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International Forwarding Association Blog » Intermodal transport in Europe » Shipping Categories for Small and Large Items

Shipping Categories for Small and Large Items

Cargo shipped by European logistics providers can be divided into several categories, including freight, parcel, express, and household goods.

Parcel Shipments

Parcels include items of up to 50 kg that are shipped in small boxes. They are also referred to as ground shipments and are either packaged by the carrier or the shipper. Parcels are usually transported by rail or road and travel up to 1,100 km a day. Shipping times vary and in some European countries, delivery is divided into guaranteed domestic, economic domestic, and next day domestic parcel delivery. When posting a parcel to another EU member-state, customers can choose from three-day guaranteed, economic, and next-day delivery. Prices vary based on the destination, delivery option, and weight and size of the parcel.


Express Shipments

Personal and business items such as documents and letters are typically shipped in envelopes. They are referred to as express or overnight express letter shipments. Express shipments weigh up to a few kilograms and are packaged by the carrier. They are shipped by air or land and include items such as promotions, business offers, client mail-outs, and urgent items. Customers receive a tracking number so that they can track delivery in real time. IFA members specialize in express shipments that need to be expedited and delivered overnight or on the same day.

Household Goods

Household goods are also shipped across Europe and include items such as small and large appliances, furniture, and personal belongings. This category includes diplomatic shipments, corporate relocations, and personal moves. The chosen mode of transportation depends on factors such as urgency and location. Depending on size and weight and whether it is a time-critical move, household goods are transported by air or sea.

Freight Shipments

Freight shipping refers to moving cargo and goods by air, sea, or land. It can be divided into international and domestic freight shipping depending on the location. Freight shipping sometimes requires combining intermodal transportation services so that more than one mode of transportation is used. In this case, containers are typically used which can be moved between different modes, including truck, air, rail, and sea. When shipping freight cargo, exporters pay costs such as costs to stow, secure, lash, and load the cargo. Freight must be protected against damage and slipping in ships as to ensure safety and minimize costs (refunds).


The main modes of shipment include expedited freight, intermodal, partial truckload, less than truckload, and full truckload. As the term suggests, expedited freight is used for faster shipping which makes it more expensive compared to other modes of shipment. Partial truckload is another mode whereby carriers share the costs. Less than truckload is used for cargo weighing between 45 kg and 6,800 kg while full truckload refers to shipments of over 6,800 kg. The shipping rates depend on factors such as negotiated and tariff rates, fuel cost, mode of transportation, and freight classification. Other factors include distance to destination, and density and weight of the cargo.