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What is the Difference Between Cargo and Freight? | Basic Information

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    Freight and Cargo are two words synonymous with the transportation of goods, typically for commercial reasons rather than personal ones. Although these two words are sometimes used interchangeably, in reality, there is a difference between cargo and freight. In this article, we will talk about the difference between the two for importing from China.

    What is Cargo?

    Difference Between Cargo and Freight

    The word cargo is commonly used for ship or plane-transported goods. There are cargo ships and also cargo planes out there. Mail can be called cargo too. Designed exclusively for merchandise only, cargo is not used to provide the invoice or money paid for the transportation of goods. This ensures that any commodity being transported can be called a cargo.

    Further Reading: Why Assisted Purchase Agent in China? | All You Must Know

    Big shipping containers are typically used for the transport of goods called cargo. Cargo may be shipped on pallets, in networks for cargo handling or by other means. The postal services that parcels provide can also be known as cargo. Every object being shipped for consumption cab be a cargo. Now before talking about the difference between cargo and freight, let’s see what is freight.

    Different Types of Cargo and How They are Transported

    Cargo is the term generally used for goods that are transported from one place to another, typically for commercial purposes. It comes in various forms, each with its unique mode of transportation. The most common types of cargo include:

    • Dry Cargo: This encompasses a broad category of goods that are not liquid and do not require a temperature-controlled environment, such as machinery, textiles, and electronics. They are often transported in standard containers or boxes.
    • Liquid Cargo: This includes petroleum products, chemicals, and other liquid commodities. These are usually carried in specialized tankers.
    • Refrigerated Cargo: Also known as ‘reefer cargo,’ it refers to goods that require a specific temperature-controlled environment, such as fruits, vegetables, and pharmaceuticals. Specialized refrigerated containers are used for this type of cargo.

    Heavy or Oversized Cargo: This type of cargo often includes machinery, construction equipment, or any large goods that cannot fit into standard containers. They are typically transported using flatbed trucks, cargo ships, or specially-designed cargo aircraft.

    What is Freight?

    Usually, the word freight is used for moving goods by train or by truck. For this reason, we have the words of freight trucks and freight trains. That is not always the case, though, as the word “air freight” is widely accepted as fair usage. That is because when other goods are being shipped freight is often the term used for payment.

    And, to complicate the matter further, freight can mean a cargo being transported by truck, rail, plane or ship. Mail can’t be called freight, though, because it’s only used to classify commercial goods. Most can be denoted by freight. It may mean the commodity, the goods, the amount payable, or the money paid. Cargo to be shipped may be considered freight because it applies to both the goods and the money paid for their transport.

    Further Reading: What is Bulk carrier? | All you need to know

    Various Forms of Freight and Their Modes of Transportation

    Freight, similar to cargo, also comes in multiple forms, each having a preferred mode of transportation. The types of freight can be broken down as follows:

    • Less Than Truckload (LTL): This refers to relatively small freight that doesn’t require the full space of a truck. Multiple LTL shipments are often combined to make a full truckload for efficient transportation.
    • Full Truckload (FTL): As the name suggests, these are larger shipments that take up the entire truck. These shipments go directly from the point of origin to the destination without any stops.
    • Intermodal Freight: This type of freight involves the transportation of goods using multiple modes of transport – such as trucks, trains, and ships – without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes.
    • Expedited Freight: These are time-sensitive shipments that require fast, often direct, transportation. They are usually transported via the quickest available means, such as air freight or direct truck routes.

    Comparative Analysis of Different Modes of Freight Transportation 2023

    Mode of Transport Speed Cost Volume of Freight Environmental Impact
    Truck High Medium Moderate High
    Rail Medium Low High Medium
    Air Very High High Low Very High
    Sea Low Very Low Very High Medium
    Pipeline Low Low High Low

    The Difference Between Cargo and Freight

    The key difference between cargo and freight is that freight charges are also called any fees paid by the carrier. On the other side, cargo does not refer to the money owed, but refers only to the goods, instead. The term ‘freight’ can often be used exclusively to describe the goods, but may also be the method of transporting the goods.

    Usually, cargo is goods carried by larger vehicles, such as large container ships and aircraft, whereas freight is usually goods carried by smaller vehicles, such as trucks. These words are used for products that are manufactured and exported. In modern times, the difference between cargo and freight has been smaller, but initially, the cargo concerned primarily goods transported by ship or plane, while the freight was used solely for goods transported by truck or train.

    The DDPCH can manage every step of your preferred shipping method. With our years of experience in delivering sea and air freight, express cargos, Amazon FBA, and DDP shipments, we guarantee the fastest and most reliable procedures.

    Implications of Global Trade Agreements on Cargo and Freight

    Global trade agreements significantly impact the cargo and freight industry. They have the potential to open up new markets, reduce trade barriers, and streamline customs procedures. However, they also come with their own set of challenges and implications. Trade agreements often stipulate specific regulations and standards, such as packaging, labeling, and safety norms, which freight and cargo companies must comply with.

    These agreements can also affect freight costs and logistics. For instance, a trade agreement between two countries that reduces tariffs on certain goods could lead to an increase in the volume of those goods being shipped. This can impact freight rates, demand for shipping services, and even influence the routes that freight companies use.

    Moreover, in the wake of agreements that promote free trade, freight and cargo companies might have to adapt to increased competition. As markets open up, domestic companies may face competition from foreign companies, pushing them to enhance their efficiency and service quality. Thus, global trade agreements can bring about significant changes in the landscape of the cargo and freight industry.

    Application in Real Life: Cargo vs. Freight in Modern Shipping Industry

    In the modern shipping industry, the terms ‘cargo’ and ‘freight’ are often used interchangeably, but they still maintain their subtle differences. ‘Cargo’ is commonly used to refer to the goods loaded onto large vessels, such as container ships or airplanes, and transported over long distances. These could be items ranging from electronics and machinery to raw materials.

    On the other hand, ‘freight’ is typically used when goods are transported over land, specifically by truck or train. This includes goods moving from factories to ports or warehouses to retail outlets. In commercial terms, freight charges are also factored into the cost of goods, considering the transportation method, distance, and the volume or weight of the goods.

    The choice between cargo and freight is generally dictated by the nature of the goods, the distance they need to be moved, and the cost-effectiveness of the chosen mode of transportation. Understanding the difference between cargo and freight can therefore be beneficial in optimizing logistics and supply chain management strategies.

    Interpreting Legal and Regulatory Aspects of Cargo and Freight

    The transportation of cargo and freight is a multifaceted process with various legal and regulatory aspects. National and international regulations guide the shipment of goods, focusing on aspects such as safety, security, environmental protection, and customs compliance. These laws can vary significantly from one country to another, and even between different states or provinces within a country. For instance, restrictions on the transportation of certain types of goods, such as hazardous materials or live animals, could vary widely. Besides, transporters have to adhere to regulations concerning weight limits, vehicle safety standards, and labor laws.

    Regulatory bodies like the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) set standards for sea and air freight, respectively. Their regulations cover a broad spectrum, from packaging and documentation requirements to safety and security protocols. Adherence to these regulations is essential to avoid legal repercussions, maintain operational efficiency, and ensure the safety of the workforce and the environment.

    Difference Between Cargo and Freight

    Future Trends: Evolution of Cargo and Freight in Shipping

    The world of cargo and freight shipping is always evolving, with technology and sustainability playing crucial roles in shaping its future. Here are some trends to watch:

    • Automation and Digitization: As technology continues to evolve, so does its application in the freight and cargo industry. More companies are moving towards automated and digital solutions to streamline their operations, improve efficiency, and reduce human error. Blockchain technology, for instance, is being used to enhance transparency and traceability in the supply chain.
    • Sustainability: With increasing awareness about environmental impact, more freight and cargo companies are moving towards greener solutions. This includes the use of biofuels, electric vehicles, and more energy-efficient logistics models.
    • Drones and Autonomous Vehicles: The use of drones and autonomous vehicles for cargo delivery is not too far in the future. These technologies could revolutionize the industry by offering faster delivery times, lower costs, and the ability to reach remote or inaccessible areas.

    These trends indicate a future where cargo and freight transportation becomes increasingly efficient, eco-friendly, and technologically advanced.


    At DDPCH, we’re committed to delivering the best cargo and freight solutions tailored to your unique needs. With our deep understanding of the complexities in the industry and a keen eye on the ever-evolving global trends, we ensure smooth, efficient, and cost-effective transportation of your goods. Trust DDPCH to navigate the world of cargo and freight seamlessly, making your shipping experience stress-free and successful. Let us be your trusted partner in cargo and freight forwarding, providing unparalleled service in an ever-changing global market.


    What is the difference between cargo and freight?

    Freight refers to the transportation of goods, and also the charges applied for such transportation. Cargo, on the other hand, strictly refers to the goods being transported.

    What is Intermodal Freight?

    Intermodal Freight involves the transportation of goods using multiple modes of transport, such as trucks, trains, and ships, without the freight being handled when changing modes.

    What are some legal and regulatory aspects of cargo and freight?

    Legal and regulatory aspects of cargo and freight can include safety regulations, environmental protections, customs compliance, and adherence to international shipping standards.

    What does a freight forwarder like DDPCH do?

    A freight forwarder like DDPCH arranges shipments for individuals or corporations to get goods from the manufacturer or producer to a market, customer, or final point of distribution.

    What are the advantages of using a freight forwarder?

    Freight forwarders handle all the logistics and documentation necessary for international shipping, saving you time and stress. They have extensive knowledge of documentation requirements, regulations, transportation costs, and banking practices in foreign countries.

    How do I choose between different modes of freight transport?

    Choosing the right mode of transport depends on various factors, including the nature of the goods, cost, time sensitivity, destination, and environmental impact.

    What is a cargo ship?

    A cargo ship or freighter is a type of ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another.

    How do global trade agreements affect cargo and freight?

    Global trade agreements can open up new markets, reduce trade barriers, and streamline customs procedures. They can also influence freight rates, demand for shipping services, and the routes that freight companies use.

    What is cargo insurance?

    Cargo insurance covers physical damage to, or loss of your goods while in transit by land, sea, or air.

    What should I do if my goods are damaged upon arrival?

    In the unlikely event your goods are damaged, it is essential to document the damage with photos and notify DDPCH immediately. If you’ve opted for cargo insurance, they will guide you through the claims process.

    Can DDPCH handle hazardous materials?

    The ability to handle hazardous materials can vary by company and by the specific regulations of the country of origin or destination. It’s best to reach out to DDPCH directly to confirm.

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