5 Common Freight Shipping Terms You Should Know

5 Key Freight Shipping Terms You Should Know

Posted on:
Jun 17, 2020

For individual shippers and small businesses, freight shipping terms can be confusing. There is a huge variety of different words and abbreviations, and it’s hard to memorize them all. Of course, you could probably manage to get by without knowing these terms, but that could lead to a variety of mix-ups. These could cost you more money, or even lead to the mishandling of your package.

If you are shipping freight, there are a few key terms you should know. Being aware of the correct meaning of these freight shipping terms will help you navigate the industry and avoid shipping mistakes. Keep on reading to learn more about these essential freight shipping terms!

What Is Freight Shipping?

First things first: what is freight shipping? Freight shipping is the transport of items (aka freight), which are usually products being sold by a business. These items are shipped by land, air, or sea. Some common modes of freight shipping include trucks, ships, planes, and trains. 

5 Freight Shipping Terms You Should Know

Now that you know what freight shipping is, it’s time to get to know some key freight shipping terms!

The most important freight shipping terms include:

  • Bill of Lading (BOL)
  • Freight Class
  • Delivery Appointment
  • Freight Insurance

Read on to find out what each term means!

Bill of Lading

The bill of lading, or BOL, is the most important document in freight shipping. It is the main contract between the shipper and the carrier that outlines all the arrangements, terms and conditions, addresses, and other additional information about your freight shipment. This is a legally binding document, which means that whatever is detailed in the BOL is the fact – as far as the law is concerned.

Having a contract for any service is normal, but many people don’t pay enough attention to the BOL. If the BOL doesn’t have the correct information, then that means the freight shipping service doesn’t owe you anything if they make a mistake. This could lead to your package being delivered to the wrong address, which you would then have to rectify by paying for more shipping to the correct address. Therefore, it is crucial to correctly fill in your BOL in order to avoid extra charges or other issues.


There are two primary shipping modes in trucking: less-than-truckload (LTL) and full truckload (FTL). There are many differences between these two modes, but the main one is that in LTL shipping, you only use a part of a trailer’s space, while in full truckload your freight takes the entire capacity. LTL and FTL also have different pricing mechanisms because, in less-than-truckload shipping, the rate defines by the shipment’s destiny.

Think of it this way: with LTL shipping, a single truck is able to deliver for several customers all sharing the same trailer for their freight. However, with FTL shipping, a single truck can only fulfill freight shipping for a single paying customer. LTL is much more efficient for the freight carrier, which is why it is typically the cheaper option.

Freight Class

If you are going to ship LTL, freight class should be an essential term in your glossary. A freight class is a specific code assigned to the shipment. There are 18 classes, from 50 to 500, created by the NMFTA (National Motor Freight Trucking Association). This code is mostly defined by a shipment’s density, which means the less dense your freight is, the more it will cost to ship it.

A freight class is also defined by a shipment’s stowability, handling, and liability. Stowability refers to how easy it is to organize your freight. For example, freight in small boxes are more stowable than large or irregularly shaped packages. Handling refers to how fragile an item is, as well as how securely it is packaged. The more difficult it is to handle an item, the more expensive the shipping rate will be.

Finally, liability refers to how perishable or tempting an item is. If an item needs more effort to keep fresh or safe from thieves, the more expensive the shipping rate will be.

Delivery Appointment

A delivery appointment is an additional service in LTL shipping, which means there is a specific time set up with the consignee to meet and deliver freight. Since it is an additional service, you will have to pay for it. Keep in mind that this is an appointment, so you are expected to pick up the freight on time. If you are late to the appointment, there may be extra fees. 

Freight Insurance

Freight insurance is an important document that is purchased to protect your goods and cover their value in case of shipment loss or damage. Be careful not to confuse the term freight insurance with carrier liability. Carrier liability usually comes with a limit and you can not receive a refund for the full cost of shipment.

The amount of coverage provided depends on the kind of freight insurance you purchase. Many freight carriers offer flat fees no matter what you are shipping. Others offer fees that depend on the weight or value of what you ship. In general, it’s best to buy freight insurance from an independent third party. These often provide insurance for the full value of your freight, and they take care of all the legalities if your shipment is damaged or lost. Of course, insurance isn’t necessary. But if you’re paying a lot for the item and its shipping, it’s best to protect your investment through insurance. 

How Do You Handle Freight Shipping?

Now that you know the five key freight shipping terms, you should be able to understand what kind of freight shipping you need – whether it’s for shipping your products or for shipping belongings to your new home. But what about actually finding a freight carrier? Finding the right freight shipping service can be difficult, especially if you have no previous experience.

In general, the easiest way to handle freight shipping is to use a freight marketplace like GoShip. A freight marketplace is basically a platform where you can view multiple freight carriers all at once. This way, you can search and filter the marketplace for the kind of service you want.

GoShip also allows you to automatically compare price quotes from different freight carriers that meet your requirements. Instead of searching for hours, you can find the right freight shipping service in just a few minutes!
Visit GoShip.com now and get an instant online quotation for your freight needs!

Written by: