Trucking Terminology

Language in the trucking industry is specialized and diverse. Specific trucking terms are used to describe day-to-day operations and tractor-trailer assemblies and parts. trucker terminologyFor the trucking industry newcomers, learning trucking terms can be challenging. However, using clearly defined language leaves less room for error in communication.

Trucking Industry Terms for Daily Operations

Dispatchers and drivers use verbal shorthand for day-to-day operations. Familiarize yourself with these terms.

  • Axle Load: The official weight limit for trucks, calculated by distribution over each axle.
  • Back Haul: The trip back to the point of origin after delivery.
  • Bill of Landing (BOL or B/L): An itemized list of what a shipment contains.
  • Bobtail: A tractor-trailer with no trailer.
  • Broker: A person with industry experience who negotiates shipping arrangements and rates for an owner-operator or fleet.
  • Common Carrier: A trucking company that will haul freight to anyone. This is different than other companies that only haul to private or dedicated customers.
  • Contract Carrier: A trucking company that hauls freight to less customers under a trucking contract.
  • Deadhead: A back haul with no freight. Deadheading generates no profit and drives up cost per mile.
  • E-Log: A computer system that keeps track of a truck driver’s miles and service. When using an E-log, carries will have instant access to their driver’s logs. This allows carriers to improve scheduling drivers.
  • Hazmat: Hazardous materials, classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and subject to strict federal regulations.
  • Hours of Service (HOS): Federal regulations that govern the number of hours a truck driver may operate a commercial vehicle.
  • Just in Time (JIT): Small, frequent shipments of production parts that a manufacturer uses to minimize on-site inventory.
  • Less-Than-Truckload (LTL): A small shipment charged at a different rate than a full truckload, usually under 10,000 pounds. Shippers frequently carry multiple LTL shipments for different stops on a single run.
  • Logbook: Record of mileage, driving hours, and rest time that complies with federal Hours of Service regulations. A logbook can either be paper or electronic.
  • Long-Haul: A long-distance drive that is usually several hundred miles or more. This is also called Over-the-Road (OTR).
  • Private Carrier: A fleet that hauls goods for their own company.
  • Proof of Delivery (POD): A signed document, usually the Bill of Landing, that documents the delivery of a load.
  • Qualcomm: Carriers use a wireless communication that uses GPS, text messaging and email. A Qualcomm allows the trucking company keep track of their drivers along with the status of deliveries and weather.
  • Relay: A run in which two drivers from different origin points meet at a central location, exchange loads, and return to their point of origin.
  • Team: Two drivers who alternate driving and sleeping schedules to make a delivery as fast as possible while staying within federal Hours of Service guidelines.
  • TL: Truckload. A full-loaded freight.
  • TL Carrier: A trucking company that hauls a single freight on one truckload.

Trucker’s Terms

Truck Drivers are a rare breed. It is only natural that the jargon they use over the CB (Citizens Band) radio is as funny and colorful as they are. Here are some terms you might hear on a long haul.

  • Alligator: A shredded tire on the side of the road. Running over a gator can cause it to bounce up and “bite,” causing damage to fuel lines or a tractor body. Baby alligators are smaller pieces, and gator bait refer to several small pieces.
  • Bear: Law Enforcement Officer, especially a State Trooper.
  • Bear Bait: A speeding four-wheeler that other vehicles use to protect themselves from speed traps.
  • Bear in the Bushes: Hidden law enforcement; potential speed trap.
  • Berth: Sleeping cabin used for resting on long-haul trips. Also, called a sleeper.
  • Billy Big Rigger: A driver who thinks a little too much of himself/herself or his/her big, fast, shiny truck.
  • Black Eye: A headlight is out.
  • Bumper Sticker: A vehicle that is tailgating. Also, called a hitchhiker.
  • Cab: Driver compartment of a tractor-trailer.
  • Camelback: Truck body with a floor that curves downward at the rear.
  • Commercial Company: A “professional” girlfriend/boyfriend.
  • Crackerhead: An idiot looking for trouble.
  • Donkey: A slightly politer way of saying someone is very close behind you, as in “you have a bear on your donkey.”
  • Driver: Person with an unknown CB handle; only applies to truck drivers.
  • Feeding the bears: Getting pulled over for a traffic violation.
  • Fifth Wheel: Horseshoe-shaped coupling device used to attach trailers to the tractor.
  • Four-Wheeler: Any vehicle that isn’t a tractor-trailer rig.
  • Handle: A nickname used to refer to an individual over a CB radio.
  • Headache Rack: Heavy-duty barrier mounted behind a tractor cab designed to prevent a forward-shifted load from tearing through the cab.
  • Keying Up: Talking on the radio constantly, cutting off other drivers.
  • Kojak with a Kodak: Law Enforcement Officer with a radar gun.
  • Open Top: Trailer with sides and no permanent top. It is typically used to carry heavy equipment that must be lowered into place with a crane.
  • Pay the Water Bill: Bathroom break, or the need for one.
  • Pigtail: Electrical connection between tractor and trailer.
  • Pup Trailer: Short semitrailer used with a converter dolly and another semitrailer to create a twin trailer.
  • Ragtop: Open, tarp-covered trailer.
  • Reefer: A refrigerated hauling unit.
  • Rig: A truck, or any combination of tractor-trailer.
  • Sesame Street: Channel 19, the channel most frequently used by truckers.
  • Shutter Trouble: Difficulty staying awake.
  • Stack Them Eights: So long, and good luck!
  • Tractor: Vehicle designed to pull semitrailers while supporting part of the load weight.
  • Through the Woods: Taking backroads.

Now that you know the trucking terms, pick a handle and have fun talking with other drivers. Don’t be a Billy Big Rigger and key up all the time. Keep your eyes peeled for a Kojak with a Kodak so you don’t wind up feeding the bears, and stack them eights!