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Shipping 101: A Glossary of Common Shipping Industry Terms

Walk the walk and talk the talk: master these shipping industry terms to earn your e-commerce business the professional treatment it deserves.

shipping industry terms


It’s not impossible to turn a profit in e-commerce, but it takes a healthy dose of determination and ingenuity to truly thrive. Commit these common shipping terms to memory, and your business partners — not to mention customers — will hardly be able to tell that you’re a new arrival to the exciting world of online retail.


Glossary of Shipping Terminology

Back Haul — The return leg of a trip for a fleet vehicle carrying cargo or freight.

Bill of Lading — “BOL,” a legally binding document that lays out every aspect of contractual agreement between the shipper and the carrier.

Blind Shipment — Shipment in which the shipper and receiver remain anonymous to one another.

Box — Industry slang for shipping containers.

Break Bulk — Loose cargo stowed directly in the ship’s hold, as opposed to in a shipping container.

Bulk Cargo — Commodity cargo that is transported without packaging in large volumes, such as grain or coal.

Carrier — Any company or individual that transports freight for a fee.

Cartage — Freight that is shipped between two locations within a small radius.

Charter Rate — An agreed upon rate for shipping freight or cargo.

Container — A reusable, steel rectangular box used for housing cargo. This vessel became popular during the 1970s.

Freight Rates — The standard fee charged by a carrier or shipping line to carry freight or cargo between two points.

Full Truckload Shipping — Freight or cargo that completely fills up a 48- or 53-foot trailer, commonly contracted to a single shipper.

Inbound Freight — Shipments coming from a vendor.

Intermodalism — A type of shipping that uses multiple modes of transportation to complete delivery, including rail, truck, air, and ocean shipping.

International Organization for Standardization — “ISO,” a standard-setting organization made up of representatives from multiple countries, responsible for detailing the size of shipping containers in order to optimize global container trade.

LTL Freight — “Less Than Truckload,” a freight mode for shipments that don’t require the full space of a trailer. This kind of freight is typically moved by a common carrier.

Manifest — A list of cargo being carried by a fleet vehicle or vessel.

Outbound Freight — Shipments leaving a warehouse or distribution center.

Pallet — Wooden platforms designed to support loose cargo during transit, often handled with forklifts.

Pick Module – Also known as Pick Mod, a pick mod is a multi-level work platform used by large warehouses to keep items organized and efficient.

Reefer — Industry slang for a temperature-controlled container.

Shipper — Any business or individual paying for cargo to be shipped.

World Customs Organization — “WCO,” an intergovernmental organization made up of customs administrations from nearly two hundred countries.


  1. Shipfinex April 21, 2023

    Have you ever experienced delays in your shipping process or confusion over the various terms used in the shipping industry? As a business owner, it can be frustrating and time-consuming to navigate through the complexities of shipping terminology. In this article, we will explore why companies struggle with understanding the terms used in the shipping industry, the benefits of improving their knowledge in this area, practical tips to enhance their shipping process, and unique content that adds value to the piece.

  2. Deanna Lynne May 25, 2021

    Thanks for explaining how freight rates are determined. My uncle is looking for a climate-controlled freight service to work with. I’ll help him ask the right questions when choosing a transportation company!

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