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Kevin Funk

Shipping Abbreviations and Terminology You Need to Know

by Kevin Funk
shipping containers on dock

In the world of shipping and logistics, there are a bounty of confusing terms, abbreviations, 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 common shipping abbreviations and terms to help you strengthen the supply chain of your business. Enjoy, and get shipping!

Common Shipping and Freight Abbreviations

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. The ecommerce company must complete a BOL prior to a shipment's arrival at a 3PL warehouse.

D2D: Door to Door

D2D refers to the process of shipping cargo from a pickup location to the dropoff location.

EDI: Electronic Data Interchange

This refers to the communication and the exchange of documents between businesses through technology. This can apply to things like BOL, invoices, tracking information, etc.

ELD Mandate: Electronic Logging Device Mandate

The ELD Mandate requires freight drivers to log their hours electronically.

ETA: Estimated Time of Arrival

ETA refers to the date and time an overseas shipment can be expected to arrive at its port of destination.

ETD: Estimated Time of Departure

ETD refers to the date and time an overseas shipment is estimated to depart from its port of origin.

FAK: Freight of All Kinds

Having a load with freight of all kinds means that a load will have mixed goods and products from various sources. This acronym is important for small and medium businesses because it is most often used to simplify and minimize pricing.

FCL: Full Container Load

A full container load is a load that takes up 100% of the space within a container. If you ship a FCL it means that the container is exclusively full of your merchandise.

FTL Freight: Full truckload freight

A freight shipment that fills an entire truck by volume or weight.

GVW: Gross Vehicle Weight

Gross vehicle weight is the total weight of the transport vehicle and its cargo load.

JIT: Just-in-Time

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

LTL Freight: Less Than a Truckload Freight

A freight shipment that fills less than an entire truck by volume or weight.

NMFC: National Motor Freight Classification

NMFC is the classification of freight defined by the National Motor Freight Association. There are 18 different classifications that differ based on pricing, liability, value, handling, and storage capability.

P2P: Port to Port

P2P refers to the process of shipping cargo from one port to another. This exclusively refers to the time from one port to another and does not include any previous transportation services.

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.* *Webopedia

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.

Common Shipping Terms


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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 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 is the middleman between the carrier and the owner of goods.


Process in which individually separate but related items are grouped, packaged, and supplied together as one unit.


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.


A flat transport structure, which supports goods during transportation from a container or truck into a storage facility or warehouse. Palletized inventory is often referred to as LTL or "less than truckload."


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.

Shipping Container

A 20 to 40 ft container used to transport cargo from your manufacturer overseas.

Transit Time

The duration of time required for a shipment to be transported from a point of origin to a destination.


Warehousing refers to the storage of goods in a facility for a specified period of time.


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 abbreviations and 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.