Glossary of Basic Freight Terms


The freight industry has a unique lexicon, much of it rooted in a long transportation history. The vocabulary can be a bit overwhelming and confusing to a newcomer.

We’ll explore some of the most often-used terms here:

Abatement – A discount allowed for damage or overcharge

Accessorial – Some service that is not considered ‘standard’ and will incur additional fees. This can include inside delivery, insurance, lift gate service, and other services

Bill of Lading (BOL) – Essential shipping documents which state relevant names and addresses, places of origin and destination, description of the shipped goods, instructions for payment and other relevant information

Booking – Arranging for the transportation of freight by a carrier

Boxcar – A closed rail freight car

Carrier – The transportation entity which agrees to move freight by rail, truck, sea, air or any combination of these modes

Cartage – Local (as opposed to interstate or international) freight hauling on trucks

Claim – A demand made upon carrier for payment due to damage or other loss as a result of carrier’s negligence in transporting

Classification – Assigned rating for particular type of product, generally identifying the size, value and inherent difficulties in transporting that product. The correct class is imperative for an accurate freight quote

Consignee – The person or company to which the freight is shipped

Consignor – The person or company identified as the shipper of freight

Container – A large metal box resembling a truck trailer body that can be shipped via vessel or rail and then attached to a trailer chassis for further transport, containers come in many sizes and types

Deadhead – When a truck delivers a load and then completes one leg of a trip without any cargo

Declared Value – A shipper can sometimes receive a lower rate if it declares a lower than actual value for a shipment, this can be risky in the event of a loss

Density – The weight of cargo per cubic foot, this measurement is important to an accurate freight quote

Double Drop – An open deck trailer with a raised section in the front and rear and a lower section in the middle which can be used to transport unusually tall cargo

Drayage – Local hauling of cargo by truck Same as Cartage

Dry Van – Refers to a 53′ trailer which can be heated or vented but is not refrigerated

Exception -When a shipment is received by a carrier (usually at their terminal), the carrier notes any actual or suspected damage to the cargo prior to transport

Freight – Used in several different manners, can refer to the actual cargo or to the charges assessed to a shipper by a carrier for hauling that cargo

Gross Weight – Cumulative weight of cargo, packaging and freight car or container

HAZ MAT – Hazardous Material

Intermodal – Use of multiple modes of transportation to move containers of cargo – can include sea, rail, road and air freight transport

LTL or Less Than Truckload – Shipment in which cargo is not large enough to require an entire truck by itself, LTL shipments are generally in the 100 lbs to 20,000 lbs range

N.M.F.C. – National Motor Freight Classification (see Classification above)

Piggyback – An intermodal transport arrangement in which loaded truck trailers are placed on a rail car and moved to a destination

PRO Number – The tracking number assigned by the carrier to a specific shipment

Proof of Delivery – Receipt of delivery for a shipment

Pup – A short trailer used together with another short trailer to create a twin or tandem trailer

Quotation or quote – An offer to provide freight carriage at a specific price based upon certain shipment information and terms

Reefer – Refrigerated container or trailer

Stack-train – A specialty rail car which can carry containers stacked two high

Step Deck – An open trailer with a standard flatbed section at the front and a dropped section in the rear, used to transport taller cargo

Tare Weight – The weight of the empty railcar or empty container in rail, sea or intermodal shipments

Tariff – A publication establishing the rates and requirements of a specific transportation company

Terminal – An area in which freight is organized and prepared for loading and dispatch to final destination, cargo will often go to a carrier’s terminal after it is picked up and then placed in another container or trailer for transport to its destination, Inter modal cargo is often unloaded to a terminal before being organized and placed for final delivery

TL – Truckload freight (where the amount of cargo is sufficient to fill an entire trailer or container

Tractor – The power unit used to pull a trailer

Trailer – The portion of the truck in which the freight is loaded and hauled

Ventilated Trailer – A trailer with small openings in walls to allow air to outside air to circulate through when doors are closed

Warehousing -Storage of cargo

While this list may seem long, there are hundreds of other industry terms and catch-phrases that you might run across. Whether you are a novice or experienced shipper, you may hear a new term from time to time. Don’t hesitate to contact us to find out what any freight-related word means at any time.

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