Freight Shipping Terms You Need To Know

Over time, nearly every industry, profession or organization develops its own lingo, and the world of freight shipping is no different. While this helps industry insiders navigate the complexities of the industry more efficiently, these terms may seem foreign to someone less familiar.

Luckily, you don’t need to be an industry expert to navigate the world of freight shipping with ease. By familiarizing yourself with key terms that may impact your logistics, you can ensure your shipping goes smooth sailing. This glossary will help you get up to speed!

Glossary of key freight shipping terms:

Accessorial Fee:

Any fee or surcharge for additional or value-added services beyond the standard transportation of goods, such as special pickup or delivery requirements, documentation fees and more. Learn more about common freight shipping fees.

Bill of Lading (BOL):

A document that establishes the terms of a contract between the shipper and carrier, while providing precise shipment details such as shipper and consignee contact information, delivery instructions, shipment dimensions and freight classification. Learn more about correctly filling out your BOL.

Blind Shipment:

A less-than-truckload (LTL) shipment in which the identity and address of the shipper or consignee (or both) are hidden from the other party. This is typically done through a third party who books and controls the movement of the freight in order to keep a manufacturer from attempting to do business directly with a distributor’s customer, or vice versa. Learn more about blind shipments.

Carrier Limits of Liability:

Determines the maximum amount a carrier can be held liable for if your freight is lost or damaged. Unlike freight shipping insurance, the shipper must prove that the loss or damage was caused by the carrier’s negligence in order to settle a claim. Learn more about the differences between shipment insurance and carrier liability.


The party in a shipping transaction that is financially responsible for the goods received. The consignee is typically (but not always) the same as the receiver.

Dimensional (DIM) Weight:

Also known as volumetric or cubed weight, dimensional weight refers to how dense your freight is in relation to its actual weight. DIM weight is calculated based on the length, width and height of your shipment.

Dry Van:

An enclosed (but not temperature-controlled) trailer used to protect freight shipments from outside elements. Dry van trailers come in a variety of sizes, but are typically no more than 53 feet long.

Expedited Shipping:

The process of sending a shipment at a faster rate. As a result, what is deemed “expedited” will depend on the carrier or freight service selected (which is typically ground or air freight). Expedited shipping can involve delivery that occurs anywhere from the same day to as long as three days. Learn more about Unishippers’ expedited freight shipping services.


An open-air freight truck used to transport oversized cargo. Standard flatbed trucks are typically between 48 and 53 feet long.

Freight Classification:

Freight classification (or class) is a standardized method of classifying commodities being shipped based on the content’s density, stowability, handling and liability. There are 18 possible freight classes catalogued in the National Motor Freight Classification tariff, ranging from Class 50 (the least expensive) to Class 500 (the most expensive). The higher the class, the higher the rate for every hundred pounds shipped. Download Unishippers’ Guide to Understanding Freight Classification.

National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC):

The category of a freight shipment — as defined by the National Motor Freight Traffic Association — which determines which of the 18 possible freight classes a shipment falls under.

Fuel Surcharge (FSC):

An accessorial fee implemented by the carrier to cover fuel expended during the delivery of a shipment.

Full Truckload (FTL):

A mode of transportation typically used for freight shipments weighing over 20,000 pounds or shipments that fill an entire trailer. Also called truckload. Learn more about Unishippers’ truckload freight services.


A method of shipping that involves multiple modes of transportation to transport goods. Learn more about freight modes of transportation.

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL):

A mode of transportation that allows for multiple small shipments to be handled on one truck. Ideal for when your shipment is too large for small package shipping, but you don’t have enough freight to fill an entire trailer (150 — 15,000 lbs or up to six standard pallets). Learn more about the benefits of LTL shipping.


The long distance transportation of goods between two major cities or ports, usually by truck.

Minimum Charge:

The lowest charge for which a shipment will be handled, after discount and/or adjustment.

Partial Truckload:

A freight shipping mode used when cargo is too big for LTL freight shipping, but not big enough for a full truckload shipment. Typically involves shipments over 5,000 lbs or with six or more pallets.

Progressive (PRO) Number:

A seven- to ten-digit number on the bill of lading used by freight carriers to track a shipment.

Proof of Delivery (POD):

The document or delivery receipt signed by a consignee or its agent acknowledging the receipt of goods.


An enclosed, refrigerated freight truck used to protect temperature-sensitive shipments — such as perishable foods, prescriptions and more — from outside elements.

Supply Chain Visibility:

The ability to track several types of processes within the supply chain, from sourcing raw materials to production and distribution, all the way to final delivery. Learn more about gaining visibility into your supply chain.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL) Provider:

A company that provides outsourced or “third party” services for supply chain management functions, such as shipping. Also referred to as a broker. Learn why small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) love 3PLs.

Transportation Management System (TMS):

A tool (typically online) that streamlines the shipping process and allows shippers to easily track and manage their freight, among other functionalities. Learn why businesses like yours use a freight management system.

Understanding these key freight shipping terms will help set you up for shipping success. Need more guidance on your business shipping? As your 3PL partner, Unishippers can help close any shipping knowledge gaps so that you can focus on your business — contact us today to get started!


Freight Shipping: Optimizing Your Supply Chain

After gaining visibility within your supply chain, find ways to optimize essential components of your network — including your freight shipping!

Learn More