Freight definitions & terms

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Freight glossary: Understanding freight definitions and shipping industry terms

The freight industry has a vocabular all its own—one that even seasoned professionals need to brush up on from time to time. We used our extensive logistics knowledge and experience to create a straightforward guide to freight shipping and logistics terminology.

Whether you’re new to the freight industry or want a refresher on common freight terms, our shipping dictionary is your go-to resource. It covers the terms you need to know to understand the freight shipping process from start to finish.



Accessorials commonly include the need for special equipment and services like liftgates, non-commercial destinations, and inside pickup and/or delivery.


A shipping agent is the person who does business on behalf of another person or company with full or limited decision-making authority. An agent may supervise customs procedures, documentation, or shippers insurance. This person may also receive a portion of the monetary gain from the transaction as payment.

Amazon (FBA) warehouse shipping

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) warehouse shipping is a service that helps Amazon sellers outsource shipping to Amazon. Shipping to Amazon warehouse has some nuances shippers need to be aware of for the smooth transfer of heir products. Amazon warehouses only accept shipments from select LTL carriers, so it's important to check the box "Delivery to an Amazon Warehouse" when quoting your shipment.

Attempted pickup

An attempted pickup happens when a carrier is dispatched to a location to pick up freight, but freight is not ready upon arrival. Typically, LTL carriers charge a fee for this attempt. Learn what to expect at an LTL pickup to help prevent additional carrier charges.

Axle Load

Axle load refers to the weight each axle on a truck puts on the nation's highways.


Back Haul

A back haul is the return trip of a truck transporting cargo or freight. It may be a return to the origin of the freight hauled for which the carrier is willing to offer a discount to secure freight for the trip.

Beneficial Owner

Beneficial owner 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. Most importantly, it provides a detailed description of what is being shipped and to whom.  

Billing adjustment

Billing adjustments are costs incurred after a shipment has delivered. These additional costs may be added by the carrier for discrepancies between the freight characteristics quoted and the actual delivered shipment details. These may include but are not limited to: weight, class, dimensions, or fees for additional services performed such as a liftgate.

Blocking and bracing

Blocking and bracing refers to wood or other supports used to keep pallet shipments in place on trailers or in containers throughout the shipping process. This technique is widely used by expert shippers to secure freight.

Blind Shipment

Freight is labeled a blind shipment when the shipper and receiver are not aware of one another.  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 is a rail shipping term that refers to a frame with wheels on which a container is mounted for over-the-road transport.

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

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



Cartage is a trucking term that refers to shipping freight within the same city or close proximity.

Carrier lanes

Carrier lanes are also referred to as freight lanes, shipping lanes, or trucking lanes. In any case, the lanes refer to the routes a carrier routinely serves.

Carrier liability

Carrier liability refers to the financial liability a carrier is responsible for in the event of loss or damage to a shipment. This amount varies based on carrier and is usually limited to a per pound basis. Learn more about carrier liability and our shippers interest insurance.


Chassis is rail shipping term that refers to a frame with wheels and locking devices to secure a container during intermodal transport.


A freight classification is a standardized assignment to a shipment for the purpose of applying transportation charges. Freight classifications are determined based on a range of factors including: weight, density, stowability, and liability.

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.

Concealed Damage

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


The consignee is the person or company who receives the shipment.


The consignor is the individual (typically the seller) who sends goods to the consignee and is the legal owner until the consignee pays them in full.


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


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


Crating is a packaging strategy ideal for shipping fragile or delicate freight where items are packed in wood crates and surrounded by protective material.

Cross docking

Cross-docking occurs when freight is moved directly from an incoming truck onto an outbound truck. Cross-docking eliminates the need for warehousing and storage in the supply chain.


Cross-town shipping is a term used when a container or trailer is delivered by railroad as part of the shipping route.

Cubic Capacity

The total freight load capacity of any truck, train or ship is measured in cubic feet. Cubic capacity is the total load in cubic feet—which cannot be exceeded and could result in a violation if surpassed.

Customs Broker

A customs broker is a person or company 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.


Delivery appointment fee

A delivery appointment fee is applied when a carrier is required to make an appointment for delivery.

Deliver order

A deliver order is a document which authorizes the release of freight to another party. Most often this paperwork is required by large warehouses in order to release freight to a carrier. The owner of the goods will provide the paperwork to the carrier making pickup, and in turn the pickup driver presents the paperwork to the pickup location as proof they have been contracted to transport the goods. Also referred to as Release Paperwork or simply DO Paperwork.

Density calculator

Our freight density calculator and online quoting tool instantly calculate freight class based on your shipment’s density.


Detention is an additional fee charged by a carrier when loading or unloading extends past the time allotted. In LTL shipping, 15 minutes of un/loading time are provided free at each location. In full truckload that time is extended to 2 hours.

Drayage services

Drayage services refers to the transport of freight over a short distance to the next destination in the intermodal shipping process.

Drop deck

A drop deck is a type of flatbed shipping equipment used for transporting taller cargo.

Dry van

Dry vans are fully enclosed truckload trailers. Dry vans are the most common equipment used for truckload shipments.



An embargo is any event that prevents 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.


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

Expedited freight

Expedited shipping services are often chosen when there is a need for urgent delivery or time-sensitive shipments. 


Flatbed shipping

Flatbed shipping uses an open trailer for large or heavy freight that cannot be safely loaded into an enclosed box truck. Flatbeds is ideal for any item that must be side-loaded on a trailer.

Free on board (FOB)

Free on board (FOB) is a logistics term used as a designation to assign ownership of goods throughout the shipping process.


Freight is defined as the goods transported by truck, train, ship, or plane.

Freight broker

A freight broker is a third-party company that works for the shipper to find carriers who can transport their goods and cargo from one place to another. As a broker, Freightquote by C.H. Robinson works directly with carriers to negotiate rates for shippers.

Freight carrier

A freight carrier transports goods from one location to another.

Freight class

Freight class is a standardized number between 50 and 500 assigned by the National Motor Freight Classification system to classify commodities for shipping purposes. Density, stowability, handling, and liability are factored into the standardized freight classes, designed to give consumers and carriers a uniform pricing structure when shipping freight.

Freight class calculator

Our freight class calculator and online quoting tool instantly calculate freight class based on your shipment’s density.

Freight cost/rate

Freight rate or freight cost are terms used to describe the fee(s) charged by the freight carrier to move a shipment from origin to destination location.

Freight insurance

Freight insurance (or shippers insurance) is an optional insurance policy that covers the shipped items and cost of the freight shipping.

Freight liability

Freight liability is the responsibility for shipment losses, damages, and delays.

Freight shipping

Freight shipping is the process of transporting commodities, goods, and cargo by land, air, or sea. Common types of over the road freight shipping include truckload, less than truckload (LTL), and intermodal.

Freight shipping quote

A freight shipping quote is the quoted fee for a carrier to move a shipment.

Freight terminal

A freight terminal is commonly used in LTL freight shipping. Trailers arrive at a terminal and shipments are sorted and consolidated for additional transportation.


Ground freight

Ground freight is a shipment transported by truck.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

The gross vehicle weight 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 (or hazardous) materials are defined by the U.S. Department of Transportation with a hazardous classification if a material, in particular amount and form, poses an unreasonable risk to health, safety, or property.

Handling unit

A handling unit is a packaged unit or container the carrier will move using a forklift, pallet jack, or by hand. This includes the commodity being shipped and packaging materials used to keep it safe.


Inbound Freight

Inbound freight is an integral part of supply chain management. Inbound freight shipments typically come from vendors.

Inside pickup and delivery

Inside pickup and delivery refers to a freight shipment that is located or delivered inside a business, garage, or other building where the driver is required to assist in loading the freight with the help of someone at the location. Freight must be easily accessible and located near an exit.

Interline Carrier

The term interline carrier is used when the initial carrier of a freight shipment transfers the freight to another carrier to get it to its final destination. Also sometimes referred to as Agent Carrier or Partner Carrier.

Intermodal 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.


Last mile delivery

Last mile delivery refers to the transportation of your shipment from the fulfillment center to its final destination: the customer.

Lift gate

A lift gate is a hydraulic lift on a special truck that raises freight from the ground to the trailer. Request a lift gate when a loading dock is not available at the pickup and/or delivery location.

Limited Access

Limited access is a fee applied by the carrier when the pickup or delivery location is restricted by either time during the day, roads, documentation to get in, or other things that make it a more restricted delivery than a driver arriving during standard business hours.

Less than truckload (LTL)

Less than truckload (LTL) shipments are designed for larger than parcel but not large enough to require the space of a full truckload trailer. LTL is typically used for shipments between 150 and 15,000 pounds. The shipper only pays for the portion of the standard truck trailer their freight occupies.


Motor Carrier

The term motor carrier is used to define a person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation.


Nested freight

Nested freight occurs when materials are stacked one item inside of another. This reduces the amount of space taken up by the combined freight, making 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.


Oversize freight

Oversized freight refers to items requiring extra space due to size, shape, or weight that may be subject to higher shipping rates.


Pallet labels

Pallet labels are used to ensure a shipment reaches its destination. Simply print the labels provided to you after booking with Freightquote and attach to each pallet in your shipment.

Pallet shipping

Pallet shipping uses wood or plastic platforms to stack and transport goods for stability and ease of handling.

Package shipping

Package shipping, also known as parcel shipping, refers to small, lightweight, and individual shipments limited to 150 pounds.

Proof of delivery

Proof of delivery provides signed evidence that the goods have been delivered to the recipient at the final destination. In full truckload shipping, this signature typically appears on the BOL. In LTL shipping, this signature typically appears on a pre-printed delivery receipt provided by the carrier.



Reconsignment is a charge assessed by carriers when the delivery address is changed after pickup has been completed.

Residential location

Residential locations often require the use of a lift gate. Carriers may apply a fee when a pickup or delivery location is in a residential location.


Said to Contain (STC)

Said to Contain (STC) is a notation on the bill of lading indicating the number of individual pieces contained within a single handling unit. For example, product listed on a BOL may read, “1 pallet STC 25 boxes,” meaning the pallet being shipped contains 25 individual boxes.

Shipper Load and Count (SLC)

Shipper load and count (SLC) is a notation on the bill of lading indicating the shipper loaded and verified the piece count of the load, but the carrier’s driver did not observe or verify this count.


A shipper is the person or company who ships goods, or needs goods transported.

Shipping labels

Shipping labels are the labels containing destination and return shipping information, used to ensure each parcel reaches its intended location. Simply print the labels provided to you after booking with Freightquote and attach to each package in your shipment.

Shipping rate

Shipping rates are the fees charged by the freight carrier to move a shipment from origin to destination location.

Small business shipping

Make small business shipping easier by using Freightquote by C.H. Robinson to compare quotes for truckload, LTL, and parcel shipments in minutes. Book the carrier of choice, and track freight easily throughout the shipping process.

Small parcel shipping

Small parcel shipments are lightweight, individual shipments limited to 150 pounds. Also referred to as package shipping.

Sort and Segregate (Sort and Seg)

Sort and segregate (sort and seg) is a service performed at delivery where the carrier’s driver, receiving location, or a third-party lumper must sort and count each package or box as it is unloaded from the truck.



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

Temperature controlled shipping

Temperature controlled shipping refers to the truckload shipment that requires a stable temperature range. This service is commonly used for shipping food or other perishable goods.

Third-party logistics (3PL)

Third-party logistics (3PL) providers are organizations who can take over or assist with various logistics concerns. Typically these involve the use of TMS technologies to help increase visibility of your supply chain, allowing you to make informed decisions for your business.

Through Rate

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


Time-critical freight shipment delivery is set to the earliest possible delivery time to accommodate particular shipping requirements.


Time-definite deliveries guarantee that the delivery will occur on a specific day or time of day.

Tradeshow shipping

Tradeshow shipping refers to the shipment of goods to and from trade shows and conventions that often require extra planning.

Transit Time

Transit time is the total amount of time from freight being picked up at origin to freight being delivered at its destination location.

Truckload (TL)

Truckload shipping services 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 when 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.

Truck Order Not Used (TONU)

Truck order not used (TONU) is a term used when a carrier is dispatched to a location to pick up freight, but the load is either cancelled or not available for pickup upon arrival. Typically, full truckload carriers charge a fee for this load cancellation or delay.


Volume Rate

Volume rate is 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 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.

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