Freight Shipping Dictionary

Below are some of the most common terms and phrases used in the freight services and shipping industry.


Accessorial Charges - Charges that are applied to the base tariff rate or base contract rate, e.g., bunkers, container, currency, destination/delivery.

Agent - A person authorized to transact business for and in the name of another person or company. Types of agent are:

Air Waybill - The forwarding agreement or carrying agreement between shipper and air carrier and is issued only in nonnegotiable form.


Backhaul - To haul a shipment back over part of a route it has traveled.

Barge Carriers - Ships designed to carry barges; some are fitted to act as full containerships and can carry a varying number of barges and containers at the same time. At present this class includes two types of vessels LASH and Sea-Bee.

Bill of Lading (BOL) - A document that establishes the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company. It serves as a document of title, a contract of carriage and a receipt for goods.

Bill to Party - Customer designated as party paying for services.

Blanket Rate - A rate applicable to or from a group of points.

Blind Shipment - A BOL wherein the paying customer has contracted with the carrier that shipper or consignee information is not given.

Bobtail - Movement of a tractor, without trailer, over the highway.

Bonded Freight - Freight moving under a bond to U.S. Customs or to the Internal Revenue Service, and to be delivered only under stated conditions.

Bonded Warehouse - A warehouse authorized by Customs authorities for storage of goods on which payment of duties is deferred until the goods are removed

Booking - Arrangements with a carrier for the acceptance and carriage of freight; i.e., a space reservation.

Break Bulk - To unload and distribute a portion or all of the contents of a rail car, container, or trailer.

Broker - A person who arranges for transportation of loads for a percentage of the revenue from the load.

Brokerage (Freight Brokerage) - Freight forwarder/broker compensation as specified by ocean tariff or contract.

Bulk Cargo - Not in packages or containers; shipped loose in the hold of a ship without mark and count." Grain, coal and sulfur are usually bulk freight.


Carrier - Any person or entity who, in a contract of carriage, undertakes to perform or to procure the performance of carriage by rail, road, sea, air, inland waterway or by a combination of such modes.

CBM - CBM means cubic meter, and it is a unit of measurement used in the shipping and transportation industry to determine how much should be charged for a package or freight. Essentially, the CBM meaning in shipping tells you how much you can expect to pay to ship your CBM freight from one location to another.

Chassis - A special trailer or attachment that allows ocean containers to be transported via truck.

COD - (Abbreviation for Collect (cash) on Delivery.

Commodity - Article shipped. For dangerous and hazardous cargo, the correct commodity identification is critical.

Common Carrier - A transportation company which provides service to the general public at published rates.

Concealed Damage - Damage that is not evident from viewing the unopened package.

Consignee - A person or company to whom commodities are shipped.

Consignor - A person or company shown on the bill of lading as the shipper.

Container - A truck trailer body that can be detached from the chassis for loading into a vessel, a rail car or stacked in a container depot. Containers may be ventilated, insulated, refrigerated, flat rack, vehicle rack, open top, bulk liquid or equipped with interi

Container Load - A load sufficient in size to fill a container either by cubic measurement or by weight.

Contract Carrier - Any person not a common carrier who, under special and individual contracts or agreements, transports passengers or property for compensation.

Cubic Foot - 1,728 cubic inches. A volume contained in a space measuring one foot high, one foot wide and one foot long.


D.O.T - Department of Transportation.

Deadhead - One leg of a move without a paying cargo load (empty trailer). Usually refers to repositioning an empty piece of equipment.

Deficit Weight - The weight by which a shipment is less than the minimum weight.

Density - The weight of cargo per cubic foot or other unit.

Detention - A penalty charge against shippers or consignees for delaying carrier's equipment beyond allowed time. Demurrage applies to cargo; detention applies to equipment. See Per Diem.

Dock - For ships, a cargo handling area parallel to the shoreline where a vessel normally ties up.

Dolly - Commonly referred as a pallet jack by customers it is not. A dolly is a set of wheels that support the front of a container; to move product.

Drayage - Pick up from ports or rail ramps, could move by train or OTR to final delivery.


Edge Protector - An angle piece fitted over the edge of boxes, crates, bundles and other packages to prevent the pressure from metal bands or other types from cutting into the package.

EDI - Abbreviation for "Electronic Data Interface." Generic term for transmission of transactional data between computer systems. EDI is typically via a batched transmission, usually conforming to consistent standards.

ETA - Estimated Time of Availability/Arrival. That time when a tractor/partner carrier is available for dispatch.


FAK - Abbreviation for "Freight All Kinds." This is pricing from carriers direct to customers to offer a reduced freight class at billing instead of actual class. Example. Customer has a FAK Class 125 – 85 at 85. This means anything that is a class 125 through

FCL - Abbreviation for "Full Container Load."

Fork Lift - A machine used to pick up and move goods loaded on pallets or skids.

Four-Way Pallet - A document issued by the carrier based on the bill of lading and other information; used to account for a shipment operationally, statistically, and financially. An Invoice.

Freight Forwarder - A person whose business is to act as an agent on behalf of the shipper. A freight forwarder frequently makes the booking reservation.

FSC - A fuel surcharge (FSC).

Full Containerships - Ships equipped with permanent container cells, with little or no space for other types of cargo.


General Cargo Carriers - Breakbulk freighters, car carriers, cattle carriers, pallet carriers and timber carriers.

Gross Weight - Entire weight of goods, packaging and freight car or container, ready for shipment. Generally, 80,000 pounds maximum container, cargo and tractor for highway transport. Pallets weight are included in Gross Weight of shipments.


HAZ MAT - An industry abbreviation for "Hazardous Material."


ICC - Abbreviation for (1) "Interstate Commerce Commission,” (2) "International Chamber of Commerce."

Interline (Freight) - Freight moving from origin to destination over the Freight lines of two or more transportation carriers.


Knocked Down (KD) - Seen with Freight classes/NMFC Codes. Articles which are taken apart to reduce the cubic footage displaced or to make a better shipping unit and are to be re-assembled.


LCL - Abbreviation for "Less than Container Load". The quantity of freight which is less than that required for the application of a container load rate. Loose Freight.

Less Than Truckload - Also known as LTL or LCL. Typically less than 12 linear feet of trailer or less than 10K lbs.

Line haul - Transportation from one city to another as differentiated from local switching service or use of hub system.

Loose - Without packing; as in “loaded loose boxes into a truck.

Low-Boy - A trailer or semi-trailer with no sides and with the floor of the unit close to the ground.


Minimum Charge - The lowest charge that can be assessed to transport a shipment. Also called AMC (Absolute Minimum Charge).


N.M.F.C - National Motor Freight Classification. Referring to system traditionally used by Common Carriers to rationally classify freight for pricing purposes based on criteria of density, ease or lack of ease of handling basis the packaging and implications on dam

Nested - Articles packed so that one rests partially or entirely within another, thereby reducing the cubic-foot displacement.

NOI - Abbreviation for "Not Otherwise Indexed (or indicated)." Used within NMFC code – for example you are shipping chairs you might find it more advantageous to ship under the “Furniture NOI” classification.

Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier (NVOCC) - A cargo consolidator in ocean trades who will buy space on contract from a carrier and sub-sell it to smaller shippers. The NVOCC issues bills of lading, publishes tariffs and otherwise conducts itself as an ocean common carrier, except that it does not o

Nose - Front of a container or trailer - opposite the tail.


Origin - Location where shipment begins its movement.

Original Bill of Lading (OBL) - A document which requires proper signatures for consummating carriage of contract. Must be marked as "original" by the issuing carrier.

OS&D - Abbreviation for "Over, Short or Damaged" Usually discovered at cargo unloading. LTL companies have OS&D departments that trace lost freight and hopefully find it.

Overcharge - To charge more than the proper amount according to the published rates.

Overheight Cargo - Cargo more than eight feet high which thus cannot fit into a standard container. Trucks vary in height.

Owner Code (SCAC) - Standard Carrier Abbreviation Code identifying an individual common carrier. A three letter carrier code followed by a suffix identifies the carrier's equipment. A suffix of "U" is a container and "C" is a chassis.


Pallet - A platform with or without sides, on which a number of packages or pieces may be loaded to facilitate handling by a lift truck.

Partial Containerships - Multipurpose containerships where one or more but not all compartments are fitted with permanent container cells. Remaining compartments are used for other types of cargo.

POD - Abbreviation for:

Point of Origin - The place at which a shipment is received by a carrier from the shipper.

Port of Entry - Port where cargo is unloaded and enters a country.

Port of Exit - Place where cargo is loaded and leaves a country.

Prepaid (Ppd.) - Freight charges paid by the consignor (shipper) prior to the release of the bills of lading by the carrier.

Pup - A short semi-trailer (26’ average) used jointly with a dolly and another semi-trailer to create a twin trailer.


Rag Top - A slang term for an open-top trailer or container with a tarpaulin cover.

Rebate - An illegal form of discounting or refunding that has the net effect of lowering the tariff price. See also Malpractice

Reconsignment - Changing the consignee or destination on a bill of lading while shipment is still in transit. Diversion has substantially the same meaning.

Reefer - Refrigerated container.

Refrigerated LTL Trucking - Temperature Controlled LTL

RFQ - Request for quotation.

Ro/Ro - A shortening of the term, "Roll On/Roll Off." A method of ocean cargo service using a vessel with ramps which allows wheeled vehicles to be loaded and discharged without cranes.

Roll-on/Roll-off vessels - Ships specially designed to carry wheeled containers or trailers using interior ramps.


Shipment - The tender of one lot of cargo at one time from one shipper to one consignee on one bill of lading.

Shipper - The person or company who is usually the supplier or owner of commodities shipped. Also called Consignor.

Ships - Bulk Carriers: All vessels designed to carry bulk cargo such as grain, fertilizers, ore, and oil.

Shrink Wrap - Polyethylene or similar substance heat-treated and shrunk into an envelope around several units, thereby securing them as a single pack for presentation or to secure units on a pallet.

Stevedore - Individual or firm that employs longshoremen and who contracts to load or unload the ship.

Straight Bill of Lading - A non-negotiable bill of lading which states a specific identity to whom the goods should be delivered. See Bill of Lading.

Supply Chain - A logistical management system which integrates the sequence of activities from delivery of raw

Surcharge - An extra or additional charge.

Surface Transportation Board (STB) - The U.S. federal body charged with enforcing acts of the U.S. Congress that affect common carriers in interstate commerce. STB replaced the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) in 1997.


Tankers - Ships fitted with tanks to carry liquid cargo such as: crude petroleum and petroleum products; chemicals, Liquefied gasses(LNG and LPG), wine, molasses, and similar product tankers.

Tariff (Trf.) - A publication setting forth the charges, rates and rules of transportation companies.

Tender - The offer of goods for transportation or the offer to place cars or containers for loading or unloading.

Terminal - An assigned area in which containers are prepared for loading into a vessel, train, truck, or airplane or are stacked immediately after discharge from the vessel, train, truck, or airplane.

TL - Abbreviation for "Trailer Load."

Tonnage - Generally refers to freight handled

Tractor - Unit of highway motive power used to pull one or more trailers/containers.

Traffic - Persons and property carried by transport lines.

Transship - To transfer goods from one transportation line to another, or from one ship to another.

Two-Way Pallet - A pallet so designed that the forks of a fork lift truck can be inserted from two sides only.


UFC - Abbreviation for "Uniform Freight Classification."

Unclaimed Freight - Freight that has not been called for or picked up by the consignee or owner.


Validated Export License - A document issued by the U.S. government; authorizes the export of commodities for which written authorization is required by law.

Ventilated Container - A container designed with openings in the side and/or end walls to permit the ingress of outside air when the doors are closed.

Viz - Namely. Used in tariffs to specify commodities.


War Risk - Insurance coverage for loss of goods resulting from any act of war.

Warehouse - A place for the reception, delivery, consolidation, distribution, and storage of goods/cargo.

Warehouse Entry - Document that identifies goods imported when placed in a bonded warehouse. The duty is not imposed

Warehouse Withdrawal for Transportation (WDT) - Allows merchandise that has been withdrawn from a bonded warehouse at one port to be transported in bond to another port, where a superseding entry will be filed.

Warehouse Withdrawal for Transportation Exportation (WDT&E) - Allows merchandise that has been withdrawn from a bonded warehouse at one port to be transported in bond through the U.S. to be exported from another port, without paying duty.

Warehouse Withdrawal for Transportation Immediate Exportation (WDEX) - Allows merchandise that has been withdrawn from a bonded warehouse at one U.S. port to be exported from the same port exported without paying duty.

Warehousing - The storing of goods/cargo

Waybill (WB) - A document prepared by a transportation line at the point of a shipment; shows the point of the origin, destination, route,

Wharfage (Whfge.) - Charge assessed by a pier or dock owner against freight handled over the pier or dock or against a steamship company using the pier or dock.