Common Carriers

I have often wondered why, whenever I use a courier company, they mark their parcels “we are not common carriers”. What is a common carrier, and, for that matter, what is a “not common carrier”?


Couriers and courier services are special service organizations that pick up and deliver messages and packages for immedite expedited delivery to the recipient.

Common carriers do essentially the same thing but are slower due to accumulating the parcels and transporting them in bulk for routine distribution/delivery.

Does this have anything to do with common carrier law?

The distiction between common and contract carrier became moot in 1995 when the interstate commerce laws were changed. Unfortunately the U.S. DOT, which took over the responsibilities of the, now defunct, I.C.C., still issues both types of operating authority, furthering the confusion. Because of the confusion there are some who believe that they may be subject to special tariffs if they ship via common carrier. I suspect that is why you see the disclaimer.