Freight Carriers Vs Freight Forwarders: What’s the Difference?

Published on
6/21/2024
A shot low to the ground of the bottom half of a hotshot driver walking towards his semi truck. He's wearing kakhi pants and black boots

If you’re new to the shipping world, it’s easy to get all the  jargon mixed up. Knowing the difference between LTL and FTL is easy enough, but understanding all of the other parts along the road to fulfillment isn’t easy for someone who just wants to sell their product. 

That’s why we’re here to help business owners keep track of all the important shipping terms and services available to them.

In this article, we cover the important differences between freight careers and freight forwarders.

image: a row of semis on black aspault. Text: A freight carrier is a company or person that delivers goods at a regular interval.

What are Freight Carriers?

A freight carrier is a company or person that delivers goods at a regular interval. Examples of these businesses would be FedEx, UPS, DVS, and XPO. 

Freight carriers can move products in several ways including:

  • Trucks
  • Trains
  • Planes

Freight carriers are focused solely on moving goods from point A to point B. This could include moving goods to and from warehouses, or direct delivery, but not both. 

Local, Regional, or National

Some freight carriers specialize in specific distances. 

  • Local Carriers: Local carriers specialize in moving goods within a small area. This could be a city or a set area with multiple cities
  • Regional Carriers: Businesses that want to move goods within a larger geographical area will likely need a regional carrier. They can move goods across states and between cities 
  • National Carriers: National carriers can move goods on a large scale. Businesses that need to ship goods across the nation will probably need to deal with a national carrier

Carriers bring goods to specific locations, but they don’t handle coordinating between multiple channels.

Image:  a warehouse worker pulling a pallet jack, surrounded by boxes. Text: freight forwarders work with multiple carriers to make sure goods are delivered to completion.

What are Freight Forwarders?

Small businesses don’t usually have the time to deal with the various carriers required to get their goods from point A to point B. This is what makes freight forwarders so helpful.

Freight forwarders work with carriers to move goods on behalf of businesses. They oversee the entire shipping process for businesses. They aren't typically in charge of transportation goods, but they coordinate carriers to transport goods for businesses.

The Advantages of Freight Forwarders

Not every business will have access to the shipping channels they need to send their business to the next level. Forwarders give businesses access to shipping channels without any extra effort.

Some of them also have simplified customs clearance which makes it easier to move goods internationally.

The Differences Between Freight Carriers and Freight Forwarders

Put simply, freight carriers move goods and freight forwarders coordinate between carriers and shippers. Carriers deal with shipments at a micro scale and forwarders help bring all the pieces together.

Carriers are needed to transport goods, but forwarders aren’t. Instead, businesses could contact carriers on their own. However, finding a business that is both a carrier and a forwarder can feel like hitting the jackpot.

Why Should Businesses Care About Freight Carriers and Forwarders?

It’s important for small to medium-sized businesses to understand their shipping options. Knowing the difference between carriers and forwarders helps businesses make better decisions that could save them money and save them from headaches. 

Small businesses that do not have to ship often or that don’t have to ship large quantities of goods should be well-versed in less than truckload (LTL) shipping. Businesses can use LTL freight shipping or hotshot trucking to get their goods to where they need to go.

Freight Shipping

Shipping LTL through freight means waiting for a truck to be filled with other shippers’ goods before your goods to be moved. It can be a long process that bottlenecks shipments from getting out in time.

Hotshot Shipping

Shipping LTL with hotshot truckers makes the process more streamlined. Instead of waiting for a truck to get filled, your goods can be moved immediately. This form of shipment is very helpful for businesses that need to move their goods fast.

Another benefit of hotshot shipping for LTL is the direct shipping route these drivers take. Instead of going to warehouses and changing hands, your goods are shipped directly to the final destination.

Get Your Shipping Needs Covered

Unless you’re tapped into the shipping world, transporting goods can often feel like a daunting task. However, Open Road makes the process of LTL shipping much easier by acting as a forwarder and a carrier by connecting your business with professional drivers who haul LTL shipments across the country.

We’re dedicated to giving businesses control over what used to be out of their hands. By empowering businesses with effective shipping methods we’re changing the landscape of transportation.

Learn how we can change how your business ships and get access to a growing network of hotshot drivers.

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