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Freight Terms Dictionary


“A” ACCOUNT – An account that presently produces or has potential to produce $30,000 or more of LTL revenue per month, either -inbound or outbound, based on any consecutive the 3-month average over the past 12 months.

ABSOLUTE MINIMUM – The minimum charge below which the carrier will not discount.

ACCESSORIAL SERVICE – A service rendered by a carrier in addition to regular transportation service. (Examples: Liftgate, notification, appointment, inside delivery, and hazardous materials). Typically, the carrier charges a fee for these services if they are published in a tariff.

AIR BAG – A bag designed to secure freight in trailers by using air pressure to force freight to the walls of the trailer.

ARBITRARY – A charge added to certain delivery points or for various activities to cover additional business expense for the carrier. For example, some areas have added charges because they are difficult to get to or tie up the driver for unusually long periods of time. This is often called Limited Access charges.

ARRIVAL NOTICE – A notice furnished to consignee of the arrival of freight. This could be a written notice sent by mail, left by driver, or a telephone call.

ASTRAY FREIGHT – Freight which has been separated from its freight bill.

AVERAGE WEIGHTED CLASS – The average classification of a customer’s shipments calculated over a period of time that is weighed to take into account the differences in tonnages shipped in each weight classification. This number is usually calculated when some type of FAK pricing proposal is being considered.

AXLE WEIGHT – Amount of weight bearing on one axle.


“B” ACCOUNT – Account that presently produces or has potential to produce at least $10,000 of LTL revenue per month of combined inbound or outbound based on any consecutive 3-month average over the past 12 months.

BACK HAUL – Traffic moving in a direction of light flow when a carrier’s traffic in a given lane is heavier in one direction than the other.

BANDING MACHINE – Used on the dock to install metal or plastic bands on freight.

BARREL WHEELER OR BARREL TRUCK – A dolly like had truck designed specifically to move drums or barrels.

BILL OF LADING – Legal contract document between shipper and the carrier for the transportation of goods. Also, the shipper’s receipt for goods shipped.

BILL TO – Designates a billing arrangement in which the freight bill is sent to the responsible party (either shipper or consignee) at an address different than the address where the freight was picked up or delivered. “Bill to” situations are often confused with “third party” billings.

BLIND SIDE – Right side of the truck and trailer.

BLOCKING OR BRACING – Wood or metal supports to keep shipments in place in trailers.

BOB TAIL – Tractor operating without a trailer.

BONDED WAREHOUSE – A warehouse owned by persons approved by the Treasury Department under bond or guarantee for the strict observance of the revenue laws. They are utilized for storing goods until duties are paid or goods are otherwise properly released.

BOTTOM FREIGHT – Heavy freight which must be loaded on the trailer floor and not on top of other merchandise.

BOX – Trailer or semi-trailer.

BULK FREIGHT – A wall (usually plywood) built in a trailer to keep the freight from shifting while in transit.


“C” ACCOUNT – Account that presently produces consistent business opportunities and has the potential to achieve “B” account status.

CAB – Driver’s compartment of a truck or tractor.

CAB OVER – Truck or tractor with a substantial part of the driving cab located over the engine.

CABLE SEAL – A heavy steel cable used to secure closed trailer doors. It can only be removed with heavy duty cable cutters.

CAPACITY LOAD – A trailer loaded to the legal weight limit or a trailer loaded so that no additional freight will fit in the trailer.

CART – A four wheeled platform used to move several pieces of freight across the dock at one time.

CARTAGE (LOCAL) – Hauling between locations in the same town or city. Pick up or delivery of freight within the commercial zone of a municipality by a local carrier acting as an agent for the shipper or over the road carrier.

CHECK STAND – Dock “desk” for the checker to secure paperwork located next to a loading door.

CHECK STOPS – Regular scheduled stops by the pick-up and delivery driver at a customer’s dock to pick up freight.

CHOCK – A wooden, metal, or rubber wedge used to block the wheels of trailer at the dock. Also used in trailers to keep floor freight (like reels) from shifting.

CLAIM – (1) A demand made upon a transportation line for payment of loss or damage alleged to have occurred while shipment was in possession of the carrier. (2) A demand upon a transportation company for refund of a freight bill overcharge.

CLAIMANT – Person or company filing a claim.

CLASS RATE – A transportation charge established for a group of commodities. Unless an article is given a special freight rate (commodity rate), it is grouped with others of a similar nature into a class. This charge or rate applies to each type of article in the class.

CLASSIFICATION (FREIGHT) – (1) The category assigned to an article of freight in the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC). The classification partially determines the freight rate for the article.

CLEAN BILL OF LADING – A delivery receipt signed by the consignee for receipt of merchandise in good condition (no damage or lose apparent).

COLLECT ON DELIVERY (DOC) – (1) A shipment for which the driver must collect the sale price of the goods. These funds are then remitted to the shipper or other designated party. (2) Fee for such collection and remittance.

COLLECT SHIPMENT – Shipments can be billed “collect” by the carrier which means that the consignee (receiver of the goods) is responsible for paying the freight charges. A shipment that has been billed “collect” doesn’t necessarily require the driver to collect the freight charges. It simply establishes the party responsible for paying the freight charges.

COMBINATION – Truck or tractor coupled to one or more trailers.

COMBINATION RATE – A rate made by combining two or more rates published in different tariffs. This usually occurs when interline carriers are involved in delivering to out-of-the-way towns or when intermodal carries complete an overseas shipment.

COMMODITY EXEMPT – One that may be transported in interstate commerce without operating authority or published rates.

COMMODITY RATE – (1) A special (usually lower) rate for specific types of goods (usually exempt commodities). (2) A rate lower than class rates, established to cover the movement of a specific customer’s freight or for a specific group of customers.

COMMODITY TARIFF – A tariff containing only commodity rates

COMMON CARRIER – A shipping company which offers service to the general public.

CONCEALED DAMAGE – Damage that was not apparent and not noted on the delivery receipt by the consignee at the time of delivery.

CONCEALED LOSS – Loss that was not apparent and not noted on the delivery receipt by the consignee at the time of delivery.

CONNECTING CARRIER – A carrier which originates or completes transportation of a shipment but does not haul it the entire distance from the origin to destination.

CONSIGN – To send or address goods to another.

CONSIGNEE – The person for firm who is designated to receive articles shipped.

CONSIGNOR – The shipper. The person or firm tendering the shipment.

CONTRACT CARRIER – A company that engages in for-hire transportation of property under individual contract with one or more shippers.

CONTRACT RATES – Rates which are part of a total contract negotiated between a shipper and a carrier. These provisions are geared to the specific needs of the shipper and carrier.

CROSS DOCK – Transfer of freight from one trailer to another at a terminal or freight service center.

CUBE – The cubic capacity of a trailer. Term used to describe the percentage of a trailer’s loading space that has been used. Half full would be described as “50% cubed.”

CUBIC CAPACITY – The carrying capacity of a trailer measured in cubic feet.


DEAD AXLE – Non-powered rear axle on tandem truck or tractor

DEADHEAD – A trailer moving empty or a shipment moving without charges.

DELIVERY SET – Also called Delivery Receipt or D.R. Multipart form used to control and delivery the freight. This document the consignee signs when accepting the shipment.

DENSITY – The weight of an article per cubic foot.

DETENTION – A charge made for a vehicle held by or for a consignor or consignee for loading, unloading, or for forwarding instructions.

DISPATCHING – The scheduling and routing of either pick-up and delivery units or linehaul units.

DIVERSION – A change (usually requested by the shipper) in the routing, or destination of a shipment that is already in transit and requires a new freight bill.

DOCK – The floor or platform where trucks load and unload.

DOCK PLATE – Metal plate used to bridge the space between a trailer and the dock platform.

DOLLY – A single axle piece of trailing equipment used to hook two trailers together. A dolly is a converter unit equipped with a fifth wheel. (2)  A non-motorized, two wheeled hand truck for moving freight around the dock.

DOMICILE – A “home base” or employment location.

DOT – Department of Transportation. The DOT is composed of several federal agencies which regulate the operation of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment.

DRAYAGE – The charge for hauling freight. This term is usually used when referring to the fees charged by local cartage agents.

DRIVE AXLE – The axle(s) which are connected to the engine by a drive shaft and power the vehicle. Also called power axle.

DRIVER COLLECT – Refers to a shipment for which the driver must collect freight charges at the time of delivery if the consignee does not have credit set up with the freight company. The freight bill delivery receipt will be printed with the instructions “Driver Collect.”

DRIVER/SALES REPRESENTATIVE – Driver that picks up and delivers the customer’s freight and interacts with the customer.

DRUMS – Same as barrels. Usually 55-gallon drums.

DUALS – A pair of tires mounted together.

DUNNAGE – Term used for cardboard, empty pallets, plywood, foam rubber, air bags, or other items used to cushion or protect freight while in transit.


EXCEPTION – (1) A shortage, overage, or damage to a shipment. (2) A notation of such conditions ion a freight bill, bill of lading, or unloading manifest.

EXCLUSIVE USE – The exclusive use of an entire trailer by one shipper.

EXPEDITE – A form used to forward astray freight to its proper destination.

EXTENSIONS – Longer blades for forklifts. Used when standard blades are not long enough for the job. SURCHARGE – A charge above the usual customary charge such as fuel surcharges.



FAK (FREIGHT ALL KINDS) – A rate making procedure that allows all commodities, regardless of their actual classifications, to be classified the same and rated at one rate.

FIFTH WHEEL – This is round device on the back of a tractor or on the top of a converter dolly which hooks to the king pin of a trailer.   This is the device that hooks the tractor to the trailer.

FORKLIFT – Mechanical vehicle used to move freight on the dock. Also know as a lift truck or tow motor.

FREE ASTRAY – A shipment that is misrouted or unloaded at the wrong service center and is billed and forwarded to the correct service center free of charge.

FREE ON BOARD – (F.O.B.) The place where ownership of goods is transferred. Also indicates the physical point at which the responsibility for expenses and risk for goods is passed from seller to buyer.

FREE TIME – The period freight will be held before storage charges are applied. The period allowed the owner to accept delivery before storage charges begin to accrue.

FREIGHT ALL KINDS(FAK) A rate making procedure that allows all commodities, regardless of their actual classification, to be classified the same and rated at one rate.

FREIGHT BILL – An invoice from a transportation company giving the name of the shipper and consignee (receiver), point origin and destination, description of freight, weight, and amount of charges.

FREIGHT FORWARDER – A company that assembles small shipments from various shippers into truckload or container load shipments and then forwards these shipments (usually through airlines, rail or boat) to another agent or some type of break bulk facility near the destination. Here they are disassembled and routed to their final destination. The term “forwarder” is usually used to distinguish the company from the “operator.”  Forwarders usually do not own the means of transportation. Operators own or contract for the means of transportation.

FULL VISIBLY CAPACITY – A trailer loaded to the point that no additional freight will fit into the trailer or when the trailer is loaded to the legal weight limit.


GATEWAY – A point where freight departs one country moving into another country. Gateways are most often assembly points, clearing houses or transfer points between carriers.

GLAD HANDS – A coupling (one red and one blue) on the front of the trailer where the air hoses for brakes are connected. They couple the braking system of the tractor with braking system of the trailer.

GROSS WEIGHT – The total weight of the tractor or the trailer or both.


HAZARDOUS MATERIALS – A substance or material that has been determined by the Department of Transportation to be capable of posing significant risk to health, safety, and property when transported.

HEADER LOAD – Term used for a shipment that has been loaded in the front of a trailer. It could be large or heavy shipment. Normally a header shipment is placed in the front of the trailer to reduce handling and damages.

HIGH AND TIGHT – Another term is cubing. Loading trailer to its fullest cube.

HOSTLER – Worker who moves trailer to and from the dock.

HOSTLING TRACTOR – Tractor used for moving trailers to and from the dock. Also called a “yard goat.”

HOT SHIPMENT – A shipment that requires special attention or priority treatment and must be delivered as quickly as possible.


INBOUND – Goods that a duty or tax is due are “in bond” when placed in the custody of a government, a bonded warehouse, or are traveling by bonded carrier. Bonding guarantees that the duty will be paid.

INSIDE DELIVERY – Delivery locations that are not immediately adjacent to the delivery vehicle. Examples are:  Malls, downtown deliveries, deliveries with no dock. Most often it requires the driver to break down the shipment in order to get the goods to the customer’s desired location.  An accessorial charge is most often assessed for inside deliveries.

INTERLINE – A transfer of freight between two or more transportation companies to out of the way destinations that another carrier regularly services.

INTERMODAL – Using more than one mode of transportation to such as rail, air, or water.

INTERSTATE – Between states.

INTERSTATE TRAFFIC – Traffic moving from one point in one state to a point in another state or traffic moving between points in the same state but passing through another state en route.

INTRASTATE – Within a state.

INTRASTATE TRAFFIC – Traffic origination and destination within the state.

INVOICE ATTACHMENTS – Documents that the debtor/customer requires to be attached to freight bill before they will pay the bill. Usually a proof of delivery (P.O.D.) such as a delivery receipt (D.R.).


JOHNSON BAR – A large wheeled bar used on the dock.


KING PIN – A large steel pin located beneath the front of a trailer. The kind pin is the object that attaches the tractor to the trailer.

KNOCKED DOWN (KD) – A term indicating that an article is taken apart, folded, or broke down to reduce its set up volume.

KNOW DAMAGE – Damage discovered before or at time of delivery of a shipment.

KNOWN LOSS – Loss discovered before or at the time of delivery of a shipment.


LANDING GEAR or LEGGS – The support legs at the front of a trailer that holds it up while detached from a tractor.

LESS THAN A TRUCKLOAD (LTL) – Trucking company that specializes in smaller non-volume type hauling.

LIFT JIB – A forklift attachment that allows the operator to move bulky objects by lifting form above with a chain or cable. Also called a boom.

LINEHAUL – The movement of freight from one service center to another service center in different metropolitan areas.

LOAD BAR – A portable metal bar that can be placed between the sides of a trailer to lock in, reinforce, or stabilize a load.

LOAD FACTOR – The amount of weight loaded onto a trailer. The greater the load factor, the lower the cost of the transporting the shipments. The term is also used to describe the compactness or overall usage of trailer space. Good load factor is achieved by using a good mix of bottom and top freight to cube the trailer.

LOAD MANIFEST – A document that moves with each packet of bills and is a summary of the trailer contents.

LOADING ALLOWANCE – A tariff provision that provides an allowance and is usually a fixed sum per hundred weight to a shipper for loading a carrier’s trailer. Normally paid each month to the shipper.

LOG BOOK – A book required by the Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) carried by linehaul drivers that contains a daily record of hours, routes, etc.


MANIFEST – A control document used to list the contents of individual shipments of a trailer during loading and from which the contents are checked during the unloading. Manifests are sometimes created for freight staged on the dock.

MARK – Slang term referring to a larger shipment such as in “large mark” or “heavy mark”

MARKINGS – Letters, numbers, and/or characters placed on freight for purpose of identification.

MASTER BILL – An invoice or freight bill that covers different shipments from the same customer. Master bill are a convenience for the shipper. Other bills are issued to control the freight movement and capture revenue for accounting purposes.

MEET AND TURN – An over the road trip in which a line haul driver meets another driver at a given relay point, swaps trailers and returns to his domicile usually within the same day.

MILEAGE RATE – Rates applied according to distance rather than weight or commodity.

MINIMUM CHARGE – The least charge for which a shipment will be charged. For pricing applications, each freight weight category has a minimum charge.

MODE – Refers to the basic types of freight transportation (truck, rail, air, water)


NATIONAL ACCOUNT – Account that has a national distribution network, multiple shipping/receiving locations, and can have a centralized transportation office that exercises total, partial, or advisory control over routing and pricing activities.

NATIONAL MOTOR FREIGHT CLASSIFICATION (NMFC) – A publication for motor carriers containing rules, commodity descriptions, and classifications for nearly all shippable commodities.

NESTED – Packed one within another.

NET WEIGHT – The weight of an article excluding any packaging. This can also be the reference of the weight of the contents of a trailer.

NOSE – Slang term referring to the front of a trailer.

NOSE LOAD – Same as a header load.

NOTED DAMAGE – Freight damage that is discovered and noted by the consignee at the time of delivery.


OPEN TOP TRAILER – Trailer with a removable top, usually made of tarp like material.

OPERATING RATION (OR) – Total expenses to total operating revenue (operating expenses divided by net operating revenue). An operating ratio of 90 would indicate that 90 cents out of every revenue dollar is paid out for operating expenses.

OVERFREIGHT – Freight separated from its movement document. Also called “OWB” (over without bill)

OS&D (Over, Short, and Damaged) – Exceptions or discrepancies between freight on hand and freight shown on a freight bill. Freight not covered by billing is “over.”  Freight that is missing is “short.”

OVER THE ROAD (OTR) – Refers to line haul or long haul; as in “over the road equipment” or “over the road driver.”

OVER WTIHOUT BILL (OWB) – Freight without its bill of lading or freight bill.


P&D – Pickup and delivery as in P&D city tractor or P&D driver.

PALLET –A wooden platform upon which freight is stacked for transportation. A common pallet is 40W X 48H X 5H inches in size.

PALLET JACK – A hand operated lifting tool used for lifting pallets.

PALLETIZED – Stacked on pallets.

PAYLOAD – Cargo carrier by a trailer or net weight of the cargo.

PEDDLE FREIGHT – Shipments delivered from a service center location to areas beyond normal delivery limits.

PEDDLE RUN – Pickup or delivery of freight outside the service center’s normal service area.

PERISHABLE FREIGHT – Shipments which are subject to decay or deterioration.

PIGGYBACK – Transportation of a highway trailer on a rail flatcar.

PINTLE HOOK – Hook mounted on a trailer through which the eye of a trailer dolly is connected.

POOL SHIPMENT – Several shipments destined to different delivery points which the shipper consolidates into a single large shipment and tenders to the carrier at one time.

POWERED AXLE – The drive or power axle of a tractor.

PREPAID – A term signifying that transportation charges are to be paid at shipping point. On the bill of lading, “prepaid” usually indicates that the shipper is responsible for the shipping charges and not necessarily that these charges must be collected before the freight will be moved.

PRO NUMBER – A control number or pro number assigned to shipments in the form of labels that are small and self-adhesive. Normally, pickup drivers apply to the freight and the bill of lading. The pro number identifies the shipment in the system and links it to the freight movement documents. It is also used to trace and allocate costs to the shipment.

PROOF OF DELIVERY (POD) – Delivery receipt signed by the consignee at the time of delivery.

PUP – A 28-foot trailer designed to be pulled two or more at a time by one tractor.

PURCHACED TRANSPORTATION – An arrangement in which a regulated carrier leases or hires and owner/operator to make a single run. Trip leases are utilized during periods of heavy traffic when equipment is in short supply or light lanes.


RAG TOP – Open top trailer or trailer that may have a tarp cover.

RAIL TRAILERS – Trailers usually supplied by the railroad used by a trucking company to pick up freight and loaded on rail cars for movement.

RATE – Usually, the charge per hundred weight for transporting freight.

RECONSIGNMENT – A change usually requested by the shipper in the routing or destination of a shipment that is already in transit but does not require a new freight bill. A fee is usually associated for such a change.

RECOUP – To repair damaged cartons, containers, and toppled freight.

RELEASED VALUE – A value specified by the shipper or specified in the National Motor Classification that establishes the carrier’s maximum liability for loss of damage.

RESIDENTAIL DELIVERY – Delivery to a private residence. Accessorial charge may apply.

RUG POLE – Forklift attachment used to move rolls of carpet.


SEAL – Numbered aluminum or plastic strips that are fastened to the closing handle on a trailer door. Seals are used to monitor whether the trailer has or has not been opened.

SEMI-TRAILER – Trailer equipped with rear wheels only. The front of the trailer is supported by landing legs.

SHIPPER’S LOAD AND COUNT (SL&C) – Indicates that the contents of a trailer were loaded and counted by the shipper without observation by the carrier.

SHIPPING PAPERS – Papers used in connection with the movement of the freight.

SHORTAGE – The number of pieces in a shipment that are less than the number indicated on the freight bill or other control document.

SHRINK WRAP – A plastic wrap used by shippers and carriers to secure cartons on a pallet. Shrink wrap is usually thicker plastic that is heat sealed (tightened) over the shipment. Also known as STRETCH WRAP.

SINGLE SHIPMENT – A single shipment picked up at the customer’s dock that weighs less than 500 pounds.

SKID (see pallet) – A wooden platform upon which freight is stacked on for transportation. The skid provides clearance for forklift blades and has a deck but no bottom boards.

SLEEPER – Tractor with a sleeping compartment in the cab.

SLEEPER RUN – A “no layover” line haul run where two drivers take turns driving and sleeping.

SLIDING FIFTH WHEEL – A fifth wheel assembly capable of being moved forward or backward to obtain desired load distribution between tractor and trailer axles.

SPOT THE TRAILER – Park the trailer.

STRAIGHT TRUCK – A truck with a van body and power unit incorporated into one unit.

STRETCH WRAP – Plastic wrap used by shippers and carriers to secure freight to a pallet. Stretch wrap is usually tied to the pallet and stretched around the shipment as opposed to shrink wrap that is heat sealed.

STRIP – To unload, count, and check the shipments on a trailer.

SURCHARGE – A charge above the usual customary charge such as fuel surcharges.


TAILGATE MEETING – Brief information meeting usually conducted by supervisors for drivers and/or dock workers near the rear of the trailer.

TANDEM – A semi-trailer, truck, or tractor with two rear axles.

TARE WEIGHT – (1) The weight of a container and the material used for packing. (2) The weight of the truck exclusive of its contents.

TARIFF – A publication that lists transportation rates, charges, and rules.

THIRD PARTY BILLING – Billing sent to a party that is responsible for paying the freight bill and is not the shipper or consignee.

THIRD PARTY DISCOUNT – A discount given to a party that pays the freight charges.

THROUGH FREIGHT – A rate applicable for transportation form point of origin through to the destination as opposed to a combination of rates in agent situations.

TOP FREIGHT – Light or fragile freight that can be loaded on top of other freight.

TOP HEAVY FREIGHT – Freight that is usually tall and top heavy and needs to be secured to the walls of the trailer to avoid tipping over.

TRACE – To check the location of a shipment.

TRACER – A request to have a shipment traced and advise its status.

TRACTOR – A power unit for pulling trailers.

TRAILOR ON FLATCAR (TOFC) – Transportation of a highway trailer on a railroad flat car.


TRIP LEASE – An arrangement in which a regulated carrier leases or hires and owner/operator to make a single run. Trip leases are utilized during periods of heavy traffic when equipment is in short supply or light lanes.

TRIPLE – A combination of vehicles that as a tractor and three trailers.

TRUCKLOAD – Quantity of freight that will fill a truck.


UNLOADING ALLOWANCE – A tariff allowance to a customer for unloading its shipments from a carrier’s trailer. This is usually a fixed sum per hundred weight.


VOLUME RATE – A lower rate for a volume shipment that is usually below the standard LTL rate.


YARD GOAT OR YARD MULE – Tractor used to move trailers around the service center yard. Also called hostling tractor.