Do you sometimes feel lost when talking to your supply chain partner because you’re unfamiliar with the terminology they use? Getting into the logistics game comes with its own jargon which can be tricky to learn if you’re just starting out. Knowing the basic logistics terms can help you feel more confident about what you’re doing and what is being done for you. For that reason, we invite you to check out this categorized glossary so you can get clear on ground freight logistics terms:

Types of suppliers and parties involved in the supply chain

3rd Party Logistics (3PL): Shipping suppliers that offer outsourced services such as freight, warehousing, and more. 

Broker: A person or firm that acts as an intermediary between sellers and buyers for a fee or commission. 

Carrier: A transportation company that moves goods from point A to point B by rail, road, sea, air, inland waterway, or multimodal.  

Consignee: Person/company named on the freight contract to whom goods have been consigned or turned over.

Customs: Government authority that regulates the flow of goods to/from a country and collects duties levied by a country on imports and exports. 

Exporter: Business or legal entity that sends goods or services to another country for sale. 

Freight Forwarder: A business that moves shipments for shippers or exporters for a fee. Other services provided can be related to the export of a shipment, from document preparation for shipping, warehousing, delivery and export clearance.

Importer: Business or legal entity that imports or brings goods from another country into a customs territory.  

Shipper: Person or company that needs to move goods from one point to another, and arranges for the shipping to happen, with their own means of transportation or through a broker or carrier company. 

Learn who are the main actors involved in a cross-border shipment here.

Transported goods/products

Commodity: Name for traded goods and products.

Hazardous Materials (HazMat): Products or chemicals that when shipped can be a risk to public safety or the environment. 

Packing & truck loading

Container: A rigid box, usually made of aluminum, used to ship goods by ship, truck or rail. 

Consolidation: Separate shipments that are brought together into one shipment from one location to another, which usually reduces shipping costs. 

Full truck load (FTL): Mode of shipping where a truck carries only one dedicated shipment from one point to another. 

Handling: Term used to describe how products are moved around and handled. This includes moving goods, breaking the packaging and redoing it, changing and checking case sizes, labeling, and stretching. 

Less-than Truckload (LTL): Transportation of relatively small freight that does not require a full truckload. If you want to know the difference between a FTL and an LTL, click here.  

Pallet: A platform used for storing or transporting cargo.

Package: Case made of metal, plastic, carton, or other material to protect the products against external factors, keep them together, and facilitate shipping, warehousing and more. Packaging includes all of the protective equipment used for safe shipping.

Seal: Locking system placed after the truck has been loaded and then cleared of customs to show that it has not been opened without permission.

Transfer: Process of unloading a truck’s load and loading it onto another.

Truck Load (TL): Shipment loaded to a truck's maximum capacity whether by bulk or maximum weight.


To know about types of trucks, click here


Density: Weight per cubic foot of a shipment of cargo, determined by multiplying the length, width and height of a container and dividing the total by 1728. Density is the cargo capacity often described in terms of 20-foot shipping containers or Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TEU), the standard base measurement for cargo.

Cubic Foot: Volume measurement unit that is equal to 1,728 cubic inches.

Dimensional Weight: Calculated weight based on a minimum density requirement. 

Gross Weight: Full weight of a shipment, which includes containers and packaging. 

Net Weight: Total weight of a shipment excluding the weight of pallets, containers or straps. 

Volumetric Weight: Value for calculating cargo shipping fee by multiplying width, length and height of the cargo such as package, case and parcel, and dividing it by 3,000.


Shipping and warehousing

Border Checkpoint: Country borders to and from which export and/or import trucks enter or leave along their transit routes. 

Capacity: The amount of physical space or equipment available to ship or deliver goods. 

Cargo: Goods, products or items that are transported.

Direct Shipment: Sending the goods directly without storage.

Export: To transport goods from a country to another for sale.

Import: To bring in goods from another country. 

Inventory: Products, materials or supplies stored before production, shipping or selling. 

Lead Time: The planned time from pick-up to delivery.

Loading: The safe loading of goods onto a truck.

Loading Area: Areas such as pallets, platforms, etc on which to place the loads.

Main Route: The best and most frequently used route between origin and destination. Check out Nuvocargo’s main routes here

Shipment: A single transportation of goods from one location to another. 

Storage: Storing a shipment in a warehouse before further transportation, where additional charges may apply. 

Supply Chain: Steps in the life cycle of a product’s design, manufacture, transport and sale.

Transload: Process of transferring freight from one trailer to another during a border crossing. Read about through-trailer vs. transloading here

Warehouse: Dedicated area or space use for the management and storage of goods.

Check out Nuvocargo’s cross-border shipping list here

Documents and regulations

Bill of Lading: Document issued by the carrier to the shipper, with information related to freight receipt, transportation conditions, and delivery date at the prescribed port of destination to the lawful holder of the bill of lading. 

Certificate of Origin: International trading document regarding the origin of the cargo in circulation, including place or country of manufacture.

Commercial Invoice: Document related to the transaction between the seller and the buyer, which includes invoice number, date, shipping date, the mode of transport, delivery and payment terms, description of goods and the quantity. This determines the value of goods for custom duties and documentation.

Customs Clearance: Procedures to get cargo released by Customs, which involves presenting import license/permit, payment of import duties and other required documentation by the nature of the cargo.

Customs Duty: Tax levied and government collection by custom officials of duties that are imposed by law on imports.

Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT): Program aimed to partner with the business community to protect the supply chain and fight against terrorism by securing all goods that are imported into the U.S. You can learn more about C-TPAT here & whether Nuvocargo has this certification here

International Commercial Terms (INCO): Incoterms are rights and responsibilities of each party to a sales contract, published by the International Chamber of Commerce. They clarify the legal possession of cargo transferred from buyer to seller.

Packing List: Document prepared by the shipper that lists the kinds and quantities of goods in a particular cargo. A copy is generally sent to the consignee in order to check the cargo matches the packing list when received.

Proof Of Delivery (POD): Receipt with the signature of the recipient.

Find out more about documents required for ground transportation here. You can also download our export guide to see the full requirements. 

Systems and technology

API: Application Programming Interface or software intermediary that allows two applications to talk to each other.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): ERP generally refers to the software of business processes. This helps track cargo in real time across multiple locations.

Logistics Management: A supply chain process stage that involves effective and efficient planning, implementation and control of forward and backward flow, and warehousing of goods, services and relevant information between manufacturing and consumption points so as to meet customer needs.

Transportation Management System (TMS): A logistics platform that uses technology to help businesses plan, execute, and optimize the physical movement of goods, all the while ensuring the shipment is compliant and that proper documentation is available.


Status updates

Delivery Time: The date and/or time when an item is delivered to the customer.

ETA: Estimated time of arrival of a carrier to a specific point.


Delivery and protocols

Delivery Order: An instruction that allows clearance of the goods stated in the bill of lading in parts. It is also an order for customs clearance of the goods against the bill of lading.

First in First Out (FIFO): Rule that determines that the first cargo to enter the warehouse is first to leave. 

Last-in First-out (LIFO): Rule that sets forth that the last shipment entered leaves first.