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.

One thought

  1. 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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