Freight and cargo is the most widely used terms in the business and commerce sectors. Many entrepreneurs confuse freight with cargo and vice versa. Generally, the two terms can be used interchangeably, but in supply chains, the two terms cannot be cut from the same cloth as it may cause confusion.

In this post, we are going to compare freight and cargo. What both terms stand for and the differences and similarities between them.


The term cargo refers to the shipping of goods and supplies via sea or air. Cargos are usually sent on ships and planes. For a certain shipment to be classified as “cargo” it has to travel over large bodies of water, meaning going from one continent to another. Cargo vessels and planes are meticulously designed to carry bulk quantities of goods and raw materials across the world. The term cargo is often used when discussing international shipping.


As opposed to “cargo,” the term freight refers to the shipping of goods and supplies via roads or railroads. This shipping typically uses tractors, trucks, and railroads, hence the terms freight truck and freight trains. For a shipment to be classified as freight, it has to remain on the land. While some goods may be moved across a country via air, it resorts to being freight as it resumes travel overland.

The Term Air Freight

As we mentioned earlier, goods are classified as freight when they travel across the land but lately, we have also seen professionals using the terms “air freight” and“sea freight,” which is also commonly accepted as correct usage. This is primarily because the term freight is also used for the payment when certain goods are being transported.

It must be noted that mail cannot be classified as freight as it generally does not include commercial goods. The right term for mail, whether it be bundles of letters or packages or parcels, is cargo. Mail is never referred to as freight, whether it is transported via air, land, or sea.

Difference Between Cargo & Freight

The main difference between the two is the medium and vehicle of transportation. Cargo is usually moved by large vehicles, such as vessels and cargo aircraft, whereas frights are usually moved by smaller vehicles such as trucks and vans. Like we mentioned earlier, the term freight also refers to the cost/payment of the goods being moved from here to there, cargo does not refer to anything else except goods or products. 

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