Glossary & Tips


American Association of Port Authorities
American Association of Railroads
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
Automated Commercial Environment
American Trucking Association
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.


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 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.
Bodily Injury Property Damage
Bodily Injury / Property Damage (BIPD)
A common form of insurance. The FHSA requires that all motor carriers maintain this form of insurance.
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.
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.
Bridge Formula


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, person, process, factory, product, or 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.
Customs Border Protection
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.
Commodity Flow Survey
A trailer-type device with wheels constructed to accommodate containers, which are lifted on and off.


The return of an empty transportation container back to a transportation facility. Commonly-used 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.
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.
Department of Defense
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).


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.


Federal Aviation Administration
Freight Analysis Framework
Free and Secure Trade
Federal Highway Administration
A trailer without sides used for hauling machinery or other bulky items.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
Free On Board
For-Hire Carrier
Carrier that provides transportation service to the public on a fee basis.
Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ)
A specially designated area, in or adjacent to a U.S. Customs Port of Entry, which is considered to be outside the Customs Territory of the United States.
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.


Geo Information Systems
Global Positioning System
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
The final market value of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the nation.
Gross State Product (GSP)
The final market value of goods and services produced by labor and property located in a state.
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.
Highway Economic Requirements Systems
Hours of Service
Ruling that stipulates the amount of time a driver is allotted to work.
Highway Performance Monitoring System
Harmonized Series
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.
Intermodal Association of North America


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.
Input-Output Models
An economic analysis method to systematically quantify the interrelationships among various sectors of an economic system.
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 1,000 miles could travel by truck for one portion of the trip, and then transfer to rail at a designated terminal.
The number of units and/or value of the stock of good a company holds.
Institute of Transportation Engineers
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.


Large commercial ship operating on the Great Lakes carrying bulk cargo. The Lakers are up to 1,000 feet long and can carry up to 66,000 tons of cargo. The large bulk Lakers stay within the Great Lakes because they are too large to enter the Saint Lawrence Seaway portion.
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.
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.


Motor Carrier Number / MC Number
The license number issued by the FMCSA to all motor carriers & freight brokers enganged interstate commerce. MC Numbers are issued sequentially: the larger the MC number, the more recent license was issued and typically the younger the business licensed is.
Miles Per Gallon
Metropolitan Planning Organization
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices


North American Free Trade Agreement
North American Industrial Classification System
Neo-Bulk Cargo
Shipments consisting entirely of units of a single commodity, such as cars, lumber, or scrap metal.
Nation Highway System
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Emissions
Nitrogen oxides (NOx), the term used to describe the sum of nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and other oxides of nitrogen, play a major role in the formation of ozone. The major sources of man-made NOx emissions are high-temperature combustion processes, such as those occurring in automobiles and power plants.
National Motor Freight Classification
NMFC Number
The National Motor Freight Classification Number used to calculate freight rates for LTL shipments. Most common cargoes have been assigned an NMFC number.
A fixed point in a firm’s logistics system where goods come to rest; includes plants, warehouses, supply sources, and markets.
Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers


Over dimensional / Over weight
On-Dock 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.
Outbound Logistics
The process related to the movement and storage of products from the end of the production line to the end user.
Over, Short and Damaged (OS&D)
Report is issued at warehouse when goods are damaged; claim is usually filed with the carrier.
Trucking operation in which the owner of the truck is also the driver.


Particulate Matter (PM) Emissions
Particulate matter (PM) is the general term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. They originate from many different stationary and mobile sources as well as from natural sources, including fuel combustion from motor vehicles, power generation, and industrial facilities, as well as from residential fireplaces and wood stoves. Fine particles are most closely associated with such health effects as increased hospital admissions and emergency room visits for heart and lung disease, increased respiratory symptoms and disease, decreased lung function, and even premature death.
Pick up and delivery
Pier Termination Fee
A fee charged by a Drayage company to return an empty shipping container to a port, pier, or terminal facility as opposed to a private container depot.
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.
A label that identifies a hazardous material shipment and the hazards present.
Proof of Delivery
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 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.
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.


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.”
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 line-haul 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.
Removeable Gooseneck (RGN)
A specialized type of a heavy-hual flatbed trailer that can provide drive-on / drive-off accessibility for vehicles such as tractors, loaders, or other heavy equipment. The trailer deck is attached to a “gooseneck” which can be raised and lowered to or from the ground hydraulically, then removed from the trailer, to allow a vehicle to drive on or off.
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.
Revenue Ton
A ton on which the shipment is freighted. If cargo is rated as weight or measure (W/M), whichever produces the highest revenue will be considered the revenue ton. Weights are based on metric tons and measures are based on cubic meters. RT=1 MT or 1 CBM
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.


Standard Carrier Alpha Code
Standard Classification of Transported Goods
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.
Secondary Traffic
Freight flows to and from distribution centers or through intermodal facilities.
Shipper’s Export Declaration
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.
Standard Industrial Classification


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.
Total amount of freight imported or exported through a seaport measured in tons or 20-foot Equivalent Units.
Transportation Intermediaries Association
A measure of output for freight transportation. It reflects the 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.
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.
Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU)
The eight-foot by eight-foot by 20-foot intermodal container is used as a basic measure in many statistics and is the standard measure used for containerized cargo.


Uniform Freight Classification
Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement
Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement (UIIA)
Unit Load Device (ULD)
A type of cargo container used in air freight.
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 Classification (VMT)
A system used to classify motor vehicles, primarily trucks. The most commonly used classification system is based on 13 different axle and body types used by Federal Highway Administration and state departments of transportation.
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.


Storage place for products. Principal warehouse activities include receipt of product, storage, shipment and order picking.
Defined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM as “the process of measuring the dynamic tire forces of a moving vehicle and estimating the corresponding tire loads of the static vehicle.” It allows truck weights to be determined without requiring the vehicle to stop.