Written by
David Koke
Senior Marketing Manager

Beacon’s supply chain visibility and collaboration platform empowers organizations to achieve more efficient, reliable and sustainable supply chains.

In this article

June 3, 2024

8 confusing terms in logistics

Navigating the world of logistics can feel like deciphering a foreign language, with a plethora of industry-specific jargon and acronyms often causing confusion among newcomers to the profession. This article unravels some of the most perplexing terms in the logistics lexicon, shedding light on their meanings and significance in the supply chain.


Backhauling refers to the practice of using return trips of transportation vehicles to move goods back to their origin or to another destination. Instead of returning empty, trucks or carriers pick up a new load, thus maximizing efficiency and reducing costs. The complexity of coordinating backhauls, optimizing routes, and matching loads can add complexity to your logistics operations.


Cross-docking is a logistics practice where goods received at a warehouse or distribution center are directly transferred to outbound trucks for delivery, with little to no storage time. This process aims to streamline distribution and reduce storage costs. Cross-docking requires precise coordination and timing to ensure that products move swiftly through the cross-docking facility.


Deadheading occurs when a transportation vehicle, such as a truck or train, returns empty after delivering its cargo. This represents a cost inefficiency in the logistics process. Managing and minimizing deadheading requires careful planning and load optimization strategies.

Freight Consolidation

Freight consolidation involves combining multiple smaller shipments into a single larger shipment to reduce transportation costs and improve efficiency. Freight consolidation can be complicated due to the intricate logistics required to coordinate different shipments, manage various delivery schedules, and handle the consolidated loads appropriately.

Intermodal Transportation

Intermodal transportation refers to the movement of goods using multiple modes of transport, such as trucks, trains, ships, and planes, without handling the cargo itself when changing modes. Intermodal transportation involves coordination between different carriers and the use of specialized equipment like containers that can be transferred seamlessly across different transport modes.

Last Mile Delivery

Last mile delivery is the final step of the delivery process where goods are transported from a distribution center to the end customer. Factors like traffic congestion, delivery time windows, and varying customer locations add to the complexity of managing last mile logistics.

Drop Shipping

Drop shipping is a retail fulfillment method where a store doesn't keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when a store sells a product, it purchases the item from a third party, who then ships it directly to the customer. The retailer never handles the product directly. 

Reverse Logistics

Reverse logistics involves the process of moving goods from their final destination back to the manufacturer or warehouse for returns, repairs, refurbishing, recycling, or disposal. Efficiently handling reverse logistics is crucial for customer satisfaction and sustainability efforts, but it can be challenging due to the need for specialized systems and procedures.

Improve your logistics vocabulary with our Supply Chain Glossary.