Trucking Terminology

Understanding shipping terms and definitions

A model truck sitting on top of a dictionary - depicts learning trucking industry lingo

Navigating the world of freight transportation can be like learning a new language. Industry-specific terms and acronyms are commonplace, and for those not versed in the lingo, it can be somewhat overwhelming. Whether you're a seasoned shipper or new to the game, understanding the terminology is crucial to managing your logistics effectively. Here, we'll demystify some of the most common shipping terms and definitions, providing a clearer path through the world of freight transportation.

Bill of Lading (BOL)

The BOL is a legally binding document between the shipper and carrier, serving as a receipt for goods and a title of ownership. It includes details like the nature, quantity, and destination of the goods being shipped.


The consignee is the party receiving the shipped goods. They are often the owner or buyer of the freight.


The consignor is the party that sends the goods to the consignee. They may be the seller or the manufacturer.

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL)

LTL shipping is used for transporting smaller shipments that don't require a full trailer. This method can be more cost-effective as you pay for the portion of the trailer your goods occupy, while other shippers pay for their portions.

Full Truckload (FTL)

FTL shipping means your goods fill an entire truck. This is typically used for large shipments that are enough to fill or nearly fill a standard trailer.

Partial Truckload (Partial)

Partial Truckload, often situated between LTL and FTL, refers to shipments that are larger than typical LTL but do not require the full space of a truck. This shipping method can be more cost-effective than FTL since you only pay for the space you use.

Dry Van

A dry van is a standard enclosed box trailer used to transport non-perishable goods.


A reefer is a refrigerated trailer used for shipping perishable goods that need temperature control.


A flatbed is a type of trailer with an open deck suitable for oversized cargo or equipment that doesn’t fit inside a standard trailer.

Intermodal Transportation

This refers to shipping involving more than one mode of transportation, such as rail and truck. It can reduce shipping costs and environmental impact.

Freight Class

The National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA) assigns a freight class to different types of goods, which affects the cost of shipping. It’s determined by factors like weight, dimensions, density, storage capability, and value.

Accessorial Charges

Additional services provided by carriers that go beyond the normal pickup and delivery, such as liftgate service, inside delivery, or storage, will incur accessorial charges.

Detention and Demurrage

These are fees charged when there are delays in loading or unloading beyond a specified time, often due to the shipper or receiver's limitations.


Deadhead refers to when a truck drives with an empty trailer, typically returning from a delivery without picking up new cargo.

Freight Broker

A freight broker is an intermediary between shippers and carriers who helps facilitate transportation arrangements for a fee.

Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW)

GVW is the total weight of the vehicle and its cargo. There are legal limits to consider for safety and infrastructure protection.

Proof of Delivery (POD)

This is a document signed by the consignee upon receipt of the shipment, indicating that the goods were delivered as expected.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

A 3PL provider is an external company that manages a part or all of a company's logistics and supply chain management functions.

Transportation Management System (TMS)

A TMS is a software platform that helps companies plan, execute, and optimize the physical movement of goods.

Freight Forwarder

A freight forwarder acts as an agent for the shipper, arranging the transportation and storage of goods.

Understanding these terms is just the beginning. As the industry evolves, so too does the language we use to describe it. At FreightSideKick.com, we not only provide you with the best shipping solutions, but we also educate and inform, ensuring that you're never lost in translation. With this glossary of freight transportation terminology, you’re better equipped to navigate the shipping process and communicate effectively with carriers, brokers, and logistics providers.


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