Carriers and Freight Forwarders: what are the differences?


As much as they have similarities in how and where in the supply chain they operate, carriers and freight forwarders are far from being the same thing. Bellow, we have gathered the main characteristics about each type of service to help you understand their differences.


Carriers manage their own vehicles, which means that, during the operation, they take care exclusively of the cargo transportation from one point to another, leaving all of the bureaucracy regarding documentation, taxes and customs clearance for the shippers themselves to handle.

Each carrier can offer their own specialty. When they’re focused on trucking services, for example, they often have different types of trucks at their disposal to offer support for cargo that may require special conditions such as controlled temperature or extra storage space.

Freight Forwarders

Freight forwarders manage the cargo itself so, instead of owning the vehicles, they work as an intermediate between the owner of the goods and the carriers that will transport them. With their experience and networking of contacts, they’re able to find affordable yet reliable solutions to all sorts of cargo and their demands, as well as managing the documentation and the payments involved in the operation on behalf of the cargo owner.

When shippers hire a freight forwarder, they’re contracting a single service that is capable of offering the advantages of multiple ones at once, especially because they’re often composed by specialized departments that offer the best of services for each area of expertise.

How to choose?

The answer to this question depends entirely on the needs of the shipper. If their products are to be transported through a short distance, it might be worth it to go directly to a carrier.

International shipments, on the other hand, will most likely involve two or more carriers so, instead of the shipper themselves having to find and contract multiple carriers from different countries plus a customs clearance professional to handle the legal duties, they can hire a freight forwarder instead, and every stage of the process will be taken care of.

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