What is Cartage in Shipping and Logistics? Definition, Types, and Process

What is Cartage in Shipping and Logistics? Definition, Types, and Process

Cartage services play a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of cargo transportation, especially over short distances. Through various types, such as local, terminal, and pier cartage, these services ensure that freight reaches its final destination promptly and securely. 

Cartage plays a pivotal role in the complex ecosystem of shipping and logistics, ensuring goods move smoothly from one location to another, especially over short distances within a local area. Often handled by specialized cartage companies, these services are essential for transporting cargo to its final destination after it arrives at a major transportation hub.

This guide is invaluable as it delves into the various facets of cartage services, including types, processes, and the specific challenges they address.

From local carting services to container drayage, understanding these components allows businesses to optimize their operations and meet unique needs effectively.

Understanding Cartage in Shipping

Cartage refers to the specialized transport of goods over a relatively short distance, typically within a metropolitan area.

This critical segment of the logistics chain often involves transferring freight from a central hub to a final destination, such as a retail store, a local business, or directly to the consumer’s door.

Understanding the intricacies of cartage helps companies improve efficiency in their overall logistics strategy. It ensures that the final leg of the shipment process is smooth, timely, and cost-effective. 

Utilizing both drayage services for moving large containers from ports and lighter hauls for smaller units within commercial areas, cartage agents provide tailored solutions that meet the specific needs of each shipment.

Types of Cartage Services

shipping freight

Cartage services vary widely to address the specific demands of transporting goods across different locations and distances.

Local Cartage

Local cartage often involves the use of a small van for the delivery of goods within a close radius, typically within a city or specific commercial area. These services are integral for businesses that require quick, efficient transport of goods over short distances.

Terminal Cartage

  • Inter-terminal Cartage: Facilitates the transfer of cargo between different terminals within the same hub, essential for coordinating multiple transport modes.
  • Intra-terminal Cartage: Supports operations within a single terminal, helping manage cargo that requires sorting or temporary storage.
  • Expedited Terminal Cartage: Prioritizes speed to move goods quickly between terminals to meet strict delivery timelines.

Pier Cartage

Pier cartage services are crucial for moving goods from ships to storage areas or other forms of transportation, ensuring a seamless transition from sea to land transport.

Each type of cartage service offers unique benefits tailored to meet the critical demands of cargo transportation, ensuring goods reach their final destinations efficiently and safely.

The Process of Cartage in Shipping

Cartage ensures the seamless transfer of goods from initial pickup to final delivery. Key steps in this process include:

  1. Order Placement: A client requests a pickup from a cartage company detailing the cargo and delivery requirements.
  2. Pickup: A truck arrives at the specified location, where workers load the goods efficiently and securely.
  3. Transport: The cargo is transported over short distances, often within the same city or region.
  4. Delivery: Upon arrival at the destination, the goods are offloaded, with confirmation of delivery sent to the client.

Cartage Fees and Cost Factors

Cartage fees are determined by several factors, which are essential for businesses to consider when planning their logistics budgets. These costs typically include the handling, fuel, and maintenance of transport vehicles. 

In addition to handling, fuel, and maintenance costs, cartage fees may also include charges related to processing legal documents necessary for transporting certain types of goods.

Key factors influencing these fees are the distance the cargo needs to travel, the type of goods being transported, and the specific services required, such as expedited delivery or special handling.

Importance of Cartage in Last-Mile Delivery

Cartage is integral to last-mile delivery, the final step in the delivery process that places goods in the hands of the end-user. This service is particularly vital in urban settings where quick, efficient deliveries are necessary to meet the expectations of consumers. 

Effective last-mile delivery enhances overall efficiency and customer satisfaction, making cartage an indispensable element of urban logistics.

Challenges in Cartage Operations

Cartage operations face multiple challenges:

  • Traffic Management: Navigating through congested areas to maintain delivery schedules. Efficient traffic management is crucial to avoid delays and ensure timely arrivals.
  • Time Constraints: Meeting tight delivery windows. Strict schedules require precise planning and flexibility to adapt to unforeseen delays.
  • Coordination: Integrating with larger logistics networks to ensure seamless transport of goods. Effective coordination across different stakeholders minimizes disruptions and enhances operational efficiency.

Technological Integration in Cartage Services


Technology enhances the efficiency of cartage services through:

  • Tracking Systems: Offering real-time cargo tracking to clients. These systems provide transparency and visibility throughout the transportation process, allowing clients to monitor their shipments closely.
  • Route Optimization Software: Ensuring the most efficient delivery routes are used. By analyzing factors like traffic patterns and road conditions, route optimization software helps minimize travel time and fuel consumption.
  • Digital Platforms: Facilitating communication and coordination among all stakeholders. Digital platforms streamline collaboration between cartage companies, clients, and other parties involved in the logistics chain, enhancing overall efficiency and service quality.

Cartage in Different Industries

Cartage services adapt to the unique demands of various sectors:

  • Retail: Ensures that stores receive their products on time for consumer purchase.
  • Manufacturing: Moves raw materials or finished goods between facilities or to distribution centers.
  • E-commerce: Plays a crucial role in promptly fulfilling online orders and maintaining the flow from warehouses to consumers.

Choosing a Cartage Service Provider

When selecting a cartage company, there are a few key factors to remember. Firstly, it’s important to ensure the company consistently meets delivery schedules. Additionally, you should confirm that they can service all necessary locations. 

Another consideration is the provider’s experience with specific types of cargo. Finally, it’s important to balance affordability and the quality of service the provider offers.


Cartage services play a crucial role in enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of cargo transportation, especially over short distances. Through various types, such as local, terminal, and pier cartage, these services ensure that freight reaches its final destination promptly and securely. 

Key considerations like cartage fees, the importance of last-mile delivery, and the integration of technology further underscore the vital role of cartage in the broader shipping and logistics sector.

Now equipped with critical information about the cartage process, you can make informed decisions about selecting cartage services that best fit your logistical needs.