Shipping Terms Glossary

Close-up of a shiny chrome truck step on a red cab.Air Brake
The air brake system on tractors is operated by air and consists of air lines, valves, tanks, and an air compressor.

Accessorial charges (also called assessorials)
Any additional services required outside of the standard shipping procedure require additional fees from the carrier called accessorials. These include extra services such as:

  • » Lift gate service
  • » Inside pick up
  • » Residential service
  • » Collect on delivery (COD)
  • » Fuel surcharge
  • » Inside delivery
  • » Arrival notification
  • » Insurance

Back Haul
A return load. Instead of returning to a load’s origin with an empty trailer, a carrier will find another load (the "back haul") going back to the original location.

Bill of Lading (BOL)
This is the legal document that shows that the carrier has received the freight as described, and is obligated to deliver that freight in good condition to the consignee. One BOL is required for each shipment.

Bobtail
A tractor operating without a trailer attached.

Bulk Freight
Freight that is not in packages or containers; normally hauled in tankers, grain trailers, and sometimes in regular van trailers.

Box
A less formal name for a shipping container.

Carrier
Any individual, company or corporation engaged in transporting goods.

Cabover
Short for cab-over-engine, designed so that the cab sits over the engine on the chassis.

Cargo Claim
A claim for payment for goods lost or damaged while the shipment was in the carrier’s possession. Cargo claims must be filed within nine months.

Collect on Delivery (COD)
A shipment for which the transportation provider is responsible for collecting the sale price of the goods shipped before delivery. The additional administration required for this type of shipment necessitates an additional fee to cover the carrier's cost.

Common carrier
A company that provides transportation services to the public in return for compensation.

Concealed loss / concealed damage
Shortage or damage not evident at delivery.

Consignee
The person or place to whom the goods are addressed and the final destination where a shipment will be transferred for the last time.

Cartage Company
A carrier that provides local pickup and delivery.

CDL (Commercial Drivers License)
The operator’s license which authorizes individuals to operate commercial motor vehicles over 26,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

Check Call
Checking in with your company/dispatcher to inform them of your progress, and any other important information.

Clearance Lights
The lights on top of the front and rear of the trailer; often referred to as the marker lights.

Container
A standard sized metal box used to transport freight. International shipping containers are 20 to 40 feet long, and can be transported in an ocean liner, on rail cars and on public roads on a container chassis trailer. Domestic containers are up to 53 foot long, and are of lighter construction.

Container Chassis
A type of trailer specifically designed to carry a shipping container.

Consignee
The receiver, who accepts your delivery.

Carrier Liability
A common carrier is liable for shipment loss, damage, and delay with the exception of that caused by act of God, act of a public enemy, act of a public authority, act of the shipper, and the goods' inherent nature.

Class I Carrier
A classification of carriers based upon annual operating revenues of more than $5 million.

Class II Carrier
A classification of carriers based upon annual operating revenues of $1 - $5 million.

Class III Carrier
A classification of carriers based upon annual operating revenues of less than $1 million.

Cube
Capacity, measured in cubic feet, of the interior of a trailer.

Density
The relationship of the weight of a shipment to the physical space it occupies.

Drayage
The charge made for local handling of freight. Common in tradeshow shipping.

Deadhead
Driving a tractor-trailer without cargo, or a paying load.

Detention/demurrage
Penalty charges assessed by a carrier to a shipper or consignee for holding equipment longer than the stipulated time for loading or unloading.

Dock Lock
A safety device that hooks to a trailer's bumper when backed to a loading dock to prevents the trailer from pulling away while a forklift driver and anyone else is inside the trailer.

Drop and Hook
Taking a loaded trailer to a shipper/receiver, dropping the trailer and then leaving with a loaded trailer.

Dry Freight
Freight that's not refrigerated.

Fingerprinting
When a driver has to unload the trailer by himself.

Freight Lane
The route on which a large amount of freight flows back and forth. Frequently just called a “Lane.”

Free on board (FOB)
The seller agrees to deliver merchandise, free of transportation expense, to the place specified by the contract.

FOB destination
Under this arrangement, title and risk remain with the seller until it has delivered the goods to the location specified in the contract.

FOB origin
Title and risk pass to the buyer at the moment the seller delivers the goods to the carrier.

Freight bill
A shipping document used to confirm shipment delivery and indicate payment terms (prepaid or collect) and that describes the shipment.

Freight Broker
A company that arranges for the transportation of freight belonging to others, utilizing for-hire carriers to provide the actual transportation. Brokers do not assume responsibility for the cargo and usually do not take possession of the freight.

Freight forwarder
A freight forwarder combines less-than-truckload (LTL) or less-than-container-load (LCL) shipments into full container or truckload lots. Freight forwarders are designated as common carriers and can issue bills of lading and accept responsibility for goods.

FCL (Full Container-Load)
A full container-load shipment is when a shipper contracts for the transportation of an entire container. The vast majority of intermodal freight is contracted in this manner.

GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating)
The maximum weight an axle is rated to carry by the manufacturer.

GCW (Gross Combination Weight)
The total weight of a loaded combination vehicle, such as a tractor-trailer.

GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)
The total weight of a vehicle; the vehicle's weight, and the contents of the trailer and tractor.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)
The total weight a vehicle is rated to carry by the manufacturer, including it's own weight and the weight of the freight.

Hazmat
Hazardous materials as classified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Transportation of hazardous materials is regulated by the United States Department of Transportation.

Hundredweight / CWT
100 pounds. A common shipping weight unit.

Intermodal Shipping
A system that uses standard-sized containers that can be moved between different modes of transport, such as ships, trucks and trains. Freight does not need to be unloaded every time it is moved from one mode to another.

Inside Pickup / Inside Delivery
If a driver is required to go inside (beyond the front door or loading dock), to pick up or deliver a shipment, instead of remaining at the dock or truck, it is considered an inside pickup or delivery.

Jake Brake
An engine retarder which helps to slow vehicles.

LCL (Less-than-Container-Load)
An ocean-shipping and intermodal industry term; LTL equivalent in container shipping. Container freight stations at ports serve as consolidation and deconsolidation terminals. Historically, LCL also stands for less-than-carload. Before the prominence of interstate trucking, railroads offered less-than-carload (LCL) service but this business has largely disappeared.

Landing Gear
Retracting legs which support a trailer when it's not connected to a tractor.

Layovers
Any off-duty time while away from home.

Loaded Call
The call made to a dispatcher from the shipper’s location once the trailer is loaded and the bills are signed.

Lift Gate Service
When the shipping or receiving address does not have a loading dock, manual loading or unloading is necessary. A lift gate is a platform at the back of certain trucks that can raise and lower a shipment from the ground to the truck. Additional fees apply for this service.

Linehaul
Moving freight from one point to another.

LTL (Less-Than-Truckload)
A quantity of freight less than that required for the application of a truckload rate, usually less than 10,000 pounds. These smaller loads are consolidated by an LTL carrier into one vehicle headed for multiple destinations.

LCV (Long Combination Vehicle)
Any combination of a truck and two or more trailers which operate on the Interstate System with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) greater than 80,000 pounds.

Low Boy
An open flatbed trailer, where the main body of the trailer is very low to the ground so that it can haul oversize or wide loads; often construction equipment, or other extremely bulky or heavy loads.

Minimum charge
The lowest charge for a shipment after discount and/or adjustment.

NMFC Number
This is the item number that specifically identifies each type of product that can be shipped by an LTL carrier. The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) assigns NMFC item #’s to all products along with a LTL freight class. The NMFC # identifies what you are shipping and its LTL freight class.

Non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCC)
An ocean freight forwarder. NVOCCs book space in large quantities for a reduced rate, then sell space to shippers in smaller amounts.

No-Touch
A situation in which the driver doesn't have to load or unload the freight.

Overcharge Claim
A claim for a refund of an overcharge from the erroneous application of rates, weights and/or assessment of freight charges.

Out of Route
Carriers usually use set mileage amounts for distances between cities. If a driver goes over this amount, any miles over are considered "out of route" miles.

Overage
Extra freight which shouldn't have been shipped.

Owner-Operator
A driver who's in business for himself and owns and operates his own trucks, trailers, or other equipment.

Pallet / Skid
A small platform, 40×48 inches usually, on which goods are placed for handling and shipping.

P&D
Pickup and delivery.

Pay Load
The weight of the freight being shipped.

PRO or Tracking Number
A number assigned by the carrier to reference your shipment. It is also used for tracking your shipment.

Peddle Run
A load which has multiple and often frequent deliveries.

Reweigh and Inspection Fee
If the carrier suspects that the weight or class of your shipment is inaccurate, they will charge a fee to reweigh and re-class your shipment.

Reefer
A refrigerated trailer, where the temperature is controlled by a refrigeration unit.

Seal
A plastic or metal band (once broken, cannot be reattached) placed on the trailer door latch to ensure the doors have not been opened and the cargo is untouched.

Spotter
A driver who moves and parks trailers in a terminal yard.

Shipper / Consignor
Person or organization paying for freight to be shipped from one place to another.

Shortage
The number of units received is less than the quantity shown on shipping documents.

3PL
A third-party logistics company, to which logistics services are outsourced. Typically handles purchasing, scheduling and billing for freight shipped.

Tare Weight
The weight of a container and the packing material less the weight of its content.

Tariff
A document detailing rules, rates and charges to move freight and sets forth a contract for the shipper, the consignee and the carrier. Carriers are not required to publish tariffs but must be provided to a shipper on request.

TL (Truckload)
A quantity of freight sufficient to fill a trailer, usually greater than 10,000 pounds.

TL Carrier
A carrier that dedicates trailers to a single shipper’s freight, as opposed to an LTL carrier, which often transports the combined freight of several different shippers.

Volume Rate
A rate applicable in connection with a specified volume (weight) of freight.

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