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Glossary of freight transportation terms

Glossary of terms that you will find in FTR publications, ranging from general terms to equipment types.

General Terms

Annualized Rate

A rate of return for a given period that is less than 1 year, but it is computed as if the rate were for a full year.

 Average Length-Of-Haul

Tonmiles divided by tons.

 Basis Points

A unit that is equal to 1/100 of 1%. If something increased from 2.2% to 2.8%, it increased 60 basis points. If it decreased the following month from 2.8% to 2.6%, it decreased 20 basis points.


Energy Information Administration


Institute for Supply Management


The difference in percentage or units when compared to the previous month.

Rail Carloads

Rail carloads is the seasonally adjusted number of carloadings originated in the United States plus loads that come to U.S. destinations from Mexico and Canada. Data in this report excludes intermodal loadings.


Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate


Standard Transportation Commodity Code (Similar to the SIC/ NAICS Codes with a few added categories designed for transportation movements)


Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit. Used for reported port container statistics.


Ton Originated by specific mode (i.e. one ton of coal shipped by rail and then by water would be shown as two tons of coal). This is Domestic Traffic Only. Export movements are included only as far as the border or to a port in which it will be directly exported. The same is true for Imports. An import is counted once it reaches the border or a port.


One ton moved one mile = one tonmile.


The difference in percentage or units when compared to the same month, quarter, or time period of the previous year.


 Dry Van

An enclosed, rectangular, box trailer that carries general (dry) freight.


A trailer with an open-top box (bucket) used for hauling dirt, rocks or gravel. Discharge can be from end, bottom, or side.

 Flatbed (Platform)

A flat-surfaced, open, trailer with no enclosure or doors.

 Lowbed (Drop Deck)

A flatbed trailer with a lowered deck when load height is important.

 Refrigerated (Reefer) Van

A refrigerated and insulated van used to transport temperature-sensitive freight.

 Tank (Tanker)

A trailer with an enclosed, sealed, cylinder-shaped, tank used to carry liquid or dry bulk freight.


There is a wide assortment of specialized trailers that are highly engineered for specific purposes (i.e. auto hauler, livestock, oversized)


 Box Cars

An enclosed car that has doors. It is used for general service and especially for lading which must be protected from the weather.

 Covered Hoppers

A hopper car with a permanent roof and bottom openings for unloading. Used for carrying cement, grain, or other bulk commodities.

 Flat Cars

An open car without sides, ends or top, used principally for hauling lumber, stone, heavy machinery, TOFC/COFC equipment, etc.


A car without a top covering which has straight sides and ends, the floor or bottom of which is approximately level. Used for bulk freight.

 Open-Top Hoppers

Cars having sides and ends but no roof with a sloping floor which will discharge its load by gravity through the hopper doors.

 Tank Cars

A car which consists of a tank for carrying liquids such as oil, molasses, vinegar, acids, compressed gasses, and granular solids.


 Revenue Moves

Rail Intermodal Loadings of Units Originated. Intermodal is defined as a movement of a container or trailer via more than one mode of transportation (i.e. rail + truck or ship + rail or ship + truck). This data tracks intermodal movements that involve the rail mode. Such movements may involve the movement of International and Domestic Containers as well as Trailers via rail.


Counts intermodal rail revenue movements, defined as any movement of a container or trailer, whether loaded or empty, that generates revenue for the railroad. Empty movements of rail-owned containers and trailers typically do not generate rail revenue and therefore are not captured in the data. A revenue movement typically encompasses the entire journey from when the container or trailer is placed on the rail at the originating intermodal terminal to where it is removed from the railcar at the terminating intermodal terminal and may involve movement over more than one railroad. Long-haul movements passing through rail gateways, such as Chicago, that involve highway transfer between terminals will generally be counted as two separate movements unless traveling on a through bill of lading.

Intermodal Market Segments

These figures track the movement of equipment, not freight. Domestic freight being moved in 20', 40', or 45' containers will be counted as INTERNATIONAL. International cargo transloaded into Domestic Containers or trailers is counted as DOMESTIC.

    • International

Includes movements of Containers of the following lengths only: 20', 40', and 45'.

    • Domestic

Includes movements of Trailers and all other Containers not included in International movements. Trailers of the following lengths: 20', 28', 40', 45', 48', 53'+. Containers of the following lengths: 48', 53'+. Reported movements of 28' containers are converted to 28' trailers, as all 28' containers are reportedly permanently mounted on chassis and moving as trailers.

 Long Haul Market Share

Average Length of Haul 550 miles or longer. Designated by Commodity at the 3-Digit STCC level.