Here we are providing for you — at no additional charge — a handy dictionary of some of the more common trucker terms so you can look up any slang in a post that doesn’t make sense. Or get yourself a big old CB and drive down the highway flowin’ and goin’ with your new best friends the truckers. Just don’t call any of them “good buddy” unless you want to be run off onto the shoulder. Good buddy used to be just a generic term for another trucker. Then it morphed into Good Buddy. As in really good buddies. Buddies with privileges.
Terms will be added as they occur to us.
General Trucking Terms
Driver: That’s us. Truck drivers that is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a travelling sales-person and drive 5,000 miles a week you aren’t a driver unless you drive a truck. Sorry.
Hand: This is another term some drivers use to refer to truckers. I believe it is short for field-hand. As in share-cropping. As in we are all being screwed by the man. Be aware that this term is quite offensive to some drivers.
Town: As in “hey driver, you look good back to town there” or “I just left town and I’m headed south.” Town is any hamlet, town, city, or metropolis. You see, what with being truck drivers, we’re just so cool and bored with it all that no matter how big a place is its just a town to us. You’re impressed by our disdain aren’t you?
Yardsticks: Mile markers. We travel so far every day that the miles seem as insignificant as yards. That’s actually true a lot of the time. Especially if you have a good audio book.
“You look good back to…” While this phrase might suggest that we truck drivers are inordinately concerned with each other’s appearance, it is actually used by one driver to inform a driver headed in the opposite direction that there were no police between them and “town” when the first driver came through.
Sesame Street: Many drivers call CB channel 19 Sesame Street. Channel 19 is where the truckers hang out and it often does seem to be populated with inarticulate shaggy monsters, imaginary friends who blather on and on about crap that nobody understands a word of, the guy who is always trying to make everyone play nice together, and various five-year-olds.
Stomping through the woods: Driving on back-woods type roads including almost any 2-lane highway.
Big road: Major interstate highway.
Gator: That big old strip of a blown tire that is laying on the road.
Zipper: The dashed center line of the highway.
Brake check: Term used on the CB to warn drivers on a highway that they are heading toward a sudden and severe slow down. Usually caused by construction or a wreck.
Parking lot: When the sudden and severe slow down actually comes to a complete stop. Suddenly the Interstate you’re traveling on looks like a State Fair parking lot on All-you-can-eat Corn Dog night.
Hammer lane: Left lane of an interstate. The fast lane. Seriously. The left lane is for speeding. If you are driving less than five mph over the speed limit, you should not be in the hammer lane.
Granny lane: This is where you should be driving if you want to go slow. You don’t have to be a grandmother.
Bumped: Term some truckers use to indicate one thing has hit something else unintentionally. Term can be used regardless of the force involved, as in “Oh that Hummer bumped that Prius and sent him spinning across three lanes of traffic, into the median, and 60 feet up that embankment.” Any collision can be considered a bump.
Fuel: You can call what runs your vehicle gas, but we have to call it fuel. If we don’t there are all kinds of “you’ve got gas” jokes headed our way. Five-year-olds.
Pickle Park: It seems that gay men enjoy meeting each other at our nation’s rest areas. You can probably finish this one all on your own. I have faith in you.
Lot Lizard: Truck stop working women (and sometimes men). No, not the wait-staff. No idea where this term came from. I guess Hooker wasn’t trucker-specific enough.
“I ain’t got no panties on:” Honestly… I have no idea… sorry. Back in the day when I was still a solo driver — so I listened to the CB a lot because I was lonely — you could pull into any truck stop at night and hear very obviously male voices rasp out, “I ain’t got no panties on” over and over. I have no idea if it was some sort of secret code for “I wish somebody would do my laundry so I would have some clean underwear” or some sort of weird mating call or what. Don’t know if they still say it or if it died out since we never have the CB on anymore.
Law Enforcement and Public Services
As you might imagine, most truckers are quite interested in the doings of any members of law enforcement that might be in their immediate vicinity. As a matter of fact, Stace is the only driver I have ever known that doesn’t keep one eye peeled for the man. But then she literally never breaks the law. Really. Never does. So she doesn’t have to worry about who’s hiding behind the next turn in the road. This section is for the rest of us.
Smokey Bear: Generic term for any member of law enforcement. I believe this was originally based on the attractive hats that many states force their patrolmen to wear, but there could also be a lot of members of law enforcement who have best friends named Boo-Boo. I don’t know.
County Mountie or Barney Fife: Usually a county sheriff or one of his deputies. Who may or may not be allowed more than one bullet.
City Tittie or Local Yokel: Any manner of town or local cop.
Evil Knievel: A motorcycle cop, obviously.
Plain Blue (or white or red or whatever) Wrapper: Unmarked police car of the specified color. Nice try hiding from us, Sir.
Full Grown Bear: A state highway patrol officer. Complete with extensively marked patrol car, full uniform, and macho swagger.
Diesel Bear: Special division of the state highway patrol who are only focused on commercial vehicle enforcement (ie truckers) with even snazzier full uniforms and much more macho swaggers.
Care Bear: Term for the officer who has to spend all night sitting in a highway construction zone with his disco lights on to make sure everybody slows down to the work zone speed limit. I’m not sure why they are even there as I’m pretty sure Stace and I are the only drivers in the country who make even a half-hearted effort to slow down to the work zone speed. Yet I’ve never seen them bust anyone. I think they are watching re-runs of ”Hookers on the Point” on their iPhones.
Bear in the air: Police in helicopters or I suppose it could also be hot-air balloons but you just don’t see that very often. There was a time when states used helicopters and light planes to monitor their highways and clock speeding. You still see the “Aircraft used in Speed Enforcement” signs on most States’ major freeways. I don’t know who they think they are kidding — I’ve been out here seven years and I think I’ve only seen a bear in the air twice. And they were probably looking for escaped convicts or something. We think states just can’t afford it anymore.
Disco lights or Blue light special: Flashing police lights. At night they can be quite pretty. Or send you to the brink of an epileptic attack depending on which state you are in.
Kojak with a Kodak: Any manner of law enforcement that has a radar gun. Doesn’t have to be bald or enjoy lollipops.
“Taking your picture:” As in “smile real pretty boys, when you top over that next hill there’s a Kojak with a Kodak taking your picture.” Police officer standing in plain sight clocking vehicles with his radar gun.
“Shooting you in the back:” Still a cop with a radar gun, but you’ll notice this term is quite a bit higher on the paranoia/adversarial meter. Specifically, this term is used to refer to a bear with radar that is hidden somewhere (like behind an overpass) so that you will never even see him until you have flown by 30 mph over the speed limit.
Chicken Coop: Weigh stations. They exist to make sure a truck is only loaded within legal weight limits. And sometimes they do spot safety inspections of a truck. And they check out all shipping paperwork to make sure the load is legal. And they often will examine a driver’s log book like it contains the secrets of alchemy or directions to the Holy Grail. Mostly chicken coops are just a vast waste of time in a driver’s day. Well I say that because that’s what they are to us, but then we’re always legal. I do know that when a driver reports that a particular up-coming coop is closed, there is usually much rejoicing over the CB.
Comic book or Swindle sheet or Funny pages: A driver’s log book. This is where we record what we did during the day in 15 minute increments. Every single log book in the country is filled out accurately, legibly, and down to the last change of duty status so I have no idea where these terms came from.
Band-aide Box or Meat Wagon: Ambulance
Squirt gun: Have heard this term used for a firetruck, but its not as common as some of the other terms.
“Something on his mind”: Term is used in a specific situation involving a law enforcement vehicle flying by in the hammer lane at a high rate of speed. The reporting driver will say over the CB something like, “We’ve got a full grown bear headed southbound at yardstick 102, but he has something on his mind.” What that driver is actually saying is, “We’ve got a full grown bear headed southbound at yardstick 102, but he must have something important going on that is requiring his full attention. I know this because I was speeding more than twelve miles an hour over the speed limit and he didn’t even slow down to look at me. He just flew right on by. Whew! Thank you, Jebus.”
Trucks, Trucking, and Other vehicles on the road
As a group, we have many colorful names for the man, but we have almost as many for ourselves. And a few for you, too.
Big-truck: That’s us. Or really any 18-wheeler not just Stace and I specifically.
Bob-tail: That’s the term for a tractor running around without a trailer. Stace hates bob-tailing because the ride is usually much rougher than when you have a trailer and I am almost always the one driving when we bob-tail. I love it because you can go anywhere when you don’t have a trailer. Just show me an Outback Steakhouse parking lot and I can get my bob-tail in it.
Box: The most basic trailer also known as a dry-van. Just a big old box that can be used to haul all kinds of crap.
Covered wagon: Usually a flat-bed trailer with removable sides and a tarp on top.
Cooler or Ice-box: A reefer trailer. These trailers have nothing whatsoever to do with beat-nicks from the 60s smoking pot. They are the refrigerated trailers that bring you your ice cream, frozen pizza, and fresh flowers. The trailer has extra insulation and ducts for the cold air. The reefer unit is usually very loud and kicks on and off at various intervals to keep the product cold. Why do they always park right next to us at night in truck stops?
Parking lot: What we call a car-hauling trailer. If you ever get a chance to watch experienced drivers loading a parking lot, you will enjoy it. Its poetry. Well a trucking equivalent of poetry anyway.
Skateboard: A flat bed trailer. Much more interesting than a box van because you can see what they’re hauling a lot of the time. Unless its tarped. Those tarps are supposed to be really heavy and somewhat dangerous. I have talked to more than one driver who has fallen 12+ feet to the ground while tarping a load. They don’t get paid enough in my opinion.
Bed Bugger: Your friendly house-hold goods moving truck. They are the ones who actually show up at your house, hump all your stuff down into the truck, drive it across the country, and move it all into your new house. Then you stand there changing your mind and making them move the couch eight times until you get it where it looks nice. And they end up with bugs in their trailer. Well, not from your furniture which I’m sure is quite clean. Probably from that guy they moved right after you. He didn’t look tidy at all.
Shanty Shaker: Short tractor-only that moves mobile homes. Although some mobile homes are quite nice.
Canteen: Tanker truck that is loaded with liquid but not fuel.
Fuel can or Gas can: Fuel tanker
Bull Hauler: Trucks out-fitted with livestock trailers. Doesn’t have to be loaded with bulls. Usually isn’t bulls. And yet most of them still hang a fake set of bull’s balls from the ICC bumper. I think they’re trying to look tough.
Large car: Very large, very fancy-pants tractor. Almost always an owner-operator. Although it is not necessarily a flashy tractor, term conveys that the truck is just so nice inside, and it rides so smoothly, and drives so easily it might as well be a large car.
NYC apartment on wheels: This is the big momma of large car tractors. They are huge. Bigger than some apartments in NYC from what I understand. Most of them have sleepers in the 144″ range which is almost double the size of Stace’s and my sleeper. What is there really to say about the NYC apartments other than I want one so very very badly. Oh and now that I think about it… this may just be a term that Stace and I made up and use amongst ourselves. If you say it to a trucker and they stare at you blankly that’s probably the case. Sorry. On the other hand, that trucker may just be an idiot. Who can say?
Chicken Truck: Doesn’t have to be large as long as its a very flashy rig with all the bells and whistles. Lots of lights. Tons of chrome. Usually an owner-operator. Almost always found in the hammer lane. At least they used to be before fuel hit $4.50 a gallon.
Yard dog: The person who works for a shipper or receiver managing all those trailers on their lot. The yard dog does a ton of backing. The term yard dog comes from the old saying “if you can’t run with the big dogs stay in the yard” or something like that. I believe it is meant to be derisive, but as far as I’m concerned, those guys make their living working in trucking and still go home every night. Pretty sweet if that’s what you’re looking for. Also, they can probably back circles around those “big dogs.”
4-wheeler: That’s any passenger-type vehicle. Even if your ride is a big old Hummer you’re still just a 4-wheeler to us. Sorry.
Hood ornament: Motorcycle
Trucking is not a paid vacation. As it turns out, it is actually a job. Terms relating to the business of trucking
Home time: That joyous period when a driver is actually at home. As in that building they go to occasionally that has all their stuff in it. Home time varies from company to company, but most offer one day off for every week on the road. Many teams stay out in the neighborhood of four weeks and then go home for four or five days. That’s what we normally do. I think most solos go home a little more often but it varies greatly.
Layover: This term is used for any time period on the road when you are stuck someplace. Its usually because you have no load, but can also be due to breakdown. Most companies advertise a relatively decent amount of layover pay. Good luck getting it. We’ve only worked for one company that paid layover faithfully and with no argument.
Detention: When a driver is held at a shipper or receiver for a long time, the driver’s company charges the shipper or receiver something called detention. There is usually a window of freebie hours in which they are supposed to finish loading or unloading you, and then the charges start piling up. It is supposed to be a penalty to urge faster loading. At most companies, it is also supposed to be paid — at least part of the total detention rate charged — to the driver since we are the ones actually sitting there waiting forever. Good luck. In our experience with several different companies, you have a better chance of being elected Pretty Pretty Princess of the Known Universe than collecting detention no matter how well you documented the situation.
Qualcomm or DriverTech: Usually only installed in company trucks, the computer system where-by your company monitors your every move. And your dispatcher uses it to send you ridiculous messages proving he has the IQ of a sea slug, the problem solving skills of a gypsy moth, the geographical knowledge of your average first grader, and the general communication skills of Jodie Foster’s character in that movie Nell.
LTL and Truckload: LTL stand for Less-than-load and Truckload stands for truckload. LTL carriers pickup freight from more than one company in the same trailer. FedEx, Conway, and Yellow are all examples of LTL carriers. Truckload companies generally pick up one trailer’s worth of freight from one shipper. They may deliver it to a couple of different stops, but that is usually the exception not the rule.
Timed-transit runs: Fast runs that require you to maintain a minimum transit speed through out the entire length of the trip. Speed is usually 50 mph. This includes pre-triping the truck, switching drivers, bathroom breaks, fueling, eating, etc. As you can see, there is a lot of non-driving time on any trip so your mph on the driving portion of the trip must be significantly higher than 50 so you can absorb the down-time. Much easier to do in a 72 mph truck than a truck governed at 65 mph.
Governed: Almost all company trucks are governed which means they have a maximum speed. The maximum speed of the truck is the governed-at number. Usually some number less than 70mph. Most of the big companies have their trucks governed around 65 mph.
Lumper: You aren’t even going to believe this, but many grocery warehouses won’t unload the crap that you deliver to them. The crap they ordered. They expect the driver to unload it into their warehouse. But the driver isn’t allowed to use any of their equipment such as forklifts. I guess they expect the driver to unload that 35,000 pound load of baby food case by case. Or… the driver can hire a lumper. Lumpers are guys who stand around the docks scratching their butts until a truck hits a door. Then they glance in the back of your trailer and pull some ridiculously large number out of those butts as the cost to get unloaded. I have paid over $250 to get my trailer unloaded. Well, most companies pay the lumper so it didn’t come out of my pocket. I still find it outrageous. It makes me want to go to their store, buy a huge cart full of stuff, and then demand they follow me to my house to carry it all into the kitchen.