cartage in logistics

What Is Cartage in Logistics?

There are various types of truck deliveries that revolve around moving cargo from one location to another. While there are terms differentiating these types of cargo movements, oftentimes they are used interchangeably or incorrectly. One of these trucking delivery terms is cartage.

Cartage is the process or fee that is associated with transporting cargo across short distances by land, usually through truck or rail freight. Although cartage is often used synonymously with shunting, haulage, drayage and trucking, it’s more commonly used to describe cargo movements between short distances. 

Cartage fees are typically charged by carriers or truckers who are rendering this service to their customers. Depending on where these services are required, a cartage fee is usually quoted as a separate line item on the freight invoice. 

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at when cartage fees apply and how cartage as a transport term is different from shunting, freight, haulage and drayage. Without further ado, let’s get to it! 

Where Do Cartage Fees Apply?

As previously alluded to, the term ‘cartage’ is more commonly used for the transport of goods between short distances. It’s common for these locations to be within a port, free trade zones, between container depots or even close delivery locations. Let’s take a closer look. 

Cartage fees usually apply for movements between:

  • Free Trade Zones and Ports – Cargo in free trade zones are usually located close to the port and needs to be transported in order to get loaded onto the vessel. A cartage fee is usually charged for moving cargo from free trade zones to the port of loading.
  • CFS and Ports – Cartage fees usually also apply for the laden container delivery from the container freight station (CFS) to the port. This cartage service is commonly arranged by the consolidator, which is typically a co-loader or a freight forwarder. 
  • Ports and ICDs – Cargo is sometimes transferred to inland container depots (ICD) for better accessibility. This cartage service is commonly done through truck or rail freight and offered by freight forwarders and shipping lines.
  • Multiple Delivery Locations – distribution of smaller deliveries between close-by locations are also charged a cartage fee. This is usually arranged by a trucking, delivery or distribution center.

Where Does the Term “Cartage” Originate From?

The term “cartage” dates back to the 15th century when goods were transported by horses in carts. It was mainly used to transport lumber, grains and coal in larger quantities to nearby locations. As the main vehicles were carts, the term cartage was conceptualised and was used to describe these types of cargo movements.

Through industrialization and innovation in the following centuries, cargo movements evolved and were more commonly facilitated through the use of specialised cargo vehicles such as trucks and trains.

Even though the rise of technological advancement brought about new terms for moving cargo, ‘cartage’ is one of the terms in logistics that is still used today. 

What’s the Difference Between Cartage and Freight?

Both cartage and freight are associated with moving cargo from one location to another. However, it’s important to distinguish that “cartage” is a term that is mostly used to describe the movements of goods between two closely located places via truck or rail.

On the other hand, “freight” typically transcends short distances and describes the movement of cargo through any type of transport mode (air, sea, rail, truck, van or others) across any distance. 

What’s the Difference Between Cartage and Drayage?

Both cartage and drayage share the same entomological origin, in that they refer to moving goods across two locations using dray horses. The term drayage has evolved to describe cargo movement by trucks, whereas cartage can refer to truck or rail freight. 

What’s the Difference Between Cartage and Haulage?

Cartage usually deals with deliveries between closer locations, whereas haulage commonly refers to container trucking across any type of distances. While both terms tend to be used interchangeably, they may refer to different types of cargo movements. 

What’s the Difference Between Cartage and Shunting?

The similarities between cartage and shunting is that both cargo movements deal with moving goods from one location to another close-by location. This could be between port terminals, container yards or depots. 

However, shunting is used to describe more frequent cargo movements, also for non-carrier related transport activities, such as trucking goods between a warehouse and factory.