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Are logistics acronyms getting more confusing or is it just me?

The simple answer is: No. It's not just you.
Logistics providers have the same difficulty in communication as any other intensely regulated industry: no one outside their industry has a clue what people are saying.
Consider this:
And you thought the fact that you can hold entire conversations at work without using any actual words wasn't funny!

Get Familiar with Logistics Acronyms!

Obviously, some of those acronyms used up there are puns and some of those are real acronyms - and some of those real acronyms stand for something other than what a logistics practitioner would use them for.
Nonetheless, surely you understand their literal, functional and alternate meanings, right? And the alternate meanings to those alternate meanings, which you need to keep track of just so you can talk to people in other companies who use exactly the same acronyms to stand for different things? (Which is always a lot of fun whenever you need to change jobs.)

New Acronyms with Every New Regulation

As if the Business-to-Business differences in definition weren't bad enough, every time a new regulation is introduced there's a new slate of acronyms to learn or redefine. Sometimes, you can't even get away with crossing off an old acronym. You need to keep the original and also remember the new one, since knowing two definitions of the exact same thing is such a good way to use up a few leftover brain cells. For instance, you might encounter some of these:
  • ATA: Air Transport Association / American Trucking Association
  • CSA: Customs Self Assessment / Canadian Standards Association
  • IFTA: International Fuel Tax Agreement / Israel Free Trade Agreement
  • UCC: Uniform Commercial Code / Union Customs Code (Europe) 
Clearly, the need to create new regulations and organizations has now exceeded the limits of the alphabet. If we can't reduce the ever-increasing complexity of the industry, we should focus on inventing more letters?

Don't Confuse Acronyms with Real Words

Having multiple definitions for the same groupings of letters wouldn't be so bad if it weren't also true that you have to know when an acronym is an acronym and when it's an actual word. For instance, you might need to determine the VAT on a vat, write SOWs for a truckload of sows, submit documentation to the DOT right on the dot, or comply with SOX when manufacturing socks (that last one only works if you're reading this out loud).
Then there's the cross-referencing of business-related acronyms with common, everyday figures of speech (just to add to your sense of confusion). When you're listening to a news report and someone mentions the AP, you have to remember they aren't directing you to Accounts Payable. When you're told to remember your ABCs, you're not studying up on Activity Based Costing and your Point of Sale equipment is not a... well, you can figure out the rest of that one.

Sometimes, It's Up to Interpretation

The language of the logistics industry is just the beginning of the uncertainty and confusion, of course. Once you get past the inevitability of miscommunication with all the possible definitions of the words, you then have to confront the differing interpretations of the rules, regulations and standard practices.
At Cole International, we can assist you with understanding your logistics and supply chain issues and correctly interpreting the ever-changing landscape. Feel free to contact us to discuss your needs, even if it's just to ask, "What on earth does this mean?"
Contact us today!
Information provided by: Canadian Customs Dept. - Cole International
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