Trucking Terminology

To help you understand the trucking industry and how it affects your case, below are the definitions of widely used terms:

Average Annual Daily Truck Traffic (AADTT) The total volume of truck traffic on a highway segment for one year, divided by the number of days in the year.
Backhaul 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.
Barge The cargo-carrying 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.
Bobtail A tractor that is not attached to a trailer or other bed.
Bottleneck A section of a highway or rail network that experiences operational problems such as congestion. Bottlenecks may result from factors such as reduced roadway width or steep freeway grades that can slow trucks.
Boxcar An enclosed railcar, typically 40 or more feet long, used for packaged freight and some bulk commodities.
Breakbulk Cargo Cargo of non-uniform sizes, often transported on pallets, sacks, drums, or bags. These cargoes require labor-intensive loading and unloading processes. Examples of breakbulk cargo include coffee beans, logs, or pulp.
Broker 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.
Cabotage A national law that requires coastal and intercoastal traffic to be carried in its own nationally registered, and sometimes built and crewed ships.
Capacity 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.
Carload Quantity of freight (in tons) required to fill a railcar; amount normally required to qualify for a carload rate.
Carrier A firm which transports goods or people via land, sea or air.
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.
Chassis A trailer-type device with wheels constructed to accommodate containers, which are lifted on and off.
Claim Charges made against a carrier for loss, damage, delay, or overcharge.
Class I Carrier A classification of regulated carriers based upon annual operating revenues-motor 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 revenues-motor 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 revenues-motor 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.
Coastal Shipping Also known as short-sea or coastwise shipping, describes marine shipping operations between ports along a single coast or involving a short sea crossing.
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.
Commercial driver’s license (CDL) License required to operate trucks in certain weight classes and types including: Class A CDL – any combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR ) of 26,001 lbs or more, provided the GVWR of the vehicles being towed is more than 10,000 lbs; Class B CDL – any straight truck with two or more axles and a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or more. Any vehicle with two or more axles and a GVWR of 26,001 lbs or more, pulling a vehicle with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs or less. A single vehicle designed to transport more than 15 passengers (including the driver) if the GVWR is 26,001 lbs or more; Class C CDL – any vehicle with a GVWR of less than 26,001 lbs transporting hazardous materials for which placarding is required. Any vehicle transporting more than 15 passengers, including the driver with a GVWR of less than 26,001 lbs.
Commodity 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.
Consignee The receiver of a freight shipment, usually the buyer.
Consignor The sender of a freight shipment, usually the seller.
Container A box typically ten to forty feet long, which is used primarily for ocean freight shipment. For travel to and from ports, containers are loaded onto truck chassis’ or on railroad flatcars.
Container on Flatcar (COFC) Containers resting on railway flatcars without a chassis underneath.
Containerization A shipment method in which commodities are placed in containers, and after initial loading, the commodities per se are not re-handled 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 Carrier engaged in interstate transportation of persons/property by motor vehicle on a for-hire basis, but under continuing contract with one or a limited number of customers to meet specific needs.
Cubage Cubic volume of space being used or available for shipping or storage.
Deadhead The return of an empty transportation container back to a transportation facility. Commonly-used description of an empty backhaul.
Detention Fee The carrier charges and fees applied when rail freight cars, ship and carriers are retained beyond a specified loading or unloading time.
Demurrage The carrier charges and fees applied when rail freight cars and ships are retained beyond a specific 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.
Dispatcher 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.
Dock A space used or receiving merchandise at a freight terminal.
Double-stack Railcar movement of containers stacked two high.
Drayage 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).
Drop 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.
Endorsement A credential added to a commercial driver’s license permitting a driver to operate certain types of vehicles that include Double/Triple Trailers (D), Tankers (N), Passenger Transport (P), Hazardous materials (H), Tank/hazardous combined (TN) and School Bus (S).
Exempt Carrier A for-hire 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.
Flatbed A trailer without sides used for hauling machinery or other bulky items.
For-hire Carrier Carrier that provides transportation service to the public on a fee basis.
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 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.
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 duty-free pending customs clearance.
Fuel-Taxed Waterway System Eleven thousand miles of the U.S. waterway system designated by the Water Resources Development Act of 1986. Commercial users of this system pay a per gallon fuel tax which is deposited in the Inland Waterways Trust Fund and used to fund inland navigation projects each year.
Four P’s Set of marketing tools to direct the business offering to the customer. The four P’s are product, price, place and promotion.
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.
Hours of Service Ruling that stipulates the amount of time a driver is allotted to work.
Hub 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.
In-bond 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.
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. Using more than one mode of transportation in moving persons and goods. For example, a shipment moved over 1000 miles could travel by truck for one portion of the trip, and then transfer to rail at a designated terminal.
Inventory The number of units and/or value of the stock of good a company holds.
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.
Lead-time 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/Less-Than-Truckload (LCL/LTL) A container or trailer loaded with cargo from more than one shipper; loads that do not by themselves meet the container load or truckload requirements.
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.
Lift-on/Lift-off (lo/lo) Cargo Containerized cargo that must be lifted on and off vessels and other vehicles using handling equipment.
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.
Lock A channel where the water rises and falls to allow boats to travel a dammed river.
Logbook A daily record of the hours an interstate driver spends driving, off duty, sleeping in the berth, or on duty not driving.
Logistics 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.
Lumpers Individuals that assist a motor carrier owner operator in the unloading of property; quite commonly used in the food industry.
Neo-bulk Cargo Shipments consisting entirely of units of a single commodity, such as cars, lumber, or scrap metal.
Node A fixed point in a firm’s logistics system where goods come to rest; includes plants, warehouses, supply sources, and markets.
OS&D Over, short and damaged. Report is issued at warehouse when goods are damaged; claim is usually filed with the carrier.
On-dock Rail Direct shipside rail service. Includes the ability to load and unload containers/breakbulk directly from rail car to vessel.
Outbound Logistics The process related to the movement and storage of products from the end of the production line to the end user.
Operating Ratio A measure of operation efficiency defined as: (Operating Expenses/Operation Revenues) x 100.
Owner-operator Trucking operation in which the owner of the truck is also the driver.
Placard A label that identifies a hazardous material shipment and the hazards present.
Piggyback 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 trailer-on-flatcar combination to the destination terminal, where the carrier offloads the trailer and delivers it to the consignee.
Pool/Drop Trailers Trailer that are staged at a facilities for preloading purposes.
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 on-line 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.
Port Authority State or local government that owns, operates, or otherwise provides wharf, dock, and other terminal investments at ports.
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.
Prepaid 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.
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 Inventory-based logistics system characterized by regularly scheduled flows of products and high inventory levels.
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.
Reefer Trailer A refrigerated trailer that is commonly used for perishable goods.
Regional Railroad Railroad defined as line-haul railroad operating at least 350 miles of track and/or earns revenue between $40 million and $266.7 million.
Reliability 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.
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.
Receiving 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.
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.
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 bar-code system for identifying inventory items, a radio-frequency system can relay data instantly, thus updating inventory records in so-called “real time”.
 Roll-on/Roll-off (ro/ro) Cargo Wheeled cargo, such as automobiles, or cargo carried on chassis that can be rolled on or off vehicles without using cargo handling equipment.
Seasonality 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.
Shipper Party that tenders goods for transportation.
Shipping Manifest A document that lists the pieces in a shipment.
 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.
Short-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.
Sleeper Team Two drivers who operated a truck equipped with a sleeper berth; while one driver sleeps in the berth to accumulate mandatory off-duty time, the other driver operates the vehicle.
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.
Switching and Terminal Railroad Railroad that provides pick-up and delivery services to line-haul carriers.
Supply Chain Starting with unprocessed raw materials and ending with final customer using the finished goods.
TEU Twenty-foot equivalent unit, a standard size intermodal container.
Third-party Logistics (3PL) Provider A specialist in logistics who may provide a variety of transportation, warehousing, and logistics-related services to buyers or sellers. These tasks were previously performed in-house by the customer.
Throughput Total amount of freight imported or exported through a seaport measured in tons or TEUs.
Ton-mile 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.
Transit time The total time that elapses between a shipment’s delivery and pickup.
Transloading 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.
Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) The 8-foot by 8-foot by 20-foot intermodal container is used as a basic measure in many statistics and is the standard measure used for containerized cargo.
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.
Vehicle Miles of Travel (VMT) A unit to measure vehicle travel made by a private vehicle, such as an automobile, van, pickup truck, or motorcycle.
Warehouse Storage place for products. Principal warehouse activities include receipt of product, storage, shipment and order picking.

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