you save costs by charting and mapping the best transportation solutions that save time, eliminate stress, and ensure timely delivery.

Can the Same Company Act as a Carrier and a Freight Forwarder?

Yes. Companies often act in the capacity of carriers and freight forwarders to improve their revenue and meet customers’ increasingly diverse needs. They can leverage their connection to develop partnerships or can implement technological solutions that consolidate with other transport service providers to meet specific needs.

What to Choose?

When comparing carriers and freight forwarders, it is important to know your needs and how you want them met. Knowing these will help you select between both options and improve your chance of making the right decision for your cargo transportation needs.

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