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Smart WarehousingSep 8, 2023 10:54:00 AM4 min read

Freight vs. Shipping: What’s the Difference?

Identifying a cost-effective way to move goods from point A to point B is at the heart of succeeding in today’s business world. To understand the ins and outs and ensure you’re implementing the right supply chain strategy, it’s important to understand all the terminology. To get you moving on the right track, we’re delving into freight vs. shipping – What’s the difference between the two? And how does it impact your business? Let’s take a look. 


What is Freight?

Freight refers to the goods, merchandise, or cargo that is being transported – i.e., the item that you’re shipping. It encompasses the commercial transportation of these goods via different modes, such as by sea, land, or air. When it comes to freight vs. shipping, freight generally includes the transportation of goods in bulk. 

Prior to being dispatched for shipping, freight is divvied up into supplemental categories based on the shipment size, the type of goods being transported, and the length of time the goods will be in transit. For instance, these categories can fall under household goods, express, freight shipments, and parcels. Other classifications include Full Truckload (FTL) and Less than Truckload (LTL). 


What is Shipping?

In the late 15th century, the term “shipping” was coined, referring to the movement of goods specifically by ship. Fast forward to today and ships are just a fraction of the story. Today, the term “shipping” has evolved to embody various modes of transportation, such as air, rail, sea, or truck. The difference between freight vs. shipping is that shipping simply means the transportation of goods and can be utilized in both a commercial and non-commercial capacity. What’s more, it can include shipments of various sizes, not just bulk. 

At its core, shipping describes moving goods from one location to another. The term is commonly used in scenarios where businesses send items to their customers or someone sends personal goods by mail. Door-to-door shipping, in particular, refers to services provided by a logistics company that encompasses everything from shipping and handling to import and customs.

Freight vs. Shipping: Similarities and Differences

Generally speaking, both shipping and freight refer to goods being transported. While interconnected, the two terms shouldn’t be utilized interchangeably. That’s because shipping is a term often used by consumers while freight typically indicates a more commercial intent. When discussing freight vs. shipping, freight can include both the transportation process and the physical cargo, while shipping only means the former. 

Another crucial distinguishing factor between freight vs. shipping is that freight typically entails larger quantities of goods. This is because it’s more commonly used in B2B scenarios involving bulk transportation of goods. Shipping, on the other hand, generally describes the movement of a smaller amount of goods, like a single item purchased from an online store. Thus, the term is frequently used in B2C or consumer-to-consumer (C2C) circumstances. It’s also important to note that shipping generally carries a higher expense than freight, as it’s more cost-effective to transport goods in bulk rather than small amounts. 

To help paint a clear picture of the difference between freight vs. shipping, here’s a quick cheat sheet:




Encompasses the transportation process

Describes physical cargo


Commercial or retail?


Commercial & Retail






B2C & C2C


Freight vs. Shipping: Common Modes of Transportation

There are various modes of transportation that can be leveraged to move goods from one location to another. Here’s a list of the most commonly used mediums. 


Road Freight a.k.a. transportation by vehicle via road

  • Less-than-Truckload (LTL): Freight between 150 and 15,000 lbs that doesn’t require an entire trailer. LTL shipping is an effective solution for small and medium-sized looking to minimize shipping costs. 
  • Full Truckload (FTL): Only your goods are carried on the truck – whether or not they occupy the full space. Cargo can weigh 20,000 pounds or more. 


Air Freighta.k.a. transportation by aircraft via air


Sea Freighta.k.a. transportation by ocean vessel via sea

  • Less-than-Container-Load (LCL): Similar to LTL, your cargo doesn’t fill an entire container and can be consolidated with other goods being shipped. 
  • Full-Container-Load (FCL): Like FTL, your goods occupy an entire container without the need to share the space with other shippers. 
  • Bulk Shipments: Cargo that is loaded onto a shipping vessel without packaging and in large quantities. 
  • Roll-On/Roll-Off (RoRo): The transportation of self-propelled goods, like cars or products housed on handling equipment, that are rolled on and off the vessel. 


Rail Freighta.k.a. transportation by cargo train via railway


Catapult Your Freight & Shipping to New Heights

Implementing a cohesive and streamlined logistics strategy is vital for driving efficiency, keeping costs low, and maximizing revenue. Handling all the moving pieces is highly complex and if not managed correctly, can seriously hurt your business’s bottom line. From inventory management to order fulfillment and transportation, Smart Warehousing has the technology and expertise needed to fuel your success. 


Learn more about how the Smart Warehousing team can optimize your shipping and logistics needs by contacting us today.