In a broad sense, a common carrier is any person or company that hauls cargo, people and/or livestock. From trains to airplanes, taxis, cruise ships and big rigs, common carriers are everywhere.
In the trucking industry, common carriers are used to transport a variety of goods. These companies serve a wide range of customers.
Common Carrier Trucking 101
If you’re considering using a common carrier, it’s important to understand what they are, how they operate, their advantages and their disadvantages.
What are Common Carrier Shipping Companies?
A common carrier is a trucking or freight company that works with both residential and commercial shippers. They may transport partial, full or LTL truckloads as well as intermodal.
Common carriers have set rates and lanes. They may also specialize in certain types of equipment.
Most common carriers offer only a handful of services, which makes them experts in these fields. However, this can also make it difficult to find one carrier to use for all shipments.
For example, a shipper may only offer commercial or residential services, but not both. If you normally serve local businesses but decide to start shipping to consumers, you may need to find a new carrier for residential deliveries.
Logistics providers can help coordinate shipments to simplify the process.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) labels common carriers as for-hire carriers.
This designation simply means that these carriers are being paid to transport third-party goods from one destination to another.
What Types of Services do Common Carriers Provide?
In the trucking industry, common carriers may offer the following services:
How do Common Carriers Operate?
Typically, common carriers make several stops along the way to their destination. Different drivers may pick up and drop off shipments.
Common carriers transport shipments from different locations with different destinations. When issues arise during the transport process, a tender code is sent to the shipper to let them know there may be a delay.
Most common carriers have specific fees. To avoid additional fees, shippers should ensure that their freight is accurately weighed and measured prior to shipment. Otherwise, the carrier may need to reweigh and remeasure your cargo multiple times throughout the journey. The additional weighing and measuring can add to the overall cost of shipment.
Common carriers handle multiple shipments from multiple shippers. Any additional time spent handling your shipment can result in additional fees.
Advantages of Common Carriers
Using a common carrier has many advantages for shippers. From cost savings to convenience and multiple service options, choosing a common carrier is the ideal option for many shippers.
#1 – Cost Effective
In most cases, using a common carrier is a cost effective option, particularly for LTL. With LTL, the cost of shipment is shared among all shippers who are sharing the truck.
#2 – Easier on the Environment
Common carriers transport multiple shipments at once, which means that drivers make fewer trips and trucks release less emissions.
#3- Specialized Services and Options
Most common carriers offer specialized services and options, which can be convenient for shippers. These may include liftgates, pickup and delivery, and residential delivery options. Residential delivery is something that FTL carriers do not offer.
#4- More Secure Than Parcel Services
Compared to parcel services, shipping with a common carrier can be more secure. Because the risk of damage is greater when using a common carrier (multiple stops, drop-offs and re-loading), shippers take greater care to package their freight on shrink-wrapped pallets. Taking greater care with packaging ensures that items are kept together and more secure during transport.
Many shippers find that common carriers are more convenient because they can ship to multiple shops or consumers using a single service.
Disadvantages of Common Carriers
While there are many advantages to using a common carrier, there are also drawbacks that need to be considered.
Delays are Not Uncommon
Because common carriers offer shared space and make multiple stops along the way, it’s not uncommon for shipments to be delayed. The more customers sharing the trailer, the greater the risk of delays and other issues.
In general, having multiple stops and sharing a space with multiple shippers will make the transport process longer than when using a dedicated service. Cross-country shipments can be especially lengthy.
Less Secure than FTL
Although more secure than parcel services, common carriers are still less secure than FTL. Common carriers make multiple stops, and your shipment may be unloaded and reloaded multiple times before reaching its destination. This means that multiple people will have access to your shipment. It also increases the risk of your shipment being lost in transit.
Although lost shipments aren’t common, they can happen.
The risk of damage is also higher when using a common carrier, but proper packing can help greatly reduce this risk.