Glossary of Auto Transport Terms

Autorack

A specially designed multi-level rail car used to transport automobiles. Autoracks have two or three decks, can carry up to 20 vehicles and have metal side panels and end doors to protect automobiles while in transit. Bi-level or double-deck Autoracks usually transport trucks and large SUV’s, while tri-level or triple deck Autoracks usually transport passenger cars. A dedicated train with 70 Autoracks is capable of transporting more than 1,000 vehicles at one time.

Auto Transport

Moving or shipping automobiles as freight. Auto shippers are strongly encouraged to seek out reputable, fully-insured, financially strong car haulers. A new generation of smart, customer-focused auto transport companies are making nationwide transport more convenient and affordable than ever before.

Backhaul

Refers to the car hauler’s opportunity to pick up a second load of vehicles close to the destination where they delivered their first load; i.e., returning to the origin of the first load. A to B, then B to A.

Bi-Level Rail Car

A type of rail car used for auto transport, called a bi-level because it has two decks, an upper and a lower. Bi-level capacity is between 8 – 12 vehicles. They are often used to transport vans, pickups and SUVs, or passenger vehicles that have radio antennas or higher profiles that exclude them from fitting on a tri-level rail car.

Car Hauler/Carrier

A company which provides auto transport service; the physical transport of a vehicle.

Car Carrier / Auto Transport Equipment

A specially constructed semi-trailer (unpowered unit) usually capable of transporting up to 9 vehicles. Some include hydraulically operated ramps. Some vehicles are backed onto the trailer while others are driven nose first to help maximize space or meet overhang requirements. Each vehicle is firmly blocked and tied down to help protect it during transit. Large vehicles are usually transported on the upper level of multi-deck transport trailers.

Delivery Network

A complex system of connected trucks, railroads and ships used to transport cars. Car haulers with access to all modes of auto transport have a powerful delivery network that provides efficient auto shipping to meet their customers’ time and cost requirements.

Enclosed Auto Transport

Auto transport using a fully enclosed van, semi trailer or rail car, usually with metal sides and a top. Enclosed auto transport offers increased protection against weather, road debris and other hazards especially over long distances. Enclosed truck transport is a premium service which usually costs more than standard open auto transport. Enclosed rail transport is standard and often costs less than open truck transport when moving cars more than 500 miles.

Freight Forwarder

One who assembles small shipments of vehicles into one large consolidated shipment which is then tendered to an auto carrier. Upon reaching destination, the shipment is separated into small shipments and delivered.

Intermodal/Multimodal

The process of shipping a vehicle using more than one mode of auto transport. Offered by only a few select car haulers, intermodal auto transport integrates both short-distance truck transport and long-distance rail service options.

Local Move

A term used to describe auto transport from pickup to delivery by a single carrier, usually within a radius of 200 miles from origin to destination.

Modifications

Changes or additions to a vehicle from its original state, such as spoilers, roof racks, 4 x 4 lift kits, running boards, camper cabs, etc. Modifications can affect a vehicle’s overall dimensions and weight, which may require a different mode of auto transport or additional fees.

Origin

The location where transport of a vehicle starts, or originates. Car haulers need both the origin and destination of a shipment to provide an accurate auto transport quote.

Pick Up and Transit Time

Pick up and transit times may vary based on the transport company you choose. Auto transport usually averages between 1 to 3 weeks, depending on pick-up and delivery locations, availability of the vehicles, shipping capacity, and distance. Most car haulers also offer expedited service at an additional fee.

Ramp

Another 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.

Shipper

The person for whom the car hauler agrees to move vehicles to a specified destination and at a specified price. Also called “Consignor”.

Terminal

A facility provided by a railroad or car hauling company at an intermediate point in its network for the handling of freight; and for the breaking up, making up, forwarding and servicing loads, and interchanging with other carriers. Also referred to as a “ramp” when referencing a rail terminal.

Tie-downs

Straps or chains that a car hauler uses to secure a vehicle on a tow truck or multi-level car carrier. Many car haulers are switching to straps to minimize damage in transit.

Vehicle Size Classifications

Vehicle size classes are a way of classifying automobiles to estimate auto transport fees prior shipment. Passenger cars are generally classified as vehicles from 0-60″ in height, or as mini-compact, sub-compact, compact, mid-size or large cars based on their industry standard interior volume index measured in cubic feet. The larger the vehicle, the higher the cost to transport it.

Wheel Straps

Reinforced straps used in an auto rail car which go over the wheels and secure the vehicle to the floor to minimize transportation damage.

About Wally Koster, Freelance Writer

Wally Koster is a retired marketing and advertising executive with more than 40 years experience in the automotive industry. He now enjoys life as a freelance writer for ShipCarsNow and is a published philatelist. http://www.ShipCarsNow.com

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