Transportation Glossary

Terms and abbreviations used in transportation industry. Check them if you require a bit of help with terminology.

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Transportation Glossary

Choose the desired letter to see the term definition

Glossary | Letter A

Air Way-Bill

A bill of lading (see bill of lading) that covers both domestic and international flights transporting goods to a specified destination. This is a non-negotiable instrument of air transport that serves as a receipt for the shipper, indicating that the carrier has accepted the goods listed and obligates itself to carry the consignment to the airport of destination according to specified conditions.

Arrival Notice

Notice sent by the freight forwarder or carrier to the notify party advising of the arrival of a shipment.

Glossary | Letter B


Bunker Adjustment Factor or commonly known as Fuel Surcharge.

Bill of Lading

Document that establishes the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company under which freight is to be moved between specified points for a specified charge. This document is usually prepared by the shipper or their freight forwarder on approved forms issued by the carrier. It also serves as a document of title, a contract of carriage, and a receipt for goods. Additional references are Air Waybills / Ocean Bill of Lading / Through Bill of Lading.


Loose cargo, such as cartons, stowed directly in the ship’s hold as opposed to containerized or bulk cargo.

Glossary | Letter C

Certificate of Origin

A specified document, required by certain foreign countries for tariff purposes, certifying the country of origin of the merchandise. Sometimes requires the signature of the consul of the country to which it is destined.

Commercial Invoice

A statement of transaction between a seller and buyer prepared by the seller which details the description of the parties, merchandise, price, terms, and other relevant information.
Cost Insurance and Freight
Seller must pay the costs and freight necessary to bring the goods to the named port of destination but the risk of loss of or damage to the goods, as well as any additional costs due to events occurring after the time of delivery, are transferred from the seller to the buyer. The seller is also responsible for marine insurance.


Item of equipment as defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for transport purposes. It must be of: a) a permanent character and accordingly strong enough to be suitable for repeated use; b) specially designed to facilitate the carriage of goods, by one or more modes of transport without intermediate reloading; c) fitted with devices permitting its ready handling, particularly from one mode of transport to another; d) so designed as to be easy to fill and empty; e) having an internal volume of 1 m3 or more. The term container includes neither vehicles nor conventional packing.

Container Freight Station (CFS)

This term at the port of loading refers to the location designated by carriers for the receiving of cargo to be packed into containers by the carrier or its agents. At discharge ports, the term CFS refers to the location designated by carriers in the port area for unpacking and delivery of cargo.

Glossary | Letter D

Dangerous Goods

Goods are to be considered dangerous if the transportation of such goods may cause harm, risk, peril, or other evil to people, environment, equipment or any property whatsoever.

Delivered Duty Paid

Seller delivers the goods to the buyer, cleared for import and not unloaded from any arriving means of transport at the named place of destination. This represents the maximum obligation.


A fee that is imposed for exceeding the ‘free’ time allowed for the use of certain equipment. This ‘free’ time varies and is subject to change.


Trucking/Container Hauling and transportation.

Glossary | Letter E

Export Declaration

A form required for all shipments in the country of origin indicating the value, weight, destination, and other basic information about an export shipment.

EX Works (EXW)

Seller delivers when he places the goods at the disposal of the buyer at the seller’s premises or another named place (ie. works, factory, warehouse, etc.) not cleared for export and not loaded. This represents the minimum obligation.

Glossary | Letter F

Force Majeure

This is a standard clause in marine contracts exempting the parties (specifically the carrier and their agents) for non-fulfillment of their obligations as a result of conditions beyond their control, such as labour disruptions, earthquakes, floods, acts of God, terrorism and war.

Free On Board (FOB)

Seller delivers when the goods are loaded onto a transportation mode (ie. ship, car, truck, aircraft).

Glossary | Letter G

Gross Weight

Total weight of equipment including cargo (in kilograms and/or pounds).

Glossary | Letter H

House Bill Of Lading

Bill of lading issued by a ship’s broker or agent or freight forwarder. This bill of lading is almost the same as a carrier issued bill of lading.

Glossary | Letter I

IATA Agent

Agent approved by IATA and registered in the IATA Cargo Agency List. This enables the agent, upon authorization of the IATA carrier, to receive shipments, to execute Air Waybills and to collect charges for air cargo.

Intermodal Transportation

A shipment utilizing more than one mode of transport – i.e., a shipment moving in container by water and then truck.

Glossary | Letter J

Just In Time (JIT)

A method of inventory control that brings stock into the production process, warehouse or to the customer just-in-time to be used, thus reducing stockpiling. The movement of material/goods to the required place at the required time. Each operation is closely synchronized with the subsequent ones to make this possible.

Glossary | Letter K


Longitudinal girder at the lowest point of a vessel from which the framework is built.

Glossary | Letter L

Letter of Credit

Method of payment between buyer and seller. The buyer opens a Letter of Credit in favor of the seller at their local bank by depositing the amount of the purchase price and dictating certain documents which the seller must present in order to obtain a payment. The Letter of Credit will be sent to a bank in the vicinity of the seller and upon presentation of the documents called for, the local bank will release payment.

Glossary | Letter M


Document which lists the specifications of goods loaded in a means of transport or equipment for transportation purposes. As a rule cargo manifests are drawn up by the agents in the place of loading. Note: For shipping, a manifest represents an accumulation of Bills of Lading for official and administrative purposes.

Glossary | Letter N

Net Weight

Weight of the goods, excluding all packing.

Glossary | Letter O

Ocean Bill of Lading

Bill of Lading (B/L) issued by the actual shipping line or carrier

Glossary | Letter P


A low portable platform, usually wooden, on which cargo is stacked for storage or transportation; aka skid.

Phytosanitary Certificate

A certificate, issued by the appropriate government agency (in Canada, this would be the Canadian Food Inspection Agency) to satisfy import regulations for foreign countries, indicating that a shipment has been inspected and is free from harmful pests and plant diseases.

Port of Discharge

Port where the cargo is discharged from the ocean- going vessel. This may or may not be the final destination.

Pro Forma Invoice

An invoice provided by a supplier prior to the shipment of merchandise, informing the buyer of the kinds and quantities of goods to be sent, their value, and important specifications (weight, size, etc.).

Glossary | Letter Q


An offer to sell goods and/or services at a stated price and under specified conditions.

Glossary | Letter R


A reference to refrigerated cargo-handling services utilising trucks, trailers, containers or railcars equipped with cooling units that can be plugged in or run off a generator set to cool cargo inside to a certain temperature and maintain that for indefinite periods of time.

Roll on Roll off (RO/RO)

Type of vessel where loading and discharging cargo is driven on and off by means of a ramp.

Glossary | Letter S


Note on a bill of lading indicating that the contents of a container were loaded and counted by the shipper and not checked or verified by the freight forwarder nor vessel carrier.

Sea Waybill

Non negotiable document, which can only be made out to a named consignee. No surrender of the document by the consignee is required.

Glossary | Letter T

Tare Weight of Container

Weight of an empty container including all fittings and appliances associated with that particular type of container in its normal operating condition.

TEU (Twenty foot equivalent unit)

A measure of volume or capacity based on the standard dimensions of a 20-ft cargo-carrying container; a 40-ft container provides for the same volume or capacity as two 20-ft containers (2 TEUs).

Glossary | Letter U

Unit Load Device (ULD)

1. Any type of container or pallet, in which a consignment can be transported by air whether or not such a container is considered aircraft equipment.
2. Any type of air freight container, aircraft container, aircraft pallet with a net or aircraft pallet with a net over an igloo.

Glossary | Letter V

Volumetric Weight

Volumetric weight measurement is based on the volume of a package and is used when the space a package takes on an mode of transportation costs more than the package’s actual weight. This method is used frequently in aircraft and trucks.

Glossary | Letter W


Non-negotiable document evidencing the contract for the transport of cargo.

Glossary | Letter X


High-frequency electromagnetic ray of short wave-length, capable of penetrating most solid substances.

Glossary | Letter Y

Yield Management

Process of maximizing the contribution of every slot, vessel, trade and network.

Glossary | Letter Z


Area, belt or district extending about a certain point defined for transport and/or charge purpose.

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