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Common Logistics Words and Phrases
June 11, 2012

Common Logistics Words and Phrases

Common logistics terms can seem very confusing if you are not familiar with import and export terminology or general freight shipping. Don’t be overwhelmed.  We’ve put together a list of common words and phrases to make your shipping experience fluid.
Here are some of the more important and widely used terms and phrases and help you understand what they mean and feel comfortable using them around others.

You may hear these terms and phrases in just about every type of freight forwarding service available. These terms are recognized in railroad, sea freight, ground, and air shipments:

Acceptance Number: In quality management, 1) A number used in acceptance sampling as a cut off at which the lot will be accepted or rejected. For example, if x or more units are bad within the sample, the lot will be rejected. 2) The value of the test statistic that divides all possible values into acceptance and rejection regions.

Cost and Freight (C & F): The seller quotes a price that includes the cost of transportation to a specific point. The buyer assumes responsibility for loss and damage and pays for the insurance of the shipment.

Unitize: To consolidate several packages into one unit; carriers strap, band, or otherwise attach the several packages together.

Transportation Mode: The method of transportation: land, sea, or air shipment.

Order Cycle Time: The time that elapses from placement of order until receipt of order. This includes time for order transmittal, processing, preparation, and shipping.

Traceability: 1) The attribute allowing the ongoing location of a shipment to be determined. 2) The registering and tracking of parts, processes, and materials used in production, by lot or serial number.

Freight Prepaid: The freight and charges to be paid by the consignor.
Tariff: A tax assessed by a government on goods entering or leaving a country. The term is also used in transportation in reference to the fees and rules applied by a carrier for its services.

Full Containerload (FCL): A term used when goods occupy a whole container.

Freight: Goods being transported from one place to another.

Ex Works: The price that the seller quotes applies only at the point of origin. The buyer takes possession of the shipment at the point of origin and bears all costs and risks associated with transporting the goods to the destination.

Freight Carriers: Companies that haul freight, also called “for-hire” carriers. Methods of transportation include trucking, railroads, airlines, and sea borne shipping.

Likewise, here a collection of commonly used terms that you will primarily hear with railroad or truck shipments:

Multiple-Car Rate: A railroad rate that is lower for shipping more than one carload at a time.

Truckload Lot: A truck shipment that qualifies for a lower freight rate because it meets a minimum weight and/or volume.

Gross Weight: The total weight of the vehicle and the payload of freight or passengers.

Doubles: Double trucks are two 28-foot trailers that are pulled by one tractor. Doubles also are known as “double bottoms.”

Full Truckload (FTL): Same as Full Containerload, but in reference to motor carriage instead of containers.

Granger Laws: State laws passed before 1870 in Midwestern states to control rail transportation.

Flatcar: A railcar without sides, used for hauling machinery.

Drop: A situation in which an equipment operator deposits a trailer or boxcar at a facility at which it is to be loaded or unloaded.

Route Trucks Delivery: Trucks that travel fixed routes.

And these are more popular terms involving sea freight shipping:

Dock Receipt: A document used to accept materials or equipment at an ocean pier or accepted location. Provides the ocean carrier with verification of receipt and the delivering carrier with proof of delivery.

Discharge Port: The name of the port where the cargo is unloaded from the export vessel. This is the port reported to the U.S. Census on the Shipper’s Export Declaration, Schedule K, which is used by U.S. companies when exporting. This can also be considered the first discharge port.

Port: A harbor where ships will anchor.

Port of Entry: A port at which foreign goods are admitted into the receiving country.

Free Along Side (FAS): The seller agrees to deliver the goods to the dock alongside the overseas vessel that is to carry the shipment. The seller pays the cost of getting the shipment to the dock; the buyer contracts the carrier, obtains documentation, and assumes all responsibility from that point forward.

Coastal Carriers: Water carriers that provide service along coasts serving ports on the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans or on the Gulf of Mexico.

Container: (1) A box, typically 10 to 40 feet long, which is primarily used for ocean freight shipments. For travel to and from ports, containers are loaded onto truck chassis or on railroad flatcars.

Dock Receipt: A document used to accept materials or equipment at an ocean pier or accepted location. Provides the ocean carrier with verification of receipt and the delivering carrier with proof of delivery.

As you can see, there are a lot of terms that although get used on an everyday basis by those involved, may seem confusing when you first hear them. Many of these words date back hundreds of years, their meaning may have evolved over time, and thus the phrasing doesn’t quite line up with today’s usage of the term.

But don’t worry about it too much. Usually, those involved are quite eager to explain what a word or phrase means. In the business of shipping and freight forwarding, the men and women doing the hard work behind the scenes are happy to shine some light onto their daily routine and evoke a sense of awe from people now and again.