In the world of shipping goods, whether locally or internationally, two terms often come up: “freight forwarder” and “carrier.” While they both play crucial roles in moving items, they serve different purposes. Let’s explore them in a straightforward manner.

freight forwarder carrier

What is a Freight Forwarder?

Imagine a coordinator who organizes a big event. That’s kind of what a freight forwarder does for shipping. They don’t own the trucks, ships, or planes but act as middlemen who arrange the transport of goods. They handle documentation, work out the best routes, and negotiate prices. For businesses that send products across borders, freight forwarders deal with customs and other international regulations.

What is a Carrier?

A carrier, on the other hand, is the company that owns the means of transportation. Be it trucks, ships, or airplanes, carriers are responsible for physically moving the goods. Think of them as the bus drivers or airplane pilots of the cargo world. They take responsibility for ensuring goods get from one location to another safely and on time.

What’s the Difference Between a Freight Forwarder and a Carrier?

  1. Ownership: Carriers own the vehicles (trucks, ships, planes) that transport goods. Freight forwarders, however, don’t own such vehicles but collaborate with carriers to move goods.
  2. Tasks: Freight forwarders handle the logistics, paperwork, and route planning. Carriers focus on the physical movement of the goods.
  3. Relationship with Clients: Businesses might have a more direct relationship with freight forwarders, discussing their needs and concerns. Carriers often deal more with the freight forwarders than with the businesses shipping goods.

What Do They Have in Common?

  1. Goal-Oriented: Both aim to ensure that goods reach their destination safely and on time.
  2. Regulation Adherence: Both must stick to transport regulations, whether local or international.
  3. Customer Service: Good forwarders and carriers both prioritize clear communication and reliability to maintain a good reputation in the industry.

What’s the Best Solution for Business: Freight Forwarder or Carrier?

  • Freight Forwarder: Best for businesses that need more comprehensive services, especially if shipping internationally. They simplify the shipping process, which can be especially beneficial for smaller businesses or those without a dedicated logistics department.
  • Carrier: Suitable for larger businesses that have a clear understanding of their logistics needs and prefer to deal directly with the transport entity. It might offer more direct control over shipments.

How to Make the Right Decision?

  1. Assess Your Volume: If you’re shipping large quantities or various items, a freight forwarder might be more efficient.
  2. Geography: For international shipping, freight forwarders can simplify complex processes.
  3. Expertise: If your business lacks in-house logistics expertise, freight forwarders offer valuable insights.
  4. Budget: Sometimes, dealing directly with a carrier might be more cost-effective. However, remember to factor in potential extra costs of handling paperwork and other logistics tasks in-house.


The decision between using a freight forwarder and a carrier boils down to your business’s specific needs. By understanding the roles of each and evaluating your shipping requirements, you can make an informed choice that benefits your operations and ensures your goods reach their destinations efficiently.