What is a freight carrier?

A freight carrier is an individual or a company that handles the transportation of freight shipments from one point to another. Sometimes, freight carriers not only handle loads but also act as the operators or even freight forwarders. Depending on the carrier type, there can be a significant difference in carrier accessibility, lanes, and freight rates. To understand more about various types of freight carriers, it’s important to know which role a carrier plays in the logistics and freight shipping industry.

What are the types of freight carriers in logistics?

Common Carriers and Contract Carriers

Common carriers are the carriers who service the freight shipping needs of the public. On the contrary, contract carriers work with selected shippers with whom they sign contracts. There is also a difference between freight rates since common carriers have limited ability to set a rate, while contract carriers arranged the rate with a shipper through the contract.

Local, Regional and National Carriers

Small or local carriers make up the majority of the U.S. trucking industry – almost 60 percent of all motor carriers. Local carriers serve limited areas, typically within an 80-100 mile zone which is defined by Surface Transportation Board. Regional carriers, on the other hand, have larger fleets, more trucks, and operate in a more extensive area. The largest carriers in the market are national carriers. They compete with shipping giants like UPS and FedEx and usually work with huge businesses.

Private Carriers and For-Hire Carriers

Private carriers haul freight on the shipper’s vehicle and don’t charge additional fees. For-hire carriers can move public freight and therefore take additional charges for the service.

How to choose the right carrier for you?

While large carriers have more capacity, better equipment, and invest in technology, smaller players provide a better, more personalized service to their shippers and offer flexibility. It’s important to consider your business needs, destination, freight volume, and type when choosing a freight carrier to work with. Essentially, you should check on the carrier’s reliability, compliance, experience, etc. Generally, answering these 3 main questions should help you identify if the carrier will match your needs:

  • Does the carrier provide the equipment for my freight?
  • Is the carrier licensed and compliant with the regulations?
  • Does the cost of the shipment fit my budget?

Working with a reliable 3PL can take the burden of intricate carrier selection off your shoulders. Usually, third-party logistics providers already have a wide network of trusted carriers and can provide logistics services of any type.