The trucking industry is an essential component of our economy, enabling us to transport goods within and across countries. Within it exists a rich culture of trucking lingo, slang, and terms. For those who aren’t familiar with the trucking industry, this language can be confusing, intimidating, and sometimes even act as a barrier to entry.
Learning the ins and outs of trucker talk will not only help you communicate better with other truckers on the road but also has the potential to give you a unique subculture of the trucking industry. We’ve made sure to categorize terms into two separate categories, which are Industry Terminology and On The Road Lingo.
Industry terminology refers to language and jargon that is used within the trucking industry. They are typically technical or industry terms that are used when describing things or processes within the industry.
18-Wheeler: Tractor-trailers (also known as semi-trucks or big rigs).
4-Wheeler: Passenger vehicles (typically cars).
Apron: The area in front of a loading dock.
Backhaul: Refers to the cargo that a truck carries on the return trip.
Base Station or Unit: Powerful (citizens band) CB radio set in a stationary location.
Bobtail: Trips made without a semi-trailer attached to the tractor/truck.
CDL: Stands for “Commercial Driver’s License”, a regulatory requirement when operating any vehicle above 26,000 lbs gross vehicle weight.
Container: Intermodal shipping container.
Converter Dolly: An equipment that can be coupled to a semi-trailer and used to attach behind another trailer or straight truck forming a longer combination vehicle.
Convoy: Group of trucks that are traveling together in a coordinated manner.
Cost-Per-Mile: How much each mile on the road hauling cargo costs a carrier or owner-operator.
Deadhead: Semi-trucks that are pulling an empty trailer.
Deadhead Miles: The distance traveled by a truck without any cargo (typically resulting in loss of income).
Detention: Delays of trucks or trailers exceeding the agreed-upon waiting time (for loading or unloading).
Doubles: Set of two trailers that are hauled in sequence using a single semi.
Drop and Hook: Dropping off a trailer and picking up another trailer on the way out.
Drop Trailer: Trailers that are dropped off at a yard or a facility.
Drop Yard: Empty land that has minimal facilities such as access management and fencing and is typically used to store trailers.
Dry Box: Standard freight truck (with no refrigeration unit).
Exit Ramp: The off-ramp from a highway (leading away from the highway).
Fifth Wheel: The coupling mechanism on a semi-truck that connects trailers.
Hours of Service (HOS): Hours of Service is a regulation issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that limits how long drivers can operate a truck without taking a break.
Interchange Agreement: A contract that temporarily transfers equipment (typically a trailer) between the two trucking companies.
Idle: Keeping a truck’s engine running while not moving.
Kingpin: A component of the trailer that connects to the fifth wheel on the semi-truck.
Layover: Having to stay overnight outside of a trucker’s home base.
Live Loading: When the truck driver waits for the cargo to be fully loaded or unloaded from the truck or trailer.
Logbook: Book or electronic logging device (ELD) that keeps track of a truck driver’s hours of service.
Lowboy: Trailer used to transport heavy equipment or machinery.
Lumper: Trucking service that helps to load or unload trucks and trailers.
Mudflap: A rubber flap behind the rear wheels, preventing mud from spraying on other vehicles.
No-Touch Freight: Freight that does not require the truck driver to load or unload it.
Out of Service (OOS): Trucks that are no longer active due to safety concerns or compliance with safety regulations.
P&D: Pick up and delivery.
Per Diem: Allowance for truck drivers (food and lodging expenses).
Reefer: Refrigerated truck or trailer (sometimes the refrigeration unit itself).
Rig: Truck and trailer combination.
Road Train: Multiple trailers connected to one tractor (typically doubles and triples, but can in some cases be more).
Rocky Mountain Double: Two trailers connected to one tractor (7 axles in total).
Sleeper: Compartment of the truck where drivers sleep (usually equipped with a bed).
Slip Seat: Multiple drivers sharing the same truck.
Three-Axle Tractor: Tractor with three axles (used for transporting heavy loads).
Touch Freight: Freight that requires the truck driver to handle cargo.
Triples: Set of three trailers that are hauled in sequence using a single semi.
Truck Terminal: A facility for truckers to rest and perform paperwork. Typically located nearby highways and have facilities such as a washer, office block, showers, security, amenities, and more.
Turnpike Double: Two trailers connected to one tractor (9 axles in total).
Van Trailer: Enclosed trailer.
Weigh Station: A state-enforced weighing facility to ensure truckers comply with state regulations (typically gross vehicle weight, truck safety, and driver compliance).
Yard: Trucker’s yard (or depot).
On The Road Lingo
On the road lingo refers to jargon used by truckers when communicating with each other. While some of these terms are used within the trucking industry, not all truckers may be aware of them, as some of them are more esoteric than others.
Affirmative: Yes (used when communicating through VHF/UHF).
All Locked Up: Refers to the weigh station being closed.
Alligator: Refers to pieces of blown-out tire treads that are left on the road, which resemble the shape of an alligator’s open mouth. Tire remnants can be a hazard to truckers and other drivers on the road, as they can cause damage to vehicles or even lead to accidents if hit at high speeds.
Anchor Clanker: Drivers who take a long time to back up or turn around.
Around the Horn: Driving around a curve or a corner.
Asphalt Cowboy: Trucks driver who hauls liquid cargo (typically in a tanker truck).
Attitude Adjuster: Tire thumpers used to check tire pressure.
Back Door: Used to signal something behind you. For example: “There’s a bear at your back door!”.
Back It Down: A term that is used to tell others to slow down.
Bear: Law enforcement officers that are in most cases state troopers, police officers, or highway patrols.
Bear Bite: Speeding tickets.
Bear Den or Bear Cave: Law enforcement headquarters or station.
Bear In the Air: Law enforcement aircraft which can be monitoring the traffic and speeds below (typically helicopters).
Bear In the Bushes: Law enforcement that’s hiding somewhere, usually with a radar gun aimed at traffic to catch speeding trucks and cars.
Bear Trap: Speed traps (either visible or hidden).
Big Road: Used to refer to the Interstate or a highway.
Big Truck: Refers to an 18-wheeler.
Big Word: Oftentimes, weighing stations would have a sign displayed to indicate if it is open or closed. Big word refers to the word “Closed” as drivers cannot tell what the sign shows from a distance but are able to distinguish that it’s a longer (or in this case bigger) word.
Black Eye: A single malfunctioned front headlight.
Boogie: Highest gear of a truck’s transmission.
Brake Check: When vehicles are forced to slow down or stop due to jams or something blocking the road.
Breaking Up: Unable to hear someone clearly due to poor radio signal.
Bull Hauler: Livestock haulers.
Bumper Sticker: Vehicles (car or truck) that are tailgating – also called a hitchhiker from time to time.
Bundled Out: Hauling loads that are close to or at maximum gross weight capacity.
Cash Register: Tollbooths, typically located on highways, bridges, and tunnels.
Chicken Coop: Refers to a weigh station (sometimes also just called “coop”).
Chicken Lights: Extra lights a trucker has on his truck or trailer, through modifications.
Clear Shot: Unobstructed view of the road or path ahead.
Comic Book: Another word for a driver’s logbook.
Copy: Another word for acknowledged. For example “That’s a copy!” or “Copy that!”.
Couch: Sleeper berth in a truck.
County Mountie: County police officers.
Covered Wagon: Trailer with sidewalls and a top cover.
Cowboy: Refers to a reckless driver on the road.
Cross-Ralker: Someone who talks on multiple channels at once on the VHF/UHF radio.
Cut-In: Cars that pull in front of a truck too closely – sometimes also called cut-off.
Destruction: Road construction.
Diesel Car: Semi-tractors.
Diesel Cop: United States Department of Transportation (USDOT or DOT) Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officers.
Donkey: The rear of another trucker (similar to 6 o’clock). For example, “A bear is on your donkey!”.
Double Nickel: Speed limit of 55 mph. Based on a nickel (five-cent coin).
Downstroke: Driving downhill or on a decline.
Dragon Wagon: Tow trucks.
Driving Award: Speeding tickets.
Eastbound and Down: Driving east.
Elephant Race: Two trucks passing each other on a two-lane road.
Eyeball: Visually inspecting a truck and/or its cargo to ensure it’s safe to operate.
Feeding the Bears: Paying a ticket or citation that was issued.
Fingerprint: Self-unloading/loading a truck or trailer.
Flip-Flop: A return trip.
Front Door: In front of a truck or a truck driver.
Fuel Island: An area at a truck stop where trucks refuel.
Full Grown: Fully loaded trailers.
Gator Tail: Leftover debris from rubber tires.
Gear Jammer: Truck drivers who speed up and slow down frequently.
Go to the Harley: Requesting someone to turn the CB to channel 1.
Go-Go Juice: Diesel.
Good Neighbor: Used when showing appreciation for another driver.
Gouge On It: To accelerate.
Grandfathered: Older trucks that are exempted from certain regulations (usually for vehicle emissions inspection).
Granny Lane: The rightmost lane on a multi-lane highway or the Interstate. A colloquial way of referring to the lane reserved for slower speeds.
Greasy: Road conditions that are wet, icy, or slippery.
Greasy Side Up: Flipped over vehicles (usually from an accident).
Green Stamp: Safety inspection stickers.
Grossed Out: When the gross weight exceeds the vehicle’s maximum limit.
Ground Pressure: Weight of a truck, used in reference when weighing on a scale.
Gumball Machine: Lights on top of a patrol or police car.
Hammer Down: To accelerate.
Hammer Lane: The leftmost lane on a highway or Interstate.
Happy Hour: Rush hour or heavy traffic.
Having Shutter Trouble: Having trouble staying awake.
Highball: To travel at fast speeds (typically on the highway or Interstate).
Holler: To get another trucker’s attention to radio back. For example: “Give me a holler when you have the time!”.
Home 20: Home location of a truck driver.
Hood: A conventional tractor where the engine and hood are located above the front axle (as opposed to a cab-over tractor).
Hotshot: Smaller trucks (e.g. pick-up trucks) that are used for expedited transportation.
IFTA: International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) is an agreement between the United States and Canada. It simplifies the reporting of fuel use by motor carriers operating in more than one jurisdiction.
In the Big Hole: The highest gear of the truck’s transmission.
In the Box: Inside a truck trailer.
In the Pipe: Being in the middle lane on a highway.
Kicker Stick: Tire thumper.
Kiddie Car: School busses.
Kiddie Lane: The left lane on a highway or Interstate, implying a lane that is used for slower drivers.
Knucklebuster: A heavy-duty wrench.
Kojak with a Kodak: Law enforcement using a radar gun to catch speeding drivers.
Lane Hog: A driver who is driving too slow on a lane and refuses to keep right.
Load Lock: A metal bar that is used to secure cargo in the trailer.
Lollipop: Marker poles on the sides of the highway or Interstate.
Mama-Bear: Female law enforcement officers.
Mash Your Motor: To accelerate (typically used when asking other vehicles to speed up).
Meat Wagon: Ambulance.
Merry Merry: Merry Christmas (used when wishing another trucker a Merry Christmas).
Mileage Maker: Low fuel-consumption trucks.
Motion Lotion: Diesel.
Moving Floor: Trailer that is equipped with a belt floor.
Nodding Out: Falling asleep at the steering wheel.
On the Bumper: Following the vehicle (truck or car) too closely.
On the Chicken Coop: Being on top of trailers (typically for checking loads or during maintenance).
On the Side: Used when someone is on standby.
On the Wood: Truck without a sleeper cab.
Outlaw: Truck driver who goes beyond the Hours of Service regulations.
Over the Road: Long-haul trucking.
Paying the Water Bill: Taking a rest.
Pigtail: Electrical cables that connect the semi-truck to the trailer.
Plain Wrapper: An unmarked law enforcement vehicle.
Plenty of Protection: Areas with heavy law enforcement activity.
Power Up: Accelerating or speeding up.
Queen of the Road: Female truck driver.
Quickie: Quick haul.
Radio Check: Communication procedure used to test the functionality of the VHF radio.
Reading the Mail: Listening to the radio.
Rigger: A person who loads/unloads cargo from a trailer or a truck.
Road Pizza: Roadkill that is on the side of the road.
Rockin’ Chair: Truck that is in the middle of two other trucks.
Roger: Yes or affirmative (sometimes also said as “Roger That”).
Roller Skate: Smaller cars.
Rubber Duck: The first vehicle in a convoy.
Running Empty: Trucks traveling without any load.
Saddle Tanks: Fuel tank on a truck.
Sandbox: Another word for an escape ramp on a highway that drivers use to stop trucks when their brakes fail.
Shooting You In the Back: Being targeted with a radar gun by a law enforcement officer.
Skateboard: Flatbed truck trailer.
Smokey: Law enforcement officer.
Smokin’ Scooter: Law enforcement officer on a motorcycle.
Smokin’ the Brakes: Truck or trailer brakes that are smoking from being overused when traveling on an incline.
Southern Hospitality: Welcoming or warm hospitality (typically when driving through the southern United States).
Spy In the Sky: A law enforcement aircraft (typically a helicopter).
Stand On It: To press the accelerator.
Super Single: Heavy-duty tire with a wide base.
Swinging Doors: Double-door trailers.
Taking Pictures: Law enforcement officers using a radar gun (to catch speeding vehicles).
Tandem: Two-axle trailer.
Team Driver: Two drivers who operate a single truck as a team.
Ten-Four: Acknowledged (similar to “Roger that” or “Affirmative”).
Thermos Bottle: Tanker trailer.
Through the Woods: Leaving the Interstate or highway, going through more rural or side roads.
Throwin’ Iron: Putting snow chains on truck tires.
Tire Chicken: Drivers who move recklessly around trucks on the road.
Too Many Eggs in the Basket: A truck or trailer that is overloaded.
Toothpicks: A load of lumber on a truck.
Top Bunk: Upper sleeping compartment in a sleeper cab.
Trailer Trash: Poorly maintained trailers.
Travel Agent: Dispatcher.
Triple Digits: Trucks traveling at speeds greater than 100 miles per hour.
Turtle: Slow-moving vehicles (usually that are hogging the middle or left lane).
Unicorn: Hard-to-find load (typically of high value or with great pay).
Unit: Truck and trailer combination.
Upshift: Shifting to a higher gear in a truck.
Vented Van: Van trailers that are equipped with vents for air circulation.
Volcano: Sudden tire failure where the rubber is flying off like lava from a volcano.
Walkabout: Stretching legs during a break after a long drive.
Washout: Cleaning out a trailer (interior and/or exterior).
Wet Kit: Hydraulic system of a truck.
Wide Load: Load that exceeds the standard width of a trailer (typically requiring special permits).
Wiggle Room: Extra space between trucks and other vehicles or objects.
Wiggle Wagons: Set of doubles or triples.
Windshield Time: Time spent driving a truck.
Winterfront: The Front cover of a truck that is designed to protect it from cold weather.
Yard Dog: Tractor used for shunting (moving trailers at a yard or warehouse).
Yardstick: Mile markers on the highway or Interstate.
Yolk: Steering wheel of a truck.
You’re On the Bubble: Drivers who are close to their Hours of Service limits.
Follow us on
Co-Founder & Writer
About the Author
Andrew is a multi-business owner with over 12 years of experience in the fields of logistics, trucking, manufacturing, operations, training, and education.
Being the co-founder of freightcourse has given him the ability to pursue his desire to educate others on manufacturing and supply chain topics.