Intermodal Glossary



AAR (Association of American Railroads)
The central coordinating and research agency of the American railway industry. This agency deals with matters of common concern in the whole field of railroading from operations to public relations.

Accessorial Charges
Charges for a wide variety of services and privileges that are made available in connection with the transportation of goods. Includes all charges other than freight charges.

Air Problems
Any issues associated with the train line or air brake system, including leaking gasket, frozen or blocked train line, stuck triple valve.

Availability Time
The time equipment is grounded and available for pick-up by the customer.


Back Haul
Traffic for the return movement of a car or container towards the point where the initial load originated or to handle a shipment in the direction of the light flow of traffic.

Bad Order
A freight car loaded improperly, mechanically defective, or has safety violations.

Beneficial Owner
The actual owner of the lading that is being shipped. The IMC negotiates transportation services and rates on behalf of the beneficial owner.

Billing Carrier (Bill Road)
The carrier performing the first line haul service of the movement. This carrier is responsible for preparing the waybill document and transmitting the information to any following carriers.

Bill of Lading
A shipping form which is both a receipt for property and a contract for delivery of goods by a carrier. The principal bills of lading are:

  • Straight A non-negotiable document. Surrender of the original is not required upon delivery of the freight unless necessary to identify consignee.
  • Order A negotiable document. Surrender of the original property endorsed is required by transportation lines upon delivery of the freight, in accordance with its terms.
  • Clean Either a Straight or Order Bill of Lading in which the transportation company acknowledges receipt of the property without noting any exceptions as to shortage or damage to the property received.
  • Exchange A bill of lading which is given in exchange for another.
  • Export One given to cover a shipment consigned to some foreign country.
  • Government A special form of bill of lading which is used in making shipments for the account of the United States Government.

A group of rail cars destined to the same location.

Blocking or Bracing
Wood or metal or other approved supports to keep shipments in place in or on rail cars, containers and trailers.

Blume Global
An independent agent that handles all reservations and billing functions for EMP customers with a centralized system to manage assets through the internet. Blume Global also handles UP trailer reservations for selected points.

Motor Carrier slang indicating a non-revenue movement without a trailer or container attached.

A frame with wheels on which a container is mounted for street or highway transport. Commonly referred to as a chassis.

Bonded Warehouse
A warehouse owned by persons approved by the Treasury Department, an under bond or guarantee for the strict observance of the revenue laws; utilized for storing goods until duties are paid or goods are otherwise properly released.

Bridge Move
A railroad movement involving at least three roadhaul carriers at which the IP is neither the first or last carrier.

An individual who acts as an agent for a customer, who is attempting to route a car to a customer in Mexico or Canada. Equipment destined to a locale in Mexico is billed only to the border. At that time a broker, in cooperation with a broker in Mexico, prepares the proper paperwork which allows the car to cross the border and proceed to its destination.

Motor vehicles, equipped with Hy-Rail attachments enabling them to ride on rails, operated by engineering employees patrolling track in the Feather River Canyon during rain or snow. They look for slides, washouts and any unsafe track condition. Broncos operate just one mile ahead of trains under special rules and do not use track and time.



Car Location Message (CLM)
That part of the fleet system which deals with providing the fleet operator with information on car movement data for all cars in the fleet (see fleet). This information comes in the form of a periodic (usually daily, sometimes hourly) message or report which contains the latest movement data on all cars from the fleets that are on our lines. This message follows an industrywide standard format that enables shippers who use railroads across the U.S. and Canada to use this information for updating their own computer systems.

Car Scheduling
A system of assigning a "trip plan" that is based primarily on waybill data. Cars are scheduled to the first available train that may carry the specific type of traffic into which they are categorized.

Pick up or delivery of freight within commercial zone of a city by local carrier acting as agent for a shipper or over-the-rail carrier.

A rubber-tired trailer under-frame on which a container is mounted for street or highway transport.

Circus Ramp
Stationary or portable end loading/unloading ramp which requires a truck tractor to drive a trailer onto or off of rail flatcars.

A demand, supported by evidence, to show that the claimant has sustained a loss through the negligence of a carrier. The principal kinds are:

  • Damage Claim due to physical injury to shipment or because shipment was not delivered within a reasonable time.
  • Loss Claim due to failure to deliver goods.
  • Overcharge Claims when more than the legally published charges were collected.
  • Reparation Claims for a refund of charges which, while in accordance with legally published tariffs, are unreasonable or unjust and the carrier has since published the lower reasonable rate.

The limiting dimensions of a rail shipment that would allow/prevent its clearing of tunnels and bridges.

COFC (container on flatcar)
The movement of a container on a railroad flatcar. This movement is made without the container being mounted on a chassis.

Common Carrier
A transportation line engaged in the business of handling persons or goods for compensation and for all persons impartially.

Connecting Carrier
A carrier that has a direct physical connection with another or forming a connecting link between two or more carriers.

The individual or organization to which freight is shipped. Freight is shipped by the consignor to the consignee.

The individual or organization shipping freight to a consignee.

A receptacle that resembles a truck trailer without wheel (chassis) that is lifted onto flatcars. Containers are designed for all modes of intermodal transport. Most containers are 20-, 45-, 48- or 53-feet in length.

Container Yard
A yard used for storage of containers when not in use. Container yards can be railroad or privately owned.

Conventional Car
A single platform flat car designed to carry a trailer or container. Containers can only be single stacked on a conventional car. Conventional cars are equipped with one or two stanctions, depending on length, for shipment of one or two trailers.

A large machine that straddles the railroad track for the purpose of loading and loading containers and trailers to and from rail cars.

Crews Are Tight
Sufficient crews are available, but rest issues may cause delays to calls.

Crews Are Short
Not enough crews are available to protect scheduled outbounds and any deadheads/dogcatch events.

When a drayman or railroad delivers a container or trailer from one railroad to another for continuance of the move.

Customs Broker
A company or individual licensed by the Treasury Department to act on behalf of importers/exporters in handling U.S. customs transactions.

Cut-Off Time
The time a container or trailer must be ingated at the terminal to meet a scheduled train loading for departure.


Dead Head
When a drayage firm is required to move empty equipment a long distance to pick up a load. Movement of a crew from one point to another or to a train by vehicle transportation or by train.

Dedicated Train
A train that by design transports a dedicated commodity or type of cars. In the case of intermodal, intermodal trains only carry trailers and/or containers.

A charge made on trailers/containers held by or for a consignor/consignee for loading or unloading, forwarding directions or any other purpose.

Displacement Light
The weight of a vessel without cargo, fuel or stores.

A change made in the route of a shipment in transit.

The amount of revenue apportioned to each rail carrier participating in a given route, where the customer is invoiced on a through-rate basis.

A movement of lading from the customers front door (dock) to the receivers front door (dock).

A movement of lading from the customers front door (dock) to the destination intermodal ramp closest to the receiver.

The movement of containers on articulated rail cars which enable the one container to be stacked on another container for better ride quality and car utilization.

The movement of a container or trailer to or from the railroad intermodal terminal to or from the customer's facility for loading or unloading.

A person employed to pick up or drop off a container or trailer at an intermodal terminal.

Driver Assist
When a drayman is required to assist in the loading/unloading of a container or trailer.

Drop & Pull
Drayman drops loaded or unloaded unit at shipper or receiver and hooks up to unit which was previously dropped and returns it to the ramp.

Dry Run
When a drayman goes to a ramp to pick up a container and for some reason leaves without one.

The material used to protect or support freight in containers or trailers.



EDI (Electronic Data Interchange)
The process of sending and retrieving information electronically, i.e. bills of lading, freight bills, etc.

To resist or prohibit the acceptance and handling of freight. An embargo may be caused by acts of God such as tornadoes, floods, inclement weather, congestion, etc.

A domestic interline container service offered by Union Pacific and Norfolk Southern. Also included in the program are agent railroads such as I&M Rail Link, Iowa Interstate, Wisconsin Central and Kansas City Southern. EMP provides a fleet of nearly 25,000 48' and 53' domestic containers and chassis that may move throughout a large network.

For EMP specific terms, see the EMP Glossary

En Route
In transit to destination.

Extra Board
Unassigned engineers or trainmen used to protect vacancies or make up extra crews as needed to protect higher traffic levels.


Freight of All Kinds

A freight car having a floor without any housing or body above. Frequently used to carry containers and/or trailers or oversized/odd-shaped commodities. The three types of flatcars used in intermodal are conventional, spine and stack cars.

When a container is picked up off of the ground and mounted on a chassis for street or highway transport.

Flip Charges
Charges assessed to a shipper when the railroad is required to provide an unnecessary or extra flip. An example of this is when a private container is grounded off of a train and no chassis is available at that time. A flip charge is assessed because a flip is required at a time after the train is unloaded.

Foreign Equipment
Any car not belonging to the particular railway on which it is running.

Foreign Carrier
A term used by a carrier in making references to all other carriers collectively.

Federal Railroad Administration - The FRA deals specifically with transportation policy as it affects the nation's railroads and is responsible for enforcement of rail safety laws.

Free Time
The period allowed the owner to accept delivery before storage or detention charges begin to accrue.

Freight Bill
Statements containing commodity and payment information.

Freight Forwarder
One who assembles small shipments into one large shipment which then is tendered to a regulated over the road carrier. Upon reaching destination, the shipment is separated into small shipments and delivered.


A point at an intermodal terminal where a clerk checks in and out all containers and trailer. All reservations and paperwork are checked at the gatehouse.

A structure at the gate where a clerk inspects and clears the entrance and exit of all containers and trailers.

A point through which freight commonly moves from one territory or carrier to another.



A legal agreement between two rail partners. The owner of the agreement is referred to as the 'Haulage Rights Carrier.' The other partner is referred to as the 'Haulage Movement Carrier.' With this agreement, the 'rights carrier' requests the 'movement carrier' to move equipment over an agreed segment of track, but to outside parties it appears as if the 'rights carrier' is doing the work.

Hazardous Material (Haz Mat)
Substance or combination their of which, because of its quantity, concentration, physical or chemical characteristics, may cause or significantly pose a substantial hazard to human health or the environment when improperly packaged, stored, transported or otherwise managed.

Rail or truck term used to define the highest revenue generating shipping lane from shipper to receiver.


Interstate Commerce Commission, a federal regulatory agency that governed over the rules and regulations of the railroading industry. The ICC Termination Act of 1995 ended this regulatory agency. Most responsibilities were transferred to the Surface Transportation Board.

When lading clears customs at the ultimate destination instead of at the border.

The process of checking a container or trailer into the intermodal facility. The ingate process includes inspection of the unit, reservation confirmation, the input of data into Union Pacific's computer system and the filling out of the J-1.

Inland Carrier
A transportation company which hauls export or import traffic between ports and inland points.

The exchange of rail cars between connecting railroads.

Interchange Agreement
Agreement between a railroad and a drayage company that allows a specific drayage company to drop off or pick up railroad or private intermodal equipment at the said railroad's facilities. Also known as an Equipment Interchange Agreement.

lnterline Freight
Freight moving from point of origin to destination over two or more transportation lines.

Transport of freight by two or modes of transportation. Examples are: ship-rail, rail-truck.

Intermodal Terminal
A railroad facility designed for the loading and unloading of containers and trailers to and from flat cars for movement on the railroad and subsequent movement on the street or highway.

Intermodal Marketing Company (IMC)
IMCs purchase rail and truck transportation services, utilize equipment from multiple sources, and provide other value-added services under a single freight bill to the ultimate shipper.

Intermodal Association of North America (IANA)
An industry trade association representing the combined interests of intermodal freight transportation companies.

IPI (Interior Point Intermodal)
Imported traffic movement from an origin port to an inland point on an ocean bill of lading.


A report filled out during the ingate and outgate process. The J-1 details damage to the unit, container information, shipping information, drayman involved and time of ingate/outgate.



That which constitutes a load. The freight in or on a rail car, container or trailer.

Containerized marine traffic that is routed via rail across the United States on traffic between the Far East and Europe/Canada in lieu of all water routes.

Landing Gear
Moveable metal legs on the front of a semi-trailer which support the trailer when not connected to a tractor.

The process of moving a container or trailer to and or from a rail car.

Live Load
When a drayman stays with a container or trailer while being loaded or unloaded.

Load Shift
The term when the contents of a container or trailer are shifted inside the unit sometime after it leaves the actual origin and before it arrives at the final destination.

Local Move
A railroad movement in which only one road haul carrier participates. The one carrier serves both the origin and destination station.

LTL (Less Than Truckload)
A shipment that would not by itself fill the truck to capacity by weight or volume.

A person hired to help unload a container or trailer instead of using the driver.


Maintenance of Way
The process of maintaining roadbed (rail, ties, ballast, bridges etc.) These materials are hauled in special maintenance of way cars, which also include cars that are equipped with heavy equipment, such as cranes and tie replacing machines.

Mexico Crossings
Number of cars delivered/received on a daily basis between Union Pacific and Mexican railways at border points, such as Laredo, Texas.

Imported traffic movement from an origin port to a destination port on an ocean bill of lading via land transportation.


Notify Party
The party that is notified at the time a container or trailer is grounded from a train. Most notify parties are draymen.


Ocean Bill of Lading
Receipt and contract of carriage with a steamship company movement of goods between ports.

Off Junction
Location where interchange to another carrier takes place.

OTR (Over the Road)
Refers to movement of a truck over the road instead of an intermodal movement.

The process of checking a container or trailer out of an intermodal facility. The outgate process includes inspection of the unit, input of data into Union Pacific's computer system and the filling out of the J-1.

OutReach Program
A rail-truck or truck-rail movement in which Union Pacific has combined the rail and drayage into a single transportation package for EMP and SPDU containers. Containers are shipped via rail from one terminal to another. After that, a contracted drayage firm drays the container to the paper ramp operators lot for customer pickup. The process also works reverse as well, shipment can originate with the truck movement and then move to the rail portion of the movement. Also referred to as the OutReach Program.

Overhead Shipment
A railroad movement involving at least three railroad carriers at which UP is neither the first nor the last carrier.



A moveable piece of heavy machinery used to lift rail containers or trailers on/off railroad flatcars at an intermodal facility. Also known as a piggybacker.

Packing List
A detailed specification as to goods packed into a container or trailer.

An area within a parking lot or intermodal terminal designated for a particular type of container or trailer, such as loaded outbound.

A wooden, paper or plastic platform usually with a top and bottom, on which packaged goods are placed to facilitate movement by some type of freight handling equipment.

Paper Ramp
A rail-truck or truck-rail movement in which Union Pacific has combined the rail and drayage into a single transportation package for EMP and SPDU containers. Containers are shipped via rail from one terminal to another. After that, a contracted drayage firm drays the container to the paper ramp operators lot for customer pickup. The process also works reverse as well, shipment can originate with the truck movement and then move to the rail portion of the movement. Also referred to as the OutReach Program.

Per Diem
Charge based on a fixed rate per day which a carrier makes against another carrier or customer for use of its containers or trailers.

Pickup Number
A secure number provided to parties listed on the waybill. It allows only those parties to receive a container in order to outgate from our ramp facilties.

Transportation of a highway trailer on a railroad flatcar.

A railroad term for trailers loaded on flatcars.

A sign affixed to a rail car or truck, which indicates the hazardous designation of the product being transported in that vehicle.

An assigned group of containers, trailers or cars used to satisfy the transportation requirements of a customer.

Port Charge
A charge for services rendered at ports.

Port Mark
A term used in foreign shipping which denotes final destination – not the port of entry unless such port is the final destination.

Port of Entry
A port at which foreign goods are admitted into the receiving country. Ports of entry are officially designated by the government.

Power Short
Means there is not enough power coming into the terminal to protect the scheduled outbound departures.

Premium Service
Highest level of service available on the railroad.

Private Equipment
Equipment whose ownership is vested in a person or company that is not engaged in the service of common carriage.

Proportional Price
Price from or to an intermediate point. Rate is to be used in combination with another carrier's proportional rate to make an interline rate.

A 28' trailer, used mostly in less-than-truckload business.


Slang word for an intermodal terminal. Ramps were originally structures, permanent or temporary, from which trailers or machinery are driven onto or off of a railroad flatcar.

A movement of lading from the intermodal ramp closest to the customer to the receivers from door (dock).

A movement of lading from the intermodal ramp closest to the customer to the closest intermodal ramp to the receiver.

RCAF (Rail Cost Adjustment Factor)
An index published quarterly by the AAR showing the average change in railroad costs.


  • Any change, other than a change in route, made in a consignment before the arrival of goods at their billed destination.
  • Any change made in a consignment after the arrival of goods at their billed destination. When the change is accomplished under conditions which make it subject to the reconsignment rules and charges of the carrier.

Crew used to bring a train into a terminal when the original crew has insufficient time to complete the trip and a second crew is necessary.

Relay Power
Changing out a train's locomotives to correct a situation, such as bad order engines or wrong type/class of units for service.

Revenue Empty
Movement of an empty container or trailer that generates revenue for the railroad. Done for repositioning purposes.

Reverse Route
The exact reverse of the route a loaded car traveled from its destination, including all carriers and junctions involved.

Rubber Wheel Interchange
Containers or trailers that are interchanged between two railroads by means of drayage.

Rule 11
A railroad accounting term which refers to a customer shipping their freight "pre-paid" to an intermediate point and "collect" beyond that intermediate point to the final destination.

A train which originates on a different railroad that it terminates and does not get reclassified at interchange but rather "runs-through" to a point on the second railroad before the train is broken up.



SCQ (Specific Commodity Quote)
A private contract issued to Union Pacific Intermodal customers that lists rates for specific origin and destination pairs. Also includes restrictions and provisions for the application of those rates.

A device for fastening or locking the doors of a rail car, container or trailer. This is done for security and integrity of the shipment.

Sidings Blocked
Auxiliary tracks normally used to meet/pass trains now used to hold trains/cuts of cars spacing/staging for terminals.

The elongation which occurs between railcar couplers because of their spring-loaded design.

Slot Utilization
The method of utilizing every space available on a double-stack car. A slot includes the space above a container when another container can be double-stacked. A five platform double-stack car has 10 slots available for loading. If all 10 slots are loaded, you have 100% slot utilization.

Spine Car
A light weight articulated car that is a assembled in permanent consists of three or five platforms. Spine cars carry containers or trailers in single stack configuration.

Stack Car
An intermodal flatcar that was specifically designed to place one container on top of another better utilization and economics. Also referred to as a well car because the cars are depressed in the center to allow clearance of the double stacked containers when moving under low-lying structures.

The hitches used to support the nose end of trailers when they are mounted on a flatcar. There are two types of stanchions: collapsible and fixed.

STCC (Standard Transportation Commodity Codes)
The STCC system is a 7-digit coding structure designed to classify all commodities or articles which move or may move in freight transportation.

Steel Wheel Interchange
Containers or trailers that are interchanged between two railroads while on the railroad flatcar.

Storage Charge
A charge assigned to the shipper or consignee for holding containers or trailers at an intermodal terminal beyond the free time allotted to them.

Street Time
The time a container or trailer is away from the possession of the railroad.

System Equipment
Equipment owned or leased by a railroad. Each railroad considers their own equipment as system equipment.


Tare Weight

  • The weight of a container and the material used for packing.
  • As applied to a car/trailer, the weight of the car/trailer exclusive of its contents.

A legal listing of rates used when moving regulated traffic by rail.

Through Rate
A rate applicable from origin to destination over two or more rail carriers.

Tight on Power
Power is adequate to protect departures, but some delays may occur due to late arrival and servicing of locomotives.

To Go "In the Hole"
When at the meeting point of opposing trains, one train "holds the main," the other "takes the hole" in a siding.

Terminal Is Current
No trains holding, switching is current, no delays expected to traffic, resources are adequate to protect operations.

TOFC (trailer on flatcar)
A rail trailer or container mounted on a chassis that is transported on a rail car. Also known as piggyback.

A rectangular shaped box with permanent wheels attached for the transport of goods on rail, highway or a combination of both.

To physically transfer product from one transportation vehicle to another.


Undesired emergency, when air pressure contained within the air brake system is released, resulting in the application of train brakes.

UMLER (Universal Machine Language Equipment Register)
A computer readable file of vital statistics for each railroad car in service. It applies to all railroads, types of cars and data processing machines.



Van Grounding
The event when a container or trailer is taken off of the train and placed on the ground for customer pickup. At this time, the container is mounted on a chassis and the notify party is notified.

Van Notify
The event when the notify party is notified by the railroad that the container or trailer is available for pickup.

Vessel's Manifest
Statement of vessel's cargo, revenue, consignee, etc.


A document covering a shipment and showing the forwarding and receiving station, the names of consignor and consignee, the car initials and number, the routing, the description and weight of the commodity, instructions for special services, the rate, total charges, advances and waybill reference for previous services and the amount prepaid.

Well Car
An intermodal flatcar that was specifically designed to place one container on top of another better utilization and economics. Referred to as a well car because the cars are depressed in the center to allow clearance of the double-stacked containers when moving under low-lying structures.