Category: Logistics, Resources

Topic: Freight

Freight vs Cargo: What’s the Difference?

Freight vs Cargo

The word cargo and freight are commonly used when speaking about shipping. The words are found in common terminology such as cargo ship, freight train, freight carrier, and much more. Is there a difference and when should each term be used?

History of Cargo and Freight Labels

In the past, the two terms were separated by the vehicle used to move commercial goods. If commercial goods were moving by air or ocean, then they would label the goods cargo. If goods were moving by truck or train, then they would label the goods freight.

Think about when a shipper is referring to the specific vehicle. Most times planes that carry goods is called a cargo plane or a ship is referred as a cargo ship. On the other hand, a truck carrying goods is called a freight truck and references a train as a freight train.

The exception to this rule is if transporting mail. Any bundles of letters, packages, or parcels is always referred to as cargo. Freight can only be commercial goods, so the term is not given to this type of good.

Freight vs Cargo: A Contemporary Difference

Speaking to logistics professionals, you may receive a much different look on the difference on the words. The difference between the two to an industry expert is what is being referred to. Cargo is known as the physical goods being transported, while freight outlines the dollar-amount to moving the cargo.

Freight refers to the payment, charge, or rate for transportation services. The term encompasses all of that is associated with the shipment including the cargo, cost, and services associated with commercial goods. This where the blurred line comes into play because a shipper may refer to the product or amount payable as “Freight”.

Cargo, unlike freight, refers to the physical commercial or personal goods. This is why cargo liability is referenced when speaking about damaged goods or products.

The Difference is Fading and Blurred

As time moves on, the line between the terms is fading. More and more logistics professionals use the terms interchangeably. Logistics professionals refer goods shipping through air and ocean as freight.

The main difference is the freight is a more general term that is used when speaking about the movement of commercial goods including the goods itself and cost to move the goods. On the other hand, cargo represents the physical goods and can include commercial and personal goods.

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