Shipping Terminologies: A comprehensive glossary of shipping terms

Every industry has its language by which it can relate and be related to. Understanding the terms associated with an industry makes it easier to communicate within that industry even though you are unfamiliar with the territory. As a company in the shipping industry, we deemed it fit to put together a glossary of shipping terms that we believe would be of great value to you.


This is a shipping term commonly used in connection with bill of lading. It involves the transfer of rights, title and interest in order to assign goods by endorsing the bill of lading.

Bill of lading

A bill of lading (BoL) is a legal document issued by a carrier to a shipper that details the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried. This document must accompany the shipped products, no matter the form of transportation. Also, it must be signed by an authorized representative from the carrier, shipper, and receiver.


A broker is the middleman (intermediary) between the carrier and the shipper. They connect the person who needs their load shipped to a carrier who can provide the service. We at Fortecho LLC act as brokers in the transportation industry.

Car carrier

Car carriers are vessels specially designed to transport cars. That is, it is a trailer or semi-trailer designed to efficiently transport vehicles via trucks.


All articles, goods, materials, merchandise, or wares carried onboard an aircraft, ship, train, or truck, and for which an air waybill, or bill of lading, or other receipt is issued by the carrier.


A carrier is a company or a person legally entitled to transport goods by land, water, and air.

Common carrier: refers to the transport provider that offers his services to any person or company, as he is entitled to do so under the license provided by a regulatory body. The common carrier is able to work with more shippers within the same day because he is not bound by any contract.

Contract carrier: refers to the company or person who provides transport services for a specified shipper on a long-term basis. This means the contract carrier reaches a common agreement with the shipper and agrees to work under certain conditions over the length of the contract.

A freight carrier is an individual or a company, legally authorised and specialises in transporting cargo from one place to another.

Cash on delivery

Cash on delivery (COD) is a type of transaction in which the recipient makes payment for a shipment at the time of delivery. The form of payment could be cash, check or electronic payment, depending on the agreement between both parties.


A shipping container is a container with strength suitable to withstand shipment, storage, and handling. The 20 ft standard shipping container and the 40 ft standard shipping container are two of the most widely used containers in the world to transport freight goods.


An agreement between two private parties that creates mutual legal obligations. A contract can be either oral or written. However, oral contracts are more challenging to enforce and should be avoided, if possible.


A plane, truck, or other vehicle that is travelling, or a journey that is made, without passengers or goods. A train, railroad car, airplane, truck, or other commercial vehicle while operating empty, as when returning to a terminal.

Department Of Transportation

The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) is responsible for planning and coordinating federal transportation projects. It also sets safety regulations for all major modes of transportation.


Destination is the point of delivery where the carrier turns over the cargo or shipment to the shipper or a representative.


A structure built out over water in a port along which ships can land to load and unload, or the enclosed area of water between two such structures

A dock is also a flat, raised area attached to a building and used for loading and unloading trucks.

Dock receipt

Dock receipt transfers the accountability for the safe custody of the cargo from the shipper to the carrier, and serves as the basis for preparing the bill of lading.


Door-to-door shipping is a service where the freight forwarder guarantees that the vehicle will be picked up from and delivered to the locations decided by the shipper.

En Route

En route is another way to say “on the way”. It is an expression that means on the way or in transit. 

Enclosed car carrier

Enclosed car carriers are carriers that are covered in order to protect the vehicle in transit from weather and road elements. This makes them more expensive than open car carriers. They are usually used to transport classic cars, luxury cars, etc.

Exclusive container shipping

Exclusive container shipping means your vehicle will be shipped in its own special container, it doesn’t matter if the vehicle is operable or inoperable. Also, the shipper gets their personal belongings alongside.

Expedited shipping

Expedited shipping is defined as any delivery or shipping method that promises to get a customer’s order to them faster than standard shipping methods would.


FAK stands for Freight All Kinds. It is a group of shipments put together to be transported as a single shipment. The freight is charged using a unique rate.


A flatbed truck is a type of truck which can be either articulated or rigid. Its bodywork is just an entirely flat, level ‘bed’ with no sides or roof. This allows for quick and easy loading of goods, and consequently they are used to transport heavy loads that are not delicate or vulnerable to rain, and also for abnormal loads that require more space than is available on a closed body.


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is an agency in the United States Department of Transportation that regulates the trucking industry in the United States. The primary mission of the FMCSA is to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.


Forklift is a small industrial vehicle, having a power operated forked platform attached at the front that can be raised and lowered for insertion under a cargo to lift or move it. It is a powered industrial truck used to lift and move materials over short distances.

Forklifts serve the needs of various industries including warehouses and other large storage facilities.


Goods transported in bulk by truck, train, ship, or aircraft

Hazardous materials (HazMat)

A hazardous material is any item or agent (biological, chemical, radiological, and/or physical), which has the potential to cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment, either by itself or through interaction with other factors.

DOT defines a hazardous material as any item or chemical which, when being transported or moved in commerce, is a risk to public safety or the environment, and is regulated as such under its Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration regulations (49 CFR 100-199), which includes the Hazardous Materials Regulations (49 CFR 171-180).

Interchange point

Interchange point is a location at which freight in transit is transferred from one carrier to another.


Intermodal transport is the movement of goods in the same unit or vehicle with the successive use or two or more means of transport, where the goods are not handled during the changeover from one means of transport to another.

That is, it is  the movement of cargo from origin to destination by several modes of transport where each of these modes have a different transport carrier responsible, each with its own independent contract.


A shipping invoice basically describes the items being shipped from one person or business to another and the charges for the service. 

The business term for a shipping invoice is a bill of lading (BOL). The BOL provides the necessary information for a carrier to schedule pick-up and delivery of the goods to the shipper. 

Less than truckload

Less-than-truckload, also known as or less-than-load (LTL), is a shipping service for relatively small loads or quantities of freight. This means that instead of using an entire truck for a single, cross-country shipment, there could be six or eight different bundles of goods from different shippers going to different places, all in a single truck


Logistics is the process of planning and executing the efficient transportation and storage of goods from the point of origin to the point of consumption.


Mileage refers to the distance that you have traveled, measured in miles. Also, it is the number of miles or the average distance that a vehicle can travel on a specified quantity of fuel.

Net weight

This is the actual, computed, or estimated weight of a good without its container and/or packaging.

Open car carrier

This is the most common carrier used in shipping cars and it is also the cheapest. In open transport, your vehicle is exposed to the weather and road elements.


Origin is the point of pick up of the shipment or cargo.


A flat wooden structure that heavy goods are put onto so that they can be moved using a fork-lift truck.


A quote, or quotation, is a document that a shipping company submits to a potential client or shipper with a proposed price for the shipping service based on certain conditions.


A reefer is a refrigerated trailer that gets attached to a semi-truck in order to transport perishables and other temperature-sensitive goods.

RoRo shipping

Ro-Ro is an acronym used for Roll on-Roll off. It is a method used for wheeled cargo such as cars, trucks, semi-trailer trucks, trailers, and railroad cars. It is important to note that you cannot ship personal effects using this method, but spare tire and factory fitted accessories are allowed.


Route is a line of travel between two locations, the origin and the destination.

Shared container shipping

Shared container shipping allows you to pay for only the space you need on a container, instead of paying for a full 20ft container.


A shipper is the party who hands over cargo for transport. That is, it is the person or company that supplies the cargo or vehicle for shipping.

Shipping documents

Shipping documents are forms that accompany a shipment listing the date shipped, the customer, the method of shipment, and the quantities and specifications of goods shipped. They usually include bills of lading, packing lists, invoices, insurance documents, and air waybills.


Skid is a type of pallet, except it has no bottom deck. Skids are a series of parallel runners, fitted beneath boxes or packages to raise them clear off the floor to permit easy access of forklift blades or other handling equipment.


This is the process of removing cargo from a container.


An assigned area in which containers are prepared for loading into a vessel, train, truck or airplane or are stacked immediately after discharge from a vessel, train, truck or airplane.

Third party logistics (3PL)

A company that provides logistics services to other companies for some or all of their logistics needs. It typically includes warehousing and transportation services.


The truck unit unto which freight or cargo is loaded.


Trucks are heavy automotive vehicles used to transport cargo.

VIN Number

A VIN (vehicle identification number) is a 17-digit code of letters and numbers that identifies a car uniquely. Like car DNA. Each section of the code provides a specific piece of information about the vehicle. This includes year, make, model, engine size, and the country and factory where the car was made. The VIN also carries security features for owners and manufacturers.

If there are some terms you believe we should add to the list, let us know by commenting below.

Also, if you are interested in shipping your vehicle, you can get an free quote here. You can contact us directly at +1 219 300 1666 or through a live chat with one of our representatives.

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