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A ship loading cargo at the Mundra Port in Gujarat, India

Cargo (or freight) is goods or produce transported, generally for commercial gain, by ship, aircraft, train, van or truck. In modern times, containers are used in most intermodal long-haul cargo transport.

Marine Cargo Types[]


Container ship at Helsinki Port, Finland

There is a wide range of marine cargoes at seaport terminals operated. The primary types are these:

  • Automobiles are handled at many ports, usually carried on specialist roll-on/roll-off ships.
  • Break bulk cargo is typically material stacked on wooden pallets and lifted into and out of the hold of a vessel by cranes on the dock or aboard the ship itself. The volume of break bulk cargo has declined dramatically worldwide as containerization has grown. A safe and secure way to secure Break bulk and freight in containers is by using Dunnage Bags.
  • Bulk Cargoes, such as salt, oil, tallow, and Scrap metal, are usually defined as commodities that are neither on pallets nor in containers, and which are not handled as individual pieces, the way heavy-lift and project cargoes are. Alumina, grain, gypsum, logs and wood chips, for instance, are bulk cargoes.
  • Containers are the largest and fastest growing cargo category at most ports worldwide. Containerized cargo includes everything from auto parts and machinery components to shoes, toys, and frozen meat and seafood.
  • Project cargo and heavy lift cargo may include items such as manufacturing equipment, factory components, power equipment such as generators and wind turbines, military equipment or almost any other over sized or overweight cargo too big or too heavy to fit into a container.

Air Cargo[]

File:Cargolux B747-400F.jpg

Cargolux Boeing 747-400F with the nose loading door open

Air cargo is commonly known as air freight. There are many firms which collect freight from a shipper and deliver it to the customer such as Nightfreight or UPS. Aircraft were first used for carrying mail as cargo in 1911, but eventually manufacturers started designing aircraft for freight as well. There are many commercial aircraft suitable for carrying cargo such as the Boeing 747 and the bigger An-124, which were purpose built to be easily converted to a cargo aircraft. Such very large aircraft also employ quick loading containers known as ULDs much like containerized cargo ships.It is located in front mismo of the aircraft the triangular shaped in front.

Most nations own and utilize large numbers of cargo aircraft such as the C-17 Globemaster III, for airlift logistics needs of such operations.

Freight train[]

File:Banbury box car 2001 1st.png

A picture of a P&O Nedlloyd inter-modal freight well car at Banbury station in the year 2001

Trains are capable of transporting large numbers of containers which have come off the shipping ports. Trains are also used for the transportation of steel, wood and coal. Trains are used as they can pull a large amount and generally have a direct route to the destination. Under the right circumstances, freight transport by rail is more economic and energy efficient than by road, especially when carried in bulk or over long distances. The main disadvantage of rail freight is its lack of flexibility. For this reason, rail has lost much of the freight business to road transport. Rail freight is often subject to transshipment costs since it must be transferred from one mode to another in the chain; these costs may dominate and practices such as containerization aim at minimizing these. Many governments are now trying to encourage more freight onto trains, because of the environmental benefits that it would bring; rail transport is very energy efficient.

Van or Truck Cargo[]

There are many firms which transport all types of cargo, ranging from letters to houses to cargo containers. These firms like Parcelforce or FedEx which deliver fast and sometimes same day deliverly services. A good example of road cargo is supermarket stock, as these require deliveries every day to keep the shelves stacked with goods for sale. Retailers of all kinds rely upon delivery trucks, be they full size semi trucks or smaller delivery vans.

Freight is a term used to classify the transportation of cargo and is typically a commercial process. Items are usually organized into various shipment categories before they are transported. This is dependent on several factors:

  • The type of item being carried, i.e. a kettle could fit into the category 'household goods'.
  • How large the shipment is, both in terms of item size and quantity.
  • How long the item for delivery will be in transit.

Shipments are typically categorized as household goods, express, parcel, and freight shipments.

Furniture, art, or similar items are usually classified as “household goods” (HHG).

Very small business or personal items like envelopes are considered “overnight express” or “express letter” shipments. These shipments are rarely over a few kilos/pounds, and almost always travel in the carrier’s own packaging. Service levels are variable, depending on the shipper’s choice. Express shipments almost always travel some distance by air. An envelope may go USA coast to USA coast overnight or it may take several days, depending on the service options and prices chosen.

Larger items like small boxes are considered “parcel” or “ground” shipments. These shipments are rarely over Template:Convert, with no single piece of the shipment weighing more than about Template:Convert. Parcel shipments are always boxed, sometimes in the shipper’s packaging and sometimes in carrier-provided packaging. Service levels are again variable; but most “ground” shipments will move about Template:Convert per day, going coast to coast in about four days depending on origin. Parcel shipments rarely travel by air, and typically move via road and rail. Parcels represent the majority of business-to-consumer (B2C) shipments.

Beyond HHG, express, and parcel shipments, movements are termed “freight shipments.”

Less-than-truckload freight[]

“Less than truckload” (LTL) cargo is the first category of freight shipment, and represents the majority of “freight” shipments and the majority of business-to-business (B2B) shipments. LTL shipments are also often referred to as "motor freight" and the carriers involved are referred to as "motor carriers". LTL shipments range from Template:Convert, and the majority of times they will be less than Template:Convert. The average single piece of LTL freight is Template:Convert and the size of a standard pallet. Long freight and/or large freight are subject to "extreme length" and "cubic capacity" surcharges. Trailers used in LTL can range from Template:Convert. The standard for city deliveries is usually Template:Convert. In tight and residential environments the Template:Convert trailer is used the most. The shipments are usually palletized, shrink-wrapped and packaged for a mixed-freight environment. Unlike express or parcel, LTL shippers must provide their own packaging, as LTL carriers do not provide any packaging supplies or assistance. However, crating or other substantial packaging may be required for LTL shipments in circumstances that require this criteria.

“Air cargo” or “air freight” shipments are very similar to LTL shipments in terms of size and packaging requirements. However, air freight shipments typically need to move at much faster speeds than Template:Convert per day. Air shipments may be booked directly with the carriers or through brokers or online marketplace services. While shipments move faster than standard LTL, “air” shipments don’t always actually move by air.

Truckload freight[]

In the United States of America, shipments larger than about Template:Convert are typically classified as “truckload” (TL), given that it is more efficient and economical for a large shipment to have exclusive use of one larger trailer rather than share space on a smaller LTL trailer. The total weight of a loaded truck (tractor and trailer, 5-axle rig) cannot exceed Template:Convert in the U.S. In ordinary circumstances, long-haul equipment will weigh about Template:Convert; leaving about Template:Convert of freight capacity. Similarly a load is limited to the space available in the trailer; normally Template:Convert or Template:Convert long and Template:Convert wide and Template:Convert high (Template:Convert high over all). While express, parcel, and LTL shipments are always intermingled with other shipments on a single piece of equipment and are typically reloaded across multiple pieces of equipment during their transport, TL shipments usually travel as the only shipment on a trailer and TL shipments usually deliver on exactly the same trailer as they are picked up on.

Often, an LTL shipper may realize savings by utilizing a freight "broker," online marketplace, or other intermediary instead of contracting directly with a trucking company. Brokers can shop the marketplace and obtain lower rates than most smaller shippers can directly. In the Less-than-Truckload (LTL) marketplace, intermediaries typically receive 50% to 80% discounts from published rates, where a small shipper may only be offered a 5% to 30% discount by the carrier. Intermediaries are licensed by the DOT and have requirements to provide proof of insurance.

Truckload (TL) carriers usually charge a rate per kilometer or mile. The rate varies depending on the distance, geographic location of the delivery, items being shipped, equipment type required, and service times required. TL shipments usually receive a variety of surcharges very similar to those described for LTL shipments above. In the TL market, there are thousands more small carriers than in the LTL market; so the use of transportation intermediaries or “brokers” is extremely common.

Another cost-saving method is facilitating pickups or deliveries at the carrier’s terminals. By doing this, shippers avoid any accessorial fees that might normally be charged for liftgate, residential pickup/delivery, inside pickup/delivery or notifications/appointments. Carriers or intermediaries can provide shippers with the address and phone number for the closest shipping terminal to the origin and/or destination.

Shipping experts optimize their service and costs by sampling rates from several carriers, brokers, and online marketplaces. When obtaining rates from different providers, shippers may find quite a wide range in the pricing offered. If a shipper uses a broker, freight forwarder, or other transportation intermediary, it is common for the shipper to receive a copy of the carrier's Federal Operating Authority. Freight brokers and intermediaries are also required by Federal Law to be licensed by the Federal Highway Administration. Experienced shippers avoid unlicensed brokers and forwarders; because if brokers are working outside the law by not having a Federal Operating License, the shipper has no protection in the event of a problem. Also shippers normally ask for a copy of the broker's insurance certificate and any specific insurance that applies to the shipment.

United States Security Concerns[]

Cargo represents a concern to U.S. national security. It was reported from Washington, DC in 2003 that over 6 million cargo containers enter the United States ports each year.[1] After the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the security of this magnitude of cargo has become highlighted. The latest US Government response to this threat is the CSI: Container Security Initiative. CSI is a program intended to help increase security for containerized cargo shipped to the United States from around the world.[2]

Load Securing[]

There are many different ways and materials available to stabilize and secure cargo in the various modes of transportation. Conventional Load Securing methods and materials such as steel strapping and wood blocking & bracing have been used for decades and are still widely used. Present load securing methods offer several other options including polyester strapping and lashing, synthetic webbings and dunnage bags, also known as air bags or inflatable bags.

See also[]


  • Bulk cargo
  • Cargo airline
  • Cargo cult
  • Cargo sampling
  • Cargo scanning
  • Cargo ship


  • Containerization
  • Counter-to-counter package
  • Dunnage Bags
  • Dial-a-truck
  • Freight company
  • Freight train
  • Freight Transport Association
  • Goods


  • Goods train
  • IATA e-freight
  • Less than truckload shipping
  • Owner–Operator Independent Drivers Association
  • Load Securing
  • Packaging
  • Products
  • Standard Carrier Alpha Codes
  • Carlos Gonzalez (nickname is Cargo)



External links[]

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