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Guide to Freight Claims
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Understanding the Terminology
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Do you have a question about transportation logistics?

Confused by freight terms and words?
Use this list for reference.

Please note that some words are used interchangeably.  (eg. a pallet and a skid).  The following is a list of some of the words and terms used frequently.

In case you can’t find the word here you might want to try one of these links:

Word or Term


Air miles

A distance in miles calculated using Longitude and Latitude



Acronym- American Trucking Association



The process of a transportation vehicle (typically a truck) returning from the original destination point to the point of origin. A backhaul can be with a full or partially loaded trailer.



The cargocarrying vehicle that inland water carriers primarily use. Basic barges have open tops, but there are covered barges for both dry and liquid cargoes.


Belly Cargo

Air freight carried in the belly of passenger aircraft.


Bill of Lading

A transportation document that is the contract of carriage containing the terms and condition between shipper and carrier.



A section of a highway or rail network that experiences operational problems such as congestion. Bottlenecks may result from factors such as educed roadway width or steep freeway grades that can slow trucks.



An enclosed railcar, typically 40 or more feet long, used for packaged freight and some bulk commodities.


Breakbulk Cargo

Cargo of nonuniform sizes, often transported on pallets, sacks, drums, or bags. These cargoes require laborintensive loading and unloading processes. Examples of breakbulk cargo include coffee beans, logs, or pulp.



A person whose business it is to prepare shipping and customs documents for international shipments. Brokers often have offices at major freight gateways, including border crossings, seaports, and airports.


Bulk Cargo

Cargo that is unbound as loaded; it is without count in a loose unpackaged form. Examples of bulk cargo include coal, grain, and petroleum products.



A national law that requires costal and intercostal traffic to be carried in its own nationally registered, and sometimes built and crewed ships.



The physical facilities, personnel and process available to meet the product of service needs of the customers. Capacity generally refers to the maximum output or producing ability of a machine, a person, a process, a factory, a product, or a service.


Cargo Ramp

A dedicated load/unload facility for cargo aircraft. 



Quantity of freight (in tons) required to fill a railcar; amount normally required to qualify for a carload rate.



A firm which transports goods or people via land, sea or air.



Acronym- Customs Border Protection



Acronym- Commercial Drivers License


Centralized Dispatching

The organization of the dispatching function into one central location. This structure often involves the use of data collection devices for communication between the centralized dispatching function, which usually reports to the production control department and the shop manufacturing departments.



Acronym- Commodity Flow Survey



A trailertype device with wheels constructed to accommodate containers, which are lifted on and off.



Acronym- Containerload



Charges made against a carrier for loss, damage, delay, or overcharge.


Class I Carrier

A classification of regulated carriers based upon annual operating revenuesmotor carrier of property greater than or equal to $5 million; railroads: greater than or equal to $50 million: motor carriers of passengers; greater than or equal to $3 million.


Class II Carrier

A classification of regulated carriers based upon annual operating revenuesmotor carrier of property $1 $5 million; railroads: $10$50 million: motor carriers of passengers; less than or equal to $3 million.


Class III Carrier

A classification of regulated carriers based upon annual operating revenuesmotor carrier of property less than or equal to $1 million; railroads: greater than or equal to $10 million.


Classification Yard

A railroad terminal area where railcars are grouped together to form train units.



Acronym- Commercial motor Vehicle


Coastal Shipping

Also known as shortsea or coastwise shipping, describes marine shipping operations between ports along a single coast or involving a short sea crossing.


Customs Invoice

An invoice issued by the seller of the goods, and submitted to customs broker for customs duties and clearance purposes.



An Item that is traded in commerce. The term usually implies an undifferentiated product competing primarily on price and availability.


Common Carrier

Any carrier engaged in the interstate transportation of persons/property on a regular schedule at published rates, whose services are for hire to the general public.



The receiver of a freight shipment, usually the buyer.



The sender of a freight shipment, usually the seller.



A "box"' which is used primarily for air or ocean freight shipment. Ocean containers travel to and from ports,and are then loaded onto truck chassis' or on railroad flatcars.


Container on Flatcar (COFC)

Containers resting on railway flatcars without a chassis underneath.



A shipment method in which commodities are placed in containers, and after initial loading, the commodities per se are not rehandled in shipment until they are unloaded at destination.


Containerized Cargo

Cargo that is transported in containers that can be transferred easily from one transportation mode to another.


Contract Carrier

A carrier that does not serve the general public, but provides transportation for hire for one or a limited number of shippers under a specific contract.


Contract Carrier

Carrier engaged in interstate transportation of persons/property by motor vehicle on a forhire basis, but under continuing contract with one or a limited number of customers to meet specific needs.



Acronym- Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism



Cubic volume of space being used or available for shipping or storage.



Acronym- Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks (CVISN), a national program administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration designed to improve motor carrier safety and to enhance the efficiency of administrative processes for industry and government.



Acronym- Commercial Vehicle Operations



The return of an empty transportation container back to a transportation facility. Commonlyused description of an empty backhaul.



The carrier charges and fees applied when rail freight cars and ships are retained beyond a specific loading or unloading time.



The compactness of an object.  In LTL rates the density is often used to determine a freight class


Detention Fee

The carrier charges and fees applied when rail freight cars, ship and carriers are retained beyond a specified loading or unloading time.


Direct to store

 Process of shipping direct from a manufacturer’s plant or distribution center to the customer’s retail store, thus bypassing the customer’s distribution center.



An individual tasked to assign available transportation loads to available carriers.


Distribution Center (DC)

The warehouse facility which holds inventory from manufacturing pending distribution to the appropriate stores.



A space used or receiving merchandise at a freight terminal.



Acronym- Department of Defense



stack  Railcar movement of containers stacked two high.



Transporting of rail or ocean freight by truck to an intermediate or final destination; typically a charge for pickup/delivery of goods moving short distances (e.g., from marine terminal to warehouse).



A situation in which an equipment operator deposits a trailer or boxcar at a facility at which it is to be loaded or unloaded.


Durable Goods

Generally, any goods whose continuous serviceability is likely to exceed three years.


Exempt Carrier

A forhire carrier that is free from economic regulation. Trucks hauling certain commodities are exempt from Interstate Commerce Commission economic regulation. By far the largest portion of exempt carrier transports agricultural commodities or seafood.



Acronym- Free and Secure Trade



Acroynm- Forty Foot equivalent unit, a standard size intermodal container



Acronym- Federal Highway Administration



A trailer without sides used for hauling machinery or other bulky items.



Acronym- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration



Acronnym- "Freight on Board".  A purchasing term defining the point at which transfer of ownership takes place.


For Hire Carrier

Carrier that provides transportation service to the public on a fee basis.



Acronym- Freight Professional Development



Acronym- Federal Railroad Administration


Free Trade Zone (FTZ)

An area or zone set aside at or near a port or airport, under the control of the U.S. Customs Service, for holding goods dutyfree pending customs clearance.


Freight All Kinds (FAK)

Goods classified FAK are usually charged higher rates than those marked with a specific classification and are frequently in a container that includes various classes of cargo.


Freight Class

An identification of an item being shipped, used by carriers participating in the National Motor Freight Classification. Freight classes are assigned by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association.  Except for some items that are listed as "exempt", items are associated with an item number which then corresponds to one of 17 freight classes.


Freight Forwarder

A person whose business is to act as an agent on behalf of a shipper. A freight forwarder frequently consolidates shipments from several shippers and coordinates booking reservations.



Acronym- Geo Information Systems



Acronym- Global Positioning System


Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)

The combined total weight of a vehicle and its freight.


Hazardous Material

A substance or material which the Department of Transportation has determined to be capable of posing a risk to health, safety, and property when stored or transported in commerce.



Acronym- Highway Economic Requirements Systems


Hours of Service

Ruling that stipulates the amount of time a driver is allotted to work.



Acronym- Highway Performance Monitoring System



A common connection point for devices in a network. Referenced for a transportation network as in "hub and spoke" which is common in the airline and trucking industry.



Acronym- International Air Transport Asssociation.  An organization comprised primarily of air carriers and indirect air carriers such as air freight forwarders.


Inbond Shipment

A shipment status in which goods are permitted to enter a country and temporarily stored for transport to a final destination where the duty will be paid.


Inbound Logistics

The movement of materials from shippers and vendors into production processes or storage facilities.


Indirect Air Carrier

A provider or arranger of air transportation that does not operate its own planes.


Interline Freight

Freight moving from point of origin to destination over the lines of two or more transportation lines.


Intermodal terminal

A location where links between different transportation modes and networks connect. In freight it refers to a place where semi-trailers or containers are loaded and unloaded from a railroad car.



The number of units and/or value of the stock of good a company holds.



Acronym- Institute of Transportation Engineers



Acronym- Intelligent Transportation System


Just In Time (JIT)

Cargo or components that must be at a destination at the exact time needed. The container or vehicle is the movable warehouse.



Acroynm- "Knocked Down" .  Used in the NMFC refers to an item that is reduced by at least 1/3 of its fully assembled size (in terms of cubic space)


KD Flat

Acroynm- "Knocked Down Flat" .  Used in the NMFC refers to an item that is reduced by at least 2/3 of its fully assembled size (in terms of cubic space)



Acronym- See Less than Containerload



The total time that elapses between an order's placement and it receipt. It includes the time required for order transmittal, order processing, order preparation, and transit.


Less Than Containerload (LCL)

An container loaded with cargo from more than one shipper; loads that do not by themselves meet the container load or truckload requirements.  Generally applies to internationally origin or destined shipments.


Less Than Truckload (LTL)

A trailer loaded with cargo from more than one shipper; loads that do not by themselves meet the container load or truckload requirements.  Generally applies to internationally origin or destined shipments.


Level of Service (LOS)

A qualitative assessment of a road's operating conditions. For local government comprehensive planning purposes, level of service means an indicator of the extent or degree of service provided by, or proposed to be provided by, a facility based on and related to the operational characteristics of the facility. Level of service indicates the capacity per unit of demand for each public facility.


Line Haul

The movement of freight over the road/rail from origin terminal to destination terminal, usually over long distances.


Liquid Bulk Cargo

A type of bulk cargo that consists of liquid items, such as petroleum, water, or liquid natural gas.


Live Load

As situation in which the equipment operation stays with the trailer or boxcar while being loaded or unloaded.



A channel where the water rises and falls to allow boats to travel a dammed river.



A daily record of the hours an interstate driver spends driving, off duty, sleeping in the berth, or on duty not driving.



All activities involved in the management of product movement; delivering the right product from the right origin to the right destination, with the right quality and quantity, at the right schedule and price.



Acronym- See Less Than Truckload



Individuals that assist a motor carrier owner operator in the unloading of property; quite commonly used in the food industry.



Acronym- Miles Per Gallon



Acronym- Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices



Acronym- North American Free Trade Agreement



Acronym- Nation Highway System



Acronnym- National Motor Freight Classification.  A guide issued by the national Motor Freight Traffic Association that covers many of the terms of service provided by carriers participating.



Acronym- National Motor Traffic Association.  An organization comprised of providers of transportation.  Generally LTL carriers.



A fixed point in a firm's logistics system where goods come to rest; includes plants, warehouses, supply sources, and markets.



Acronym- NonVessel Operating Common Carriers


Ondock Rail

Direct shipside rail service. Includes the ability to load and unload containers/breakbulk directly from rail car to vessel.


Operating Ratio

A measure of operation efficiency defined as: (Operating Expenses/Operation Revenues) x 100.



Over, short and damaged. Report is issued at warehouse when goods are damaged; claim is usually filed with the carrier.


Outbound Logistics

The process related to the movement and storage of products from the end of the production line to the end user.


Owner Operator

Trucking operation in which the owner of the truck is also the driver.



Acronym- Pick up and delivery.



A form or frame used to facilitate the handling of product.  Also referred to as a Skid.



A rail/truck service. A shipper loads a highway trailer, and a carrier drives it to a rail terminal and loads it on a flatcar; the railroad moves the traileronflatcar combination to the destination terminal, where the carrier offloads the trailer and delivers it to the consignee. .  Also known as an "intermodal movement" or "TOFC" or "COFC"



A label that identifies a hazardous material shipment and the hazards present.



Acronym-Purchase Order



Acronym- Proof of Delivery



Acronym- Port of Entry


Point of Sale (POS)

The time and place at which a sale occurs, such as a cash register in a retail operation, or the order confirmation screen in an online session. Supply chain partners are interested in capturing data at the POS because it is a true record of the sale rather than being derived from other information such as inventory movement.


Pool/Drop Trailers

Trailer that are staged at a facilities for preloading purposes.


Port Authority

State or local government that owns, operates, or otherwise provides wharf, dock, and other terminal investments at ports.



Acronym-See Point of Sale



A freight term, which indicates that charges are to be paid by the shipper. Prepaid shipping charges may be added to the customer invoice, or the cost may be bundled into the pricing of the product.


Private Carrier

A carrier that provides transportation service to the firm that owns or leases the vehicles and does not charge a fee.


Private Warehouse

A company owned warehouse.


Proof of Delivery

Information supplied by the carrier containing the name of the person who signed for the shipment, the time and date of delivery, and other shipment delivery related information.


Pull Logistics System

 "Just in time" logistics system driven by customer demand and enabled by telecommunications and information systems rather than by manufacturing process and inventory stockpiling.


Purchase Order (PO)

The purchaser's authorization used to formalize a purchase transaction with a supplier. The physical form or electronic transaction a buyer uses when placing an order for merchandise.


Push Logistics System

Inventorybased logistics system characterized by regularly scheduled flows of products and high inventory levels.


Radio Frequency (RFID)

A form of wireless communication that lets users relay information via electronic energy waves from a terminal to a base station, which is linked in turn to a host computer. The terminals can be placed at a fixed station, mounted on a forklift truck, or carried in the worker's hand. The base station contains a transmitter and receiver for communication with the terminals. When combined with a barcode system for identifying inventory items, a radiofrequency system can relay data instantly, thus updating inventory records in socalled "real time".


Rail Siding

A very short branch off a main railway line with only one point leading onto it. Sidings are used to allow faster trains to pass slower ones or to conduct maintenance.



The function encompassing the physical receipt of material, the inspection of the shipment for conformance with the purchase order (quantity and damage), the identification and delivery to destination, and the preparation of receiving reports.


Reefer Trailer

A refrigerated trailer that is commonly used for perishable goods.


Regional Railroad

Railroad defined as linehaul railroad operating at least 350 miles of track and/or earns revenue between $40 million and $266.7 million.



Refers to the degree of certainty and predictability in travel times on the transportation system. Reliable transportation systems offer some assurance of attaining a given destination within a reasonable range of an expected time. An unreliable transportation system is subject to unexpected delays, increasing costs for system users.


Return to Vendor (RTV)

Material that has been rejected by the customer or buyer's inspection department and is awaiting shipment back to supplier for repair or replacement.


Reverse Logistics

A specialized segment of logistics focusing on the movement and management of products and resources after the sale and after delivery to the customer. Includes product returns and repair for credit.



Acronym-Radio Frequency Identification


Rollon/Rolloff (ro/ro)

Wheeled cargo, such as automobiles, or cargo carried on chassis that can be rolled on or off vehicles without using cargo handling equipment.



Acronym- Standard Carrier Alpha Code



Repetitive pattern of demand from year to year (or other repeating time interval) with some periods considerably higher than others. Seasonality explains the fluctuation in demand for various recreational products, which are used during different seasons.



Acronym- Shipper's Export Declaration



Party that tenders goods for transportation.  Might be the PU point, but is the party that arranges the transportation on behalf of the owner


Shippers Resource Center

The best place to turn to for help with your logistics needs.


Shipping Manifest

A document that lists the pieces in a shipment.



sea Shipping  Also known as coastal or coastwise shipping, describes marine shipping operations between ports along a single coast or involving a short sea crossing.


Short Line Railroad

Freight railroads which are not Class I or Regional Railroads, that operate less than 350 miles of track and earn less than $40 million.



A form or frame used to facilitate the handling of product Also referred to as a 'Pallet"


Sleeper Team

Two drivers who operated a truck equipped with a sleeper berth; while one driver sleeps in the berth to accumulate mandatory offduty time, the other driver operates the vehicle.



Acronym- Shipper Load, Shipper Count/Shipper Load, Driver Count



Acronym- Standard Transportation Commodity Classification


Stock Keeping Unit (SKU)

A category of unit with unique combination of form, fit and function.


Stock Outs

Merchandise that is requested by a customer but is temporarily unavailable. Also referred to as (OOS).


Stop Off Charge

Charge associated with a load that has more than one drop off point. Typically, the first stop of a multistop load is free, and then the charge applies to the subsequent stops.


Strategic Highway Network (STRAHNET)

A network of highways which are important to the United States' strategic defense policy and which provide defense access, continuity, and emergency capabilities for defense purposes.


Strategic Rail Corridor Network (STRACNET)

An interconnected and continuous rail line network consisting of over 38,000 miles of track serving over 170 defense installations.



Acroynm- "Set Up" .  Used in the NMFC.  Generally refers to an item that is not dissassembled for purposes of shipping.  See "KD" and "KD Flat"


Supply Chain

Starting with unprocessed raw materials and ending with final customer using the finished goods.


Switching and Terminal Railroad

Railroad that provides pickup and delivery services to linehaul carriers.



Twenty foot equivalent unit, a standard size intermodal container


Third Party Logistics (3PL)

A specialist in logistics who may provide a variety of transportation, warehousing, and logisticsrelated services to buyers or sellers. These tasks were previously performed inhouse by the customer.



Total amount of freight imported or exported through a seaport measured in tons or TEUs.






A measure of output for freight transportation; reflects weight of shipment and the distance it is hauled; a multiplication of tons hauled by the distance traveled.


Trailer on Flatcar (TOFC)

Transport of trailers with their loads on specially designed rail cars. .  Also referred to as "Piggyback" and "Intermodal"



Acronym- Transportation Computer Assisted Design


Transit time

The total time that elapses between a shipment's delivery and pickup.



Transferring bulk shipments from the vehicle/container of one mode to that of another at a terminal interchange point.


Truckload (TL)

Quantity of freight required to fill a truck, or at a minimum, the amount required to qualify for a truckload rate.


Twentyfoot Equivalent Units

Twenyfoot Equivalent Unit (TEU)  The 8foot by 8foot by 20foot intermodal container is used as a basic measure in many statistics and is the standard measure used for containerized cargo.



Acronym- Uniform Freight Classification


Unit Train

A train of a specified number of railcars handling a single commodity type which remain as a unit for a designated destination or until a change in routing is made.



Storage place for products. Principal warehouse activities include receipt of product, storage, shipment and order picking.