Shipping Terminology & Acronyms
by Kevin Funk
In the world of shipping and logistics, there are a bounty of confusing terms and acronyms. But getting your products to your customers shouldn't be rocket science! In the interest of making shipping easy, we've broken down these terms by definition and relevance to help you strengthen the supply chain of your business. Enjoy, and get shipping!
3PL: Third-Party Logistics Partner, A logistics outsourcing firm that can handle a variety of logistics-related requirements, such as inventory management, storage and warehousing, pick/packing, and shipping.
Barcode: A square or rectangular image consisting of a series of parallel black lines, and typically 12 numbers, that can be read by a scanner. Barcodes are applied to products as a means of quick identification.*
*Definition provided by Shopify
(BOL or B/L): Bill of Lading. A BOL is a required document to move a shipment, serving as a binding contract between the party shipping inventory and the party receiving inventory. A BOL lists all products and quantities that the shipping party is sending to the receiving party. For example, the shipper may be an eCommerce company and the receiver of their inventory may be a 3PL, such as EasyPost. The eCommerce company must complete a BOL prior to a shipment's arrival at EasyPost's warehouse.
Carrier: A company that transports goods on behalf of any person or company, whom is responsible for possible loss or damage to those goods during transport. Click here to see a list of 100+ supported by the EasyPost API.
Cargo: the goods or merchandise carried onboard a ship, airplane, or vehicle
Commercial Invoice: A type of invoice required to ship packages internationally. Commercial invoices describe the value of the goods within the shipment, which is crucial for customs agents to properly vet and process incoming international imports. See our Commercial Invoice Guide for more info.
Consolidated Shipping: A method of shipping where a freight forwarder or consolidator combines individual packages from various shippers into one shipment made to a single destination, such as the warehouse of a 3PL. Shippers benefit by receiving preferred rates. Consolidated shipping also optimizes supply chain logistics by saving time and reducing cost for both the freight forwarder or consolidator and the customer/shipper.
Consolidator: A carrier that uses the freight forwarder method to cut time and costs for not just one but multiple legs of a trip and then transfers cost savings from transit to the customer. Time and cost can be further reduced with multiple freight forwarding and consolidation stops that are optimized by zone locations.
Shipping Container: A 20 to 40 ft container used to transport cargo from your manufacturer overseas
Customs: A government agency charged with enforcing rules to protect the country's import and export revenues.* See EasyPost's Customs Guide for information on how to pass the necessary customs information for shipping internationally.
*Wiley Online Library
Customs Invoice: A form requiring all data in a commercial invoice, along with a certificate of value and/or a certificate of origin.*
*Wiley Online Library
Dimensional Weight: aka Dimensional Pricing; A pricing technique for carriers to better reflect the cost of carrying bigger packages, regardless of their weight. Dimensional weight - like almost any other rate - is subject to negotiation based on the volume you push through the carrier. See our blog post on Dimensional Pricing for more information on how dimensional pricing is calculated.
Dock: The location in a transportation terminal or warehouse where shipments are loaded and sent, or unloaded and received.
Drop Shipping: A retail fulfillment method where a store does not keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer.
Freight: Handling units and pieces contained on said handling units. A ‘handling unit' is a carton, pallet, or other bundled or unitized cargo that is individually identified and independently distributed or transported. A ‘piece' refers to the boxes or cartons that are stacked and secured onto a pallet or skid. E.g. If a shipment is comprised of 24 boxes on 1 pallet, then there is 1 handling unit made up of 24 pieces.
FTL Freight: Full truckload freight; a freight shipment that fills an entire truck by volume or weight
Freight Forwarder: A company that combines less-than-truckload (LTL) or less-than-carload (LCL) shipments into carload or truckload lots. Freight forwarders issue bills of lading (BOLs) and the accept responsibility for goods during transport, as a carrier would. This term may also refer to a company that fills railroad trains with trailers.*
Freight Broker: The party that arranges freight on one's behalf. A freight broker, such as EasyPost Freight, is the middleman between the carrier and the owner of goods.
Just-in-Time (JIT): A supply chain strategy where inventory arrives or is produced just in time for the shipment or next process. This strategy can be applied to optimize manufacturing processes by eliminating wasted steps, wasted material, and excess inventory, but requires accurate forecasting to prevent shortages.*
*Definition adapted from Multichannel Merchant's Warehouse Glossary
Kitting: Process in which individually separate but related items are grouped, packaged, and supplied together as one unit.*
LTL Freight: Less than a truckload freight; a freight shipment that fills less than an entire truck by volume or weight.
Manifest: A shipping manifest is a crucial checklist of packages that are ready for pickup by a carrier. A manifest acts as an advance notice of the packages that the driver or carrier agent has to pick up from your premises. Some carriers will require a manifest before their end-of-day pickups. Even if your carrier doesn't, it's still a good idea to manifest your shipments so you can hand the carrier a single form that accounts for all of the shipments being picked up. See our Manifest Guide for more information.
Pallet: A flat transport structure, which supports goods during transportation from a container or truck into a storage facility or warehouse. As pertaining to EasyPpst Fulfillment, items are shipped to our warehouse on pallets. Palletized inventory is often referred to as LTL or "less than truckload."
Parcel: An object or collection of objects wrapped in paper, aka a package, that weighs under 150lbs. See our USPS Package Restrictions Guide for guidance on how big your package can be to ship via USPS.
SKU: Stock Keeping Unit; a unique numerical identifying number that refers to a specific stock item in a retailer's inventory or product catalog. The SKU is often used to identify the product, product size or type, and the manufacturer.*
Transit Time: The duration of time required for a shipment to be transported from a point of origin to a destination
Warehousing: Warehousing refers to the storage of goods in a facility for a specified period of time.
WayBill: A "Waybill" is a non-negotiable document prepared by or on behalf of the carrier at the origin. The document shows the origin point, destination, route, consignor, consignee, shipment description and the amount charged for the transportation service.
We hope this guide to shipping terminology has left you feeling more knowledgeable on the world of shipping! Have further questions? Reach out to us and talk to a shipping expert today.