A Common Carrier is a person or company that transports goods on regular routes at set rates. A Freight Forwarder is a person or company that organizes shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from origin to destination; forwarders typically contract with a carrier to move the goods.

Common Carriers typically use a Hub-and-Spoke model to transport goods from origin to destination. A Hub is a city, and a Spoke is the route from city to city (or, Hub to Hub). At the Hub, goods are offloaded from one truck, and loaded onto another truck until the goods reach their final destination.

This model can be more cost effective because it is best suited for high volume, low weight freight (i.e. small packages). Because the Common Carrier uses established routes at established rates, they are able to move goods from city to city at a lower rate.

However, the Hub-and-Spoke model is known for increasing touchpoints (the amount of times goods are handled). Increasing touchpoints leads to an increased risk for damage to occur, and makes it more challenging to pinpoint service failures that lead to damage or lost freight. Additionally, the Hub-and-Spoke model limits customizable service options for clients.

Freight Forwarders typically use a Line Haul approach to transport goods from origin to destination. A Line Haul approach looks like this:

  1. Goods are picked up by a contracted carrier (selected by the Freight Forwarder) and delivered to the closest Line Haul Agent.
  2. The Line Haul Agent transports the goods from origin to the final destination city.
  3. The goods are picked up from the Line Haul Agent by a second contracted carrier (selected by the Freight Forwarder) and delivered to their final destination.

The Line Haul approach offers more direct service that is highly customizable. Freight Forwarders are able to offer customer service options to fit individual client needs, such as inside pickups and deliveries, liftgates, air-ride trucks, pallets, and more. They can also utilize multiple modes of transport to further customize their service, including rail, ocean, air and ground.

This approach has noticeably fewer touchpoints than the Hub-and Spoke model. This leads to increased transparency during transit, the ability to provide more accurate tracking information and better pinpoint service failures, delays and damage to freight.

To wrap this all together, it’s important to know WHAT you’re shipping so you can decide HOW to ship it. You don’t need a Freight Forwarder to ship an envelope, and you don’t need a Common Carrier to ship an industrial microscope. Making an informed decision will ensure your goods arrive safely and on time!