Trucking Glossary

Accessorials: The freight term used to describe accessorial services that require more than dock-to-dock transportation. Accessorials commonly include the need for special equipment and services like liftgates, non-commercial destinations, and inside pickup and/or delivery.

Accessorial Charge: Amount billed for additional, supplemental or special services provided, usually a flat fee. Examples include: Tarps, dunnage, layovers, detention, etc.

Adjustments: Costs incurred after a shipment has been delivered. These costs can be added for a discrepancy between the freight characteristics quoted and the delivered shipment details of weight, class and dimensions, or may be accrued for additional services performed such as a liftgate. Learn how to avoid adjustments.

Agent: A person who transacts business on behalf of another person or company with full or limited decision-making authority. In shipping, an agent may supervise customs procedures, documentation, or insurance. This person may also receive a portion of any monetary gain from a transaction as payment.

All-in Line Haul: FSC + Line Haul.

Axle Load: The axle load refers to the weight each axle puts on the nation’s highways.

Backhaul: The return trip of a truck transporting cargo or freight. It may be a return to the origin of the freight hauled in which the carrier is willing to offer a discount to secure freight for the trip.

Beneficial Owner: This is a legal term where specific property rights belong to a person even though the legal title of the property belongs to another person. This term is often used in rail or ocean freight and refers to the actual owner of the freight being shipped, despite the title of the freight being in another party’s name.

Bill of Lading (BOL): The bill of lading (BOL) is the legally-binding contract between the shipper and the carrier, broker or agent that defines all aspects of the freight shipping arrangement including what is being shipped and to whom. Learn more about the bill of lading.

Blocking and bracing: This term refers to wood or other supports used to keep shipments in place on trailers or in containers throughout the shipping process. This technique is widely used by expert shippers to secure their freight shipment. Learn the best practices for blocking and bracing.

Blind Shipment: When the shipper and receiver are not aware of one another, the freight shipment is called a blind shipment. In such cases, the bill of lading lists the party that paid for the shipment as the shipper or receiver of the freight shipment.

Bogie: This is a rail shipping term that refers to a frame with wheels on which a container is mounted for over-the-road transport.

Broker (freight): Individual or company that serves as a liaison between another individual/company that needs shipping services and an authorized motor carrier. Determines the needs of a shipper and connects that shipper with a carrier capable of transporting the items at an acceptable price.

Brokerage License: A brokerage license is a legally required document that a broker obtains in order to have the ability to make land, sea and air freight shipping arrangements. Brokerage licenses are different for both transportation and customs. To make sea shipping arrangements, an NVOCC (Non-Vessel Operating Common Carrier) license is required. To make air shipping arrangements, an IAC (Indirect Air Carrier) license is required and obtained through the International Air Transport Association.

Bulk Freight: Freight that is not contained within packages or containers is referred to as bulk freight. Often times, bulk freight comes in the form of liquid or a granular form such as sand or crude oil.

Carrier: Utilizes trucks and/or trailers to move goods from point A to point B. Cartage: A trucking term that refers to shipping freight within the same city or area.

Chassis: A rail shipping term that refers to a frame with wheels and locking devices to secure a container during shipping.

Classification: A freight classification is assigned to a shipment for the purpose of applying transportation charges. Freight classifications are used for less than truckload (LTL) shipments. Learn more about freight class.

Coil Racks: Prefabricated cradles made of wood or steel made to hold rolled coils to keep them from rolling on a trailer.

Commodity: Any article of commerce, including raw material, manufactured or grown products.

Common Carrier: An LTL common carrier consolidates and deconsolidates freight for multiple companies or brands while offering a set route and rate. They are often motor carriers, trucking companies or freight service providers that operate on a similar schedule with a strict set of guidelines.

Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA): An FMCSA program designed to provide motor carriers and drivers with attention from FMCSA and State Partners about their potential safety problems with the ultimate goal of achieving a greater reduction in large truck and bus crashes, injuries, and fatalities.

Concealed Damage: Concealed damage is damage not visible to the item(s) until the package is opened.

Consignee: The individual who is financially responsible for the receipt of a freight shipment. This person is usually the receiver of the shipment as well.

Consignor: An individual (usually the seller) who sends goods to the consignee and is the legal owner until the consignee pays them in full.

Consolidation: A consolidated shipment is when two or more shipments are combined to save money on freight shipping costs. This shipping method is used in less than truckload shipping with multiple stops before reaching the final destination. Learn more about consolidated shipping.

Container: A container looks like a truck trailer with no wheels and is now among the most common freight shipping methods in the United States and abroad. Containers are used for intermodal shipping and come in standard sizes to ensure they fit on standard trucks, rail cars and container ships.

Cross-Town: A shipping term used when a container or trailer is delivered from one railroad as part of the shipping route, the move is called cross-town shipping.

Cubic Capacity: The total freight load capacity of any truck, train or ship is measured in cubic feet. The cubic capacity is the total load in cubic feet which cannot be legally exceeded.
Violations of cubic capacity occur when the shipment’s size violates a carrier’s cubic capacity rules. Learn how to avoid violations of cubic capacity.

Customs Broker: A person or company who is licensed by the U.S. Treasury Department to act on behalf of freight importers and exporters with respect to U.S. Customs transactions. A customs broker must be used for all shipments going to and from Canada. Learn more about shipping to Canada.

Dispatcher: A freight dispatcher represents your trucking company in negotiating freight. They find new customers, book new loads, and manage delivery schedules for you.

Distribution Center (DC): A location where goods and materials are stored until they are ready to be moved to their end destination.

Dead-Heading: Operating a truck without cargo.

Declared Value: The value of a shipment imported for resale, as declared by the shipper or owner.

Dedicated Team: A team of drivers who take turns driving a dedicated truck.

Dedicated Truck: Refers to a driver pulling freight for one specific customer only, where only that load is on the truck. No partial loads can be added.

Detention/Demurrage: Charge by the carrier for excess retention of their equipment. Typically caused by untimely loading or unloading.

Door-to-Door: Synonymous with Thru Trailer Service (TTS) but can also mean simply handling the shipment from the shipper to the consignee.

Double Drop: A flatbed with the lowest deck. Normally used for oversized or over-height loads.

Department of Transportation (DOT): Oversees U.S. federal highway, air, railroad, maritime and other transportation administration functions.

D.O.T. Number: License administered to for-hire carriers by the Department of Transportation. (Not the same as Motor Carrier #).

Dunnage: Filler material placed in empty spaces to keep cargo from moving or falling. Typically lumber, foam padding or inflatable bags.

Duty Status: Drivers must maintain a daily 24-hour logbook (Record of Duty Status) documenting all work and rest periods. It must be kept current to the last change of duty status. Records of the previous 7 days must be retained by the driver and presented to law enforcement officials on demand.

Embargo: An embargo is any event that prevents the freight from being accepted or handled. Most often, an embargo is due to international conflict or sanctions imposed on a particular country or group of people. However, embargo events may also include floods, tornadoes or congested highways.

Escorts: Vehicles assisting in the movement of large, over-dimensional shipments. Escorts make sure the truck has plenty of space to move and alerts drivers of a shipment coming towards them. Help stop traffic with beacon lights and/or flags.

Exceptions: When a problem such as shortage or damage is noted at the time of delivery, an exception is noted on the bill of lading before it is signed to designate there was a problem with the shipment.

Excess Value: Amount of declared value of a shipment that is above the carrier’s limit of liability.

Expedited: The process of shipping at a faster rate than normal. Usually includes team drivers, overnight and/or air services.

Freight factoring: Also called transportation factoring, trucking factoring, or freight bill factoring, is a process in which the person or business that delivers a load sells their invoice to a factoring company. The factoring company then pays the carrier or owner-operator the full amount of the invoice, minus a small percentage, within as little as 24 hours of receiving the invoice. This is often a better alternative than waiting a month or longer for a broker to pay the invoice. The time it takes to receive payment can depend on a variety of factors, but generally different factoring companies will have different timelines for payment.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA): Operates within the D.O.T. with a mission to prevent commercial motor-vehicle related fatalities and injuries by enforcing safety regulations and improving safety information systems.

Freight Class: In LTL shipping, the category of freight as defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association. Identifies the size, value, and difficulty of transporting your freight. This determines the carrier’s shipping charges.

Freight Forwarder: Facilitates shipping of goods for a third party. Similar to a ‘Freight Broker’ but typically handles international goods, it is defined as a carrier and can be held responsible for claims and loss of cargo.

Fuel Surcharge (FSC): The price of fuel can substantially change the cost of moving freight. Therefore, the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy publishes a U.S. National Average Fuel Index every week. Transportation companies will often include a FSC to the cost of moving freight either based on cents per mile or percentage of the line haul amount.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: The rating refers to the vehicle’s maximum operating weight as specified by the manufacturer. The weight includes the driver, fuel, engine, body, chassis, and cargo but excludes the weight of a trailer.

Hazmat: Hazardous materials as classified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Transport of hazardous material is strictly regulated by the US D.O.T.

Hot Shot: Smaller trailers that are pulled by larger pickup trucks. Typically 24-40’ in length and cannot handle as much weight as a regular tractor trailer. Common for moving smaller loads or LTL shipments.

Hours of Service (HOS): Regulations that put limits for when and how long drivers may drive.

Inbound Freight: An integral part of supply chain management, inbound freight are shipments coming from vendors.

Interchange Agreement: Agreement and/or contract between two companies to switch or take control of a trailer in order to pick up and deliver shipments. Common along border towns between Mexican and U.S. companies in order to cross the border.

Interline: This shipping term is used when the initial carrier of a freight shipment transfers the freight to another carrier to get it to its final destination.

Intermodal Transportation: When freight is shipped using two or more modes of transportation. Intermodal transportation typically refers to truck-rail-truck shipments but may also include truck to air shipping or truck to ship in the event freight is being shipped overseas. Learn more about intermodal shipping.

Just in Time (JIT): Manufacturing system which depends on frequent, small deliveries of parts and supplies to keep on-site inventory to a minimum.

Lane: A move from point A to point B. Many companies will have a lane that they run on a regular basis called a “dedicated lane”.

Layover: When a driver is detained overnight or for a 24-hour period while waiting to pick up or deliver a shipment. Fees are usually involved. • Line Haul: The rate per mile in dollars and cents for transporting items.

Logbooks: Books carried by truck drivers in which they record their hours of service and duty status for each 24-hour period. These are required in interstate commercial trucking by the U.S. D.O.T.

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL): Quantity of freight less than that required for the application of a full truckload (FTL) rate. Often a carrier will place several LTL shipments on the same truck to reduce the cost to the shipper.

Motor Carrier: The term “motor carrier” defines a person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation.

Motor Property Broker: A freight broker is a person who makes freight shipping arrangements on behalf of a person or company. The broker determines the needs of the client, has experience in the industry and negotiates shipping rates with a carrier who can meet the client’s requirements.

National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC): A standard comparison of commodities moving in interstate, intrastate and foreign commerce. There are 18 commodity classes based on an evaluation of four transportation characteristics: density, stowability, handling and liability. These characteristics establish a commodity’s transportability.

Nested: A term used in less than truckload (LTL freight) shipping in which materials are stacked so that one item goes inside another. Nested freight reduces the amount of space taken up by the combined freight and makes LTL shipping more efficient as a result.

Not Otherwise Indicated (NOI): A general class rate or NOI is assigned to any freight that has no rate listed in the NMFC. The NMFC numbers dictate the freight rating that is assigned to freight. A freight rating is based on density, freight stowability, ease of handling, and liability.

Owner-Operator: Truck driver who owns and operates their truck(s).

Over-Dimensional (Wide Load): Cargo that is larger than the legally defined limits for width, length, height, and/or weight and cannot be broken down into smaller units.

Pallet Jack: A tool used to lift and move pallets and other heavy packages and products.

Partial: Truck used to compile multiple shipments from several customers in order to utilize the entire truck. Due to this, transit times can be longer than dedicated truck loads due to multiple stops.

Permits: Permission obtained from states allowing carriers to transport freight that exceeds the legal weight and size limits.

Placard: Warning signs placed on all four sides of a trailer denoting that they are carrying hazardous materials.

Proof of Delivery (POD): Signed documents (usually a Bill of Lading) that show a shipment was received at the delivery location.

PRO number: A number assigned by the carrier to reference the shipment. This is also used for tracking.

Pup Trailer: Short semi trailer, usually between 26’ and 32’ long, with a single axle.

Ramps: Carried by some open deck truckers to help facilitate the loading and offloading of shipments. Mostly found on step decks that are trying to haul cars and other drivable equipment.

Rate Confirmation: A document that confirms the agreed upon amount for the cost of service between the shipper and carrier.

Reefer: A trailer with insulated walls and a self-powered refrigeration unit. Most commonly used for transporting food.

Removable Goose Neck (RGN): A specialized type of heavy-haul flatbed trailer that can provide drive-on drive-off accessibility. The trailer deck is attached to a “gooseneck” which can be raised and lowered then removed from the trailer for transportation.

Standard Carrier Alpha Code (SCAC): Unique 2-4 letter code used to identify transportation companies.

Shipper: Consignor, exporter or seller named in the bill of lading, who may or may not be the same as the party responsible for initiating a shipment.

Sliding Tandem: Mechanism that allows a tandem axle suspension to be moved back and forth at the rear of a semi trailer, for the purpose of adjusting the distribution of weight between the axles and fifth wheel.

Spread Axle (Spread Tandem): Tandem axle assembly that is spaced further apart than the standard spacing of 54”.

Straps: Strong vinyl straps used to secure and tie down freight to a trailer.

Tanker: Cylinder designed to haul liquids like fuel or oil.

Tandem Axle: Pair of axles and associated suspension usually located close together.

Tariff: A tariff establishes the cost and contract of a freight shipment for the shipper and the carrier.

Team (Driver Team): Team of two drivers who alternate driving and resting. This practice is typically used for expedited shipments but will have a greater cost. Third Party Logistics/Freight Broker: Individual or company that serves as a liaison between another individual or company that needs shipping services and an authorized motor carrier. Provides the necessary transportation but does not function as a shipper or carrier.

Through Rate: A through rate applies to the distance between the point of origin and the delivery destination.

Thru Trailer Service (TTS): When cargo remains on the same trailer during an international shipment. This is the opposite of a trans-load and is generally considered safer by most companies.

Time-Critical: A time-critical freight shipment delivery is set to the earliest possible delivery time to accommodate particular shipping requirements.
Time-Definite: Time-definite deliveries guarantee that the delivery will occur on a specific day or time of day.

Transit Time: The total amount of time from freight being picked up to freight being delivered.

Truck Order Not Used (TORD): When a shipper orders a truck to pick up but cancels after a truck has been dispatched. There is typically a fee associated with this.

Truckload (TL): Truckload shipping can be defined as the transportation of goods that will fill up a 48’ or 53’ trailer by volume or weight. Full truckload shipping typically is contracted to one customer gaining full and exclusive use of the carrier’s trailer. A truckload is ideal for anyone shipping multiple full pallets of freight and LTL shipping isn’t cost efficient. There are multiple pieces of truckload equipment such as refrigerated trucks and dry van trucks. Learn more about truckload freight shipping.

Van: An enclosed boxlike motor vehicle having rear or side doors and side panels used for transporting goods.

Volume Rate: A less than truckload (LTL) shipping term for rates that are made subject to a minimum weight of 7,000 pounds or more, or cubic volume exceeding 750 cubic feet.

Warehousing: Warehousing refers to the storage of goods in a facility for a specified period of time. Freight shippers usually store their goods at warehouses until they’re ready to ship. Learn more about warehousing.