The Important Differences Between Freight Forwarding Companies and Courier Companies

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It is a common misconception that all actors in the transportation, logistics and delivery sectors are, essentially, conducting the same work and can be used interchangeably. This is not the case and, depending on what shipments you or your business are intending to transport, different service providers will have a wide variety of offerings to meet their respective customers’ needs.

One of the most common misconceptions is that freight forwarding companies provide the same services as courier companies. Although they are both involved in the process of delivering shipments; these processes and the services offerings are very different. Courier companies will provide direct delivery options for B2C, individuals and small shipments. Freight forwarding and logistics companies will work with other transportation businesses to help B2B clients move large shipments around the world.

Freight forwarders are a critical piece in the global supply chain that provide logistical support to companies that are looking for B2B transportation services for large shipments and over long distances. Freight forwarders will connect their clients with service providers, like a courier company or an airline, rather than ship goods themselves.

Let us take a closer look at what makes a freight forwarder different from a courier service.

Freight Forwarding Companies

Freight forwarders focus on the logistical and administrative steps required to support large shipments (exceeding 70kg) for international transportation. Without a freight forwarding partner, an airline or railway will not accept direct business from customers moving bulk cargo. Since freight forwarding companies do not transport goods using their own drivers, vehicles and equipment; they maintain great working relationships with transportation companies across the globe.

Transportation companies who specialise in shipping bulk cargo internationally, by air, land or sea, will depend on freight forwarders to vouch for the type, quantity, safety and packaging of goods for transportation. Business owners are well-aware that access to worldclass freight forwarding and logistics services are key to the success of any company that imports, exports, buys or sells bulk products.

As you can imagine, a freight forwarding and logistics company should not be measured by their infrastructure, but rather the partnerships and connections they have formed with transportation agents across the global supply chain. In short, freight forwarders are the intermediary between their clients and huge multinational corporations that provide these services. Businesses rely on freight forwarders to access air, road (including LTL and FTL), rail and ocean freight services.

Bridging the gap between local businesses and international shipping companies for large B2B shipments is only part of the work of freight forwarding companies. Customs clearing, warehousing, documentation, billing, packaging and many other logistical services can be part of the deal. This is why these organisations function as freight forwarding and logistics companies.

Courier Companies

Courier service providers are, more typically, focused on B2C, door-to-door and expedited delivery services. Couriers specialise in the transportation of smaller packages and cargo that are shipped by individuals. If you are an individual customer that is purchasing from your favourite online store or delivering documents to a family member overseas, you will, most likely, be utilising the services of a courier company.

Couriers offer customers quick, reliable and efficient transportation of their personal shipments to straight to their door. This can include real-time and accurate tracking of your individual goods from the pick-up point to your delivery destination. It is obvious that this will work for a single pair of shoes, but cannot work for thousands of shoes. One could say that couriers focus on thousands of single shipments, while freight forwarders focus on single shipments of thousands of goods.

With courier companies, a single point of contact is required for a single shipment. You can order an item from a store and utilise a single courier company to deliver your package. This means small issues can be resolved by the customer and directly with the courier or store. However, couriers do not offer these services at scale or to anywhere in the world. Freight forwarding and logistics companies help organise, track and manage your shipments, no matter the size or destination.

What Is Right for You?

Hopefully, you feel better equipped to distinguish between a freight forwarder and a courier. They are very different services, despite some superficial similarities, that need to be understood to avoid any costly mistakes. Remember, freight forwarding and logistics companies are ideal for businesses looking to transport large shipments (exceeding 70kg) safely, reliably and effectively, anywhere in the world.

Who Can Help?

M6T are an established and trusted freight forwarding and logistics partner for many of South Africa’s leading businesses. M6T’s global network spans across the international shipping industry and allows us to deliver world-class 3PL and 4PL services to all of our clients. Contact M6T at our Johannesburg or Durban branch today for all of your B2B transportation and logistics needs.