Common Courier Industry Terms and Abbreviations

An A-Z list of Common Courier Industry Terms and Abbreviations used in the express courier, logistics and general delivery industries.

Some of the terms used below are industry terms and may not be well known by the public.

Note: this applies to courier transportation and terms may have a different meaning in another industry.

Ad Hoc

Latin meaning is ‘for this situation’ – An ad-hoc courier is usually picked up and delivered by the same driver. A dedicated delivery that must meet a preset time frame.
An ad-hoc courier driver will wait for jobs over the radio or data terminal similar to a taxi and can pick up and travel in any given jurisdiction. ie; no set area or direction of delivery.

After Hours

Out of normal business hours. If normal business hours are 7:30 am – 6:00 pm then ‘after hours’ is any time outside of these hours.


Freight and goods carried by air for at least part of the way to the destination.

Air Waybill (AWB)

A contract document between the shipper and the carrier that also provides tracking details and other information about the goods and the delivery in general.
An Air Waybill is usually needed when importing or exporting goods using a courier service.


Abbreviation for ‘As Soon as Possible’ – Delivery needs to be made asap!

Budget Courier

Budget courier’s are usually prepaid and significantly cheaper than express. A booklet of colour coded stickers purchased from the budget courier company will allow for certain types and weights of parcels depending on colour codes. The sticker along with the delivery details is attached or stuck on to the parcel before pick up.

Budget couriers are usually picked up and dropped of in the morning via a driver that has a pre determined delivery area. The driver then drops off and picks up parcels in his or her designated area. Afterwards all drivers meets up halfway through the day at the depot to exchange parcels with other drivers into designated areas.
If picked up in the morning most parcels in a metropolitan area can be delivered the same afternoon. Afternoon parcel pick ups will be sorted into areas that evening for delivery the next morning.
Budget courier drivers are often franchise owners that own the rights to the area they deliver to.
Examples of budget couriers are Fastway and Couriers Please.

Card Left

A ‘card left’ is a notice either placed in letterbox, under a door or any other place that will be visible to the intended recipient of the goods when a delivery was attempted and nobody was home to take receipt and or sign for the item.

Post office parcel contractors commonly leave ‘card left’ notices. FedEx also leave ‘card left’ notices.
A card left notice will have details about where you may be able to pick up the goods yourself or for you to arrange a suitable time for re-delivery.


Goods being carried either by aircraft, ship or large motor vehicle on road. Cargo is usually considered a large load.


The company that is carrying the goods from one place to another. Not to be confused with the actual delivery driver, the ‘carrier’ is the name of the business or company contracted to carry the goods.


Box or container used to carry goods for delivery. Usually made by cardboard. “Hey John, how many cartons do you need to deliver today?”.


Abbreviation of ‘Cash on Delivery’. The delivery cost may be paid for by cash on delivery. Sometimes both the cost of the goods and the cost of delivery combined can be payed by C.O.D.


Critical Inventory Logistics

Common Carrier

A licensed person or company operating under a regulatory body that transports goods for any person or business. A common carrier is responsible for damage or loss of goods in transit. Many express courier companies do not fall into the category of ‘Common Carrier’ and therefore are not liable for any loss or damage in the process of transporting and performing the delivery.

Con Note

Short for ‘Consignment note’.


The person or company named on the consignment note that is responsible for the receipt of the physical goods on delivery.


An organised group of goods intended for shipping.

Consignment Note

Document with duplicates for each entity involved in the delivery, storage or receipt of goods.

Courier Driver

A driver of a small to medium sized vehicle whose job is to deliver goods from one point to another.

Cross Dock

A terminal or meet up place where goods or parcels are dropped off and instantly sorted into destination areas or dispatched directly onto another vehicle for delivery.
An example would be vehicle 1 drops off 100 parcels and the 100 parcels are then sorted into correct areas then placed into either vehicle 2 heading south, vehicle 3 heading north and or vehicle 4 heading west to on-deliver the goods.

Fastway Couriers and other companies have a similar way to distribute and can often be seen meeting up with each other to drop off parcels intended for other areas that are not in their own delivery area.


Government department that regulates, manages and oversees the import and export of goods in and out of the Country.

Customs Clearance

A process that the customs department of a said Country clears the goods for release and pick up after all duty and taxes have been made.

Dangerous Goods (DG)

Goods that are dangerous to people, animals or the environment and that need special care and or rules when transporting. Dangerous goods may need to be labelled accordingly as well as having separate documentation held away from the actual goods in case of emergency. The paperwork with dangerous goods information may need to be accessible by the fire brigade for instance.

Door to Door

Delivery of goods directly from one place to another without storage. Door to door is usually completed express or same day.


Estimated time of arrival.

Expedited Freight

Fastest freight delivery time frame. Costs more than standard freight delivery.


Fastest delivery. Has priority over standard services. Express versus standard will, in most cases, be more expensive but take less time to complete the journey and receipt.

LTL Freight

Stands for ‘Less than Truck Load’. Truck is not full on pick up allowing more goods to be picked up along the way.


‘Mobile Data Terminal’. The in dash or hand held device that is used to convey information to driver from the dispatch officer at the base. Details include pick up address and sometimes delivery address (if known).

MDT can also track the courier drivers progress as well as track an item and allow for real time signatures. When the driver receives a ‘job’ via the terminal they will press a button to confirm they have received the job which lets the dispatch know. The driver will also inform pick up of next job via a button or check point on the terminal. This also lets the dispatch officer know the job (parcel etc) has been picked up and also the location of the driver is then transmitted back to the pc of the dispatch operator.

Messenger Courier

A light duty courier usually confined to city limits or inner metropolitan areas. Messengers sometimes utilize bicycles or motorcycles for the purpose of delivery.

Next Day

Pick up goods and deliver before close of business the next normal working day. If picked up on Friday then next day / delivery day will be Monday unless a weekend service is offered.

One Tonner

A vehicle used to carry goods with at least one tonne carrying capacity and size to fit a standard pallet.

Out of Area

An express courier delivery that is out of the usual delivery area. Compensation is sometimes payed for out of area couriers in the form of an extra charge payable to the company or driver to get back to the metropolitan delivery area as opposed to rural for example. Some companies have an alternative drop off location, for example a local grocery store where they leave your goods for you to pick up yourself.

Owner Driver

The driver of the vehicle also owns the vehicle and is usually sub-contracting to a courier company.


POD can mean one of three things depending on situation, company and region. ‘Proof of Delivery’, ‘Person on Delivery’ or ‘Place of Delivery’.

A signature of the person that took receipt of the goods on delivery is an example of a POD. POD’s can either be signed for on consignment note or delivery sheet and in more modern times signed electronically and in real time via a mobile data terminal (MBT).

Point to Point Courier

A driver picks up a delivery from a customer and delivers the item without exchanging or dropping off to a depot or another driver.
Point to point is normally completed within a set time frame and within 4 hours in metropolitan or city districts.


‘Pick up’. Pick up delivery where required.

Rush Courier

‘Rush’ delivery. Another name for express. A level of service a courier company may give for example: standard 4 hours – express 3 hours – vip 2 hours – rush 1 hour – executive direct drive. Faster than standard courier. Cost is more than standard courier. Rush is usually direct drive to destination after pick up and can be double or triple the standard courier rate cost.

Same Day

Pick up and deliver the goods on the same same day. Usually same day also means within business hours of the same day as goods picked up or dispatched.


Supply Chain Services

Set Run

A pre-planned delivery of several parcels to different locations all by the same driver.
The parcels should be sorted into the vehicle with the last drop off parcel loaded first. A map or GPS co-ordinates may be supplied by the depot for the purpose of helping make the deliveries in a timely manner.


Service Parts Logistics


Strategic Stocking Location.

Standard (Delivery)

The cheapest express courier that is completed within the set time allowed, usually within 4 hours.


See – Sub Contractor

Sub Contractor

A driver using their own vehicle that receives delivery jobs provided by a transportation company on a sub-contract basis. The driver, apart from owning his or her own vehicle is also responsible for all expenses associated with the day to day running costs of the vehicle being used for delivery.


A truck with a side curtain usually made of waterproof fabric that can be drawn back exactly like a household curtain. A tautliner truck is a convenient truck loading system usually used for multiple palleted goods which can be loaded both sides of the truck bed. Depending on the load, ‘Gates’ may sometimes be attached between the curtain and goods to prevent movement.

Taxi Truck

A truck with driver hired by the hour for exclusive use.
In some cases a pallet full of goods for delivery will be deemed a ‘taxi truck’ because the vehicle that the driver is using has been filled by only one pick up and delivery. ie; the driver cannot fit any other parcels on to the vehicle and will therefore deliver goods direct to destination. Compensation by upgrading the job to a ‘taxi truck’ for the driver with an increased rate (price) will then apply for travelling the delivery distance with only one job.
Taxi trucks jobs can be for example 1 tonne, 2 tonne, 5 tonne etc or can be ordered by number of pallets that can be loaded in one trip.


Abbreviation for ‘Very Important Parcel’.

VIP (Delivery)

Another name for ‘Rush’ courier or faster than standard delivery. More expensive than standard delivery. Sometimes used to name a service and delivery time.
For example:  standard – 4 hours, Rush – 2 hours, VIP – 1 hour.

Weight Surcharge

A surcharge added to the final cost for items that are above the standard weight allowance.
Express same day couriers usually have a built in weight allowance of 25 kg’s.
For items with a total weight or cubic volume more than the initial allowance will attract a weight surcharge.

A 10 minute loading and unloading allowance is also built into the price of an express courier. Any loading time over the initial allowance may be added to the final invoice of the delivery.

Note: This glossary list is updated on a regular basis. Last update July 12, 2020

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