Freight vs. Cargo: How to Choose the Right Shipping Option for Your Business
If you are in the business of shipping goods, you may have heard the terms freight and cargo used interchangeably. But do they mean the same thing? And how do you know which one is the best option for your shipping needs?
In this article, we will explain the difference between freight and cargo shipping, how they work, and who should use them. We will also compare the cost, delivery time, weight limits, insurance, and other factors that affect your shipping decision. Finally, we will look at what FedEx, UPS, and USPS have to say about their freight and cargo services.
The Difference Between Freight and Cargo Shipping
Freight and cargo shipping are two different ways of transporting goods from one place to another. They have different characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages that you should consider before choosing one. Cargo is typically goods carried by larger vehicles, such as large cargo ships and planes. Freight is typically goods carried by smaller vehicles like trucks.
Freight shipping is the process of transporting large and heavy items that require special equipment and handling. Typically, freight shipments weigh more than 150 pounds and take up more than one pallet or a significant portion of a truck or container. Freight shipping is often used for business-to-business deliveries, such as raw materials, machinery, or bulk goods.
Freight shipping involves different modes of transportation, such as trucks, trains, ships, or planes. Depending on the origin and destination of the shipment, a single freight shipment may use a combination of these modes.
Freight shipping can be divided into two main categories: less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL). LTL freight shipping is when a shipment does not fill up an entire truck and shares space with other shipments from different shippers. FTL freight shipping is when a shipment occupies an entire truck and does not share space with other shipments.
Freight shipping can also be classified by the speed and service level of the delivery. For example, FedEx offers three types of freight services: FedEx Freight Priority for fast delivery with a money-back guarantee1, FedEx Freight Economy for cost-effective delivery with reliable transit times, and FedEx Freight Direct for residential or business delivery with next-level service and convenience.
Cargo shipping is the process of sending smaller and lighter packages that can be handled individually. Cargo shipping usually involves one mode of transportation, such as a truck or a plane. Cargo shipping is faster and more convenient than freight shipping, but it also has more restrictions on the size and weight of the packages.
Cargo shipping can be divided into two main categories: ground and express. Ground cargo shipping is when a package is delivered by road within a certain number of days. Express cargo shipping is when a package is delivered by air within a certain number of hours or days. Express cargo shipping is more expensive than ground cargo shipping, but it also offers more guarantees and options.
Cargo shipping can also be classified by the type and content of the package. For example, USPS offers different types of mail services for postcards, letters, large envelopes, and packages. USPS also offers special services for media mail (books and other eligible media), priority mail (important items that need to arrive in 1-3 business days), and priority mail express (urgent items that need to arrive overnight or in 2 days).
Who Should Use Freight vs. Cargo Shipping
The choice between freight and cargo shipping depends on several factors, such as the size, weight, value, urgency, destination, and content of your shipment. Here are some general guidelines to help you decide:
- Use freight shipping if your shipment weighs more than 150 pounds or takes up more than one pallet.
- Use cargo shipping if your shipment weighs less than 150 pounds or fits in a standard box.
- Use freight shipping if your shipment contains bulky, heavy, or fragile items that require special handling or equipment.
- Use cargo shipping if your shipment contains small, light, or durable items that can be handled easily.
- Use freight shipping if your shipment is not time-sensitive or has flexible delivery dates.
- Use cargo shipping if your shipment is time-sensitive or has specific delivery deadlines.
- Use freight shipping if your shipment is going to a business address or a commercial location.
- Use cargo shipping if your shipment is going to a residential address or a personal location.
When to Use Freight Shipping
Freight shipping is ideal for situations where you need to ship large quantities of goods that are not urgent or have flexible delivery dates. For example:
- You are a manufacturer who needs to ship raw materials or finished products to your suppliers or customers.
- You are a wholesaler who needs to ship bulk goods to your distributors or retailers.
- You are a retailer who needs to ship inventory to your warehouses or stores.
- You are a mover who needs to ship furniture or household items to your clients.
When to Use Cargo Shipping
Cargo shipping is ideal for situations where you need to ship small quantities of goods that are urgent or have specific delivery deadlines. For example:
- You are an online seller who needs to ship orders to your customers.
- You are a personal sender who needs to ship gifts to your friends or family.
- You are a small business owner who needs to ship documents or samples to your clients or partners.
- You are a traveler who needs to ship luggage or souvenirs to your home or destination.
Cost, Delivery Time, Weight Limits, Insurance, and Other Factors
The cost, delivery time, weight limits, insurance, and other factors of freight and cargo shipping vary depending on the service provider, the service level, the origin and destination, and the characteristics of the shipment. Here are some general comparisons:
- Freight shipping is usually more expensive than cargo shipping per package, but it can be more cost-effective per pound or per cubic foot.
- Cargo shipping is usually faster than freight shipping per mile, but it can be slower per day or per hour.
- Freight shipping has higher weight limits than cargo shipping, but it also has more dimensional restrictions and surcharges.
- Cargo shipping has lower weight limits than freight shipping, but it also has more packaging options and flexibility.
- Freight shipping has more insurance options than cargo shipping, but it also has more liability risks and claims processes.
- Cargo shipping has less insurance options than freight shipping, but it also has less liability risks and claims processes.
|Cost||Freight is usually cheaper than cargo, especially for large and heavy shipments. Freight rates are based on the distance, weight, and volume of the goods. Cargo rates are based on the weight and dimensions of the goods, as well as the fuel surcharge and other fees.||Cargo is usually more expensive than freight, especially for small and light shipments. Cargo rates are based on the weight and dimensions of the goods, as well as the fuel surcharge and other fees. Freight rates are based on the distance, weight, and volume of the goods.|
|Delivery Time||Freight is usually slower than cargo, especially for long distances. Freight delivery time depends on the mode of transport (truck or train), traffic conditions, weather, customs clearance, and other factors.||Cargo is usually faster than freight, especially for short distances. Cargo delivery time depends on the flight schedule, availability of space, airport operations, customs clearance, and other factors.|
|Weight Limits||Freight has higher weight limits than cargo, especially for truck transport. Freight weight limits depend on the vehicle capacity, road regulations, and safety standards.||Cargo has lower weight limits than freight, especially for air transport. Cargo weight limits depend on the aircraft capacity, flight regulations, and safety standards.|
|Insurance||Freight insurance is usually optional and covers the loss or damage of the goods during transit. Freight insurance rates depend on the value, type, and destination of the goods.||Cargo insurance is usually mandatory and covers the loss or damage of the goods during transit. Cargo insurance rates depend on the value, type, and destination of the goods.|
Freight vs. cargo shipping is not a one-size-fits-all decision. It depends on your specific needs, preferences, budget, and goals. By understanding the differences between these two shipping options, you can make an informed choice that suits your business best.
If you need help with choosing the best shipping option for your business, contact us today. We are experts in freight and cargo shipping solutions that can save you time and money. We can also provide you with free quotes from multiple carriers so you can compare prices and services easily.
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