An individual or legal entity that is in the business of transporting passengers or goods for hire. Shipping lines, airlines, trucking companies, and railroad companies are all carriers.

Note: The worldwide acceptance of Incoterms 1990, 2000, 2010, and now Incoterms 20210, has resulted in an expanded definition of “carrier.” In the original meaning, only shipping lines, airlines, trucking companies and railroad companies are carriers. However, the significant increase in multimodal transport and integrated logistics has placed freight forwarders into the position of “carrier.” In the definition above, a freight forwarder is a “legal entity that is in the business of transporting goods.”

The ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) has established the following definition:

ICC definition

“Carrier means any person who, in a contract of carriage, undertakes to perform or to procure the performance of transport by rail, road, air, sea, inland waterway or by combination of such modes.” Within the context of this definition, when a buyer nominates a freight forwarder to receive the goods, such as in the FCA (Free Carrier) Incoterm, the seller fulfills his obligation to deliver the goods by delivering to that person.

(a) A common carrier is one that by law must convey passengers or goods without refusal, provided the party requesting conveyance has paid the charge for transport.

(b) A private or contract carrier is one that transports only those persons or goods that it selects.

U.S. shipping

By U.S. government regulation a common carrier publishes stated rates for carriage and must accept any passengers or goods for transport so long as space is available and the published rate is paid.

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