Glossary of Trucking Industry Terminology

Glossary of Trucking Industry Terminology
Glossary of Trucking Industry Terminology

In the trucking industry, there are many unique jargons. This can make new owner-operators feel overwhelmed by what these terms mean. Just as you think you are beginning to master the trucking lingo, something else pops up in the mix.

Below is a comprehensive list of some confusing trucking languages to access this glossary anytime.

Trucking Terminology


Air Brake – these brakes are operated by air. Air brake systems contain air lines, valves, tanks, and air compressors.

Air Ride Suspension – helps support the load, trailer on an air-filled rubber bag instead of old systems that use steel springs.

Air Tank – this is used for storing air in the brake system. If you did not have an air tank, you would not have enough air supply.

Anti-Lock Braking System – helps the driver control their vehicle when needing to brake and prevents the wheels from locking up.

Axle – this is a component to which brakes, wheels, and the suspension are attached to. There are different types of axels:

  • Steer Axle: the front axle
  • Drive Axle: powered by wheels
  • Pusher Axle: ahead of the drive axels that are not powered
  • Tag Axle: go behind the drive axels that are not powered
  • Rear Axle: can be tag, drive, or pusher axels
  • Trailer Tandem Axle: most likely not powered and is often split apart for distribution


Back Haul – a return load. This is where you haul product from your home location to another area, then go back to the original location to pick up a similar load. So instead of returning empty, you will find another load, the backhaul going back to the original location.

Balloon Freight – light freight that takes up a lot of room.

Bill of Lading – are shipping documents or papers for a shipment. This has a list of goods included in the shipment and the contract and receipt.

Blind Spot – tractor-trailers have spots around the truck where you cannot see at certain angles through your mirror or window.

Bobtail – this is when you operate a truck without a trailer attached.

Bogey – having two or more axels, often a pair in tandem.

Broker – someone who has industry experience that negotiates arrangements for shipping and rates for owner-operators.

Bulk Freight – this is where freight is not in containers or packages. This is normally hauled in tankers such as grain trailers or regular van trailers.


Cabover – this is also known as cab-over-engine. This is where the cab sits over the engine on a truck.

CAT Scales – this is the most common form of scale that a truck stops at. These are the most accurate and provide proper weight readings – and if not, they will go to court for you and pay the fine if they are incorrect.

Check Call – this is where you call by using a phone or Qualcomm to check in with your dispatcher or company. Often these calls are once a day, first thing in the morning. Doing these check-in calls informs your company or dispatcher about your progress or any other needed information.

Check Call – this is where you call by using a phone or Qualcomm to check in with your dispatcher or company. Often these calls are once a day, first thing in the morning. Doing these check-in calls informs your company or dispatcher about your progress or any other needed information.

Citizen Band Radio – also known as a CB radio, is a type of radio drivers use to communicate with each other.

Clearance Lights are found on top of the front and rear trailer. These can also be referred to as marker lights.

Clutch Brake – this brake is engaged when you push the clutch to the floor, and this is only done when you are stopped and need to put the truck in gear.

Commercial Driver’s License – or CDL – is a driver’s license that allows you to operate a commercial motor vehicle and buses over 26,000 pounds.

Consignee – this is the receiver who accepts your delivery.

Conventional – a type of truck where the cab sits behind the engine instead of over it (see Cabover).

Converter Dolly – this connects the trailer, such as a double or triple trailer. A converter dolly is often found with the fifth wheel for coupling.


DAC Services – this is a pre-employment screening that many trucking companies use to choose their drivers.

Day Cab – this is where a tractor has no sleeper berth. This type of truck is used when the driver comes home each night.

Deadhead – this is when you drive without cargo or a paying load. This is something as an owner-operator you want to avoid.

Detention – extra pay for when you are waiting at a customer facility.

Dock Lock – this is a safety device that hooks up to your trailer’s bumper when backing up to a loading dock. This is controlled from the inside of the facility and helps prevent the trailer from moving when being loaded.

Drop and Hook – take a loaded trailer to the shipper or receiver, drop it and leave it at the facility, then hook up and leave with a different trailer. Many drivers like this because there is no waiting or deadhead.

Drop Pay – extra pay for delivery when making an extra stop.

Dry Freight – fright that does not have to be refrigerated.


Empty Call – calls you to make to the dispatcher to let them know you are unloaded and need a new load.


Fifth Wheel – the coupling device attaches the dolly or tractor that supports the front of the trailer and locks it into the tractor or dolly.

Fingerprinting – what a driver does when unloading the trailer by yourself.

Fixed Tandem –two axels and suspension attached to the chassis in one place, so it does not move back and forth.

Floating Gears – when shifting gears without using your clutch.

Freight – cargo that is being hauled.

Freight Lane – the route, typically the Interstate or highway with a lot of freight flows back and forth. Having a freight lane can be beneficial for getting home on time when using these freight lanes.

Frequent Fueler – some truck stops have frequent fueler programs or cards that you can sign up for. These programs allow you to receive credit or cashback on each gallon of fuel you buy.

Full Trailer – a trailer supported by axels on the front and back of the trailer.


GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating) – this is the maximum weight that an axle can carry recommended by the manufacturer. This is for both the axel and the vehicle’s weight limit.

GCW (Gross Combination Weight) – the total weight of a loaded combination axle.

Governor – a device that limits the speed of your vehicle. This is often used by many trucking companies that want to reduce accidents and fuel expenses.

GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) – the total weight of the vehicle. This includes the vehicle and all of the content in the trailer and tractor.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) – the total weight the vehicle is rated to carry by the manufacturer, including the vehicle’s weight and the load.


Hazmat – hazardous materials are regulated by the United States Department of Transportation. To haul these materials, you must have a hazmat endorsement on your CDL and extra training.

Headache Rack – this is a metal barrier found behind the cab. This prevents loads from coming forward and crushing the tractor or anyone inside.

Hours-of-Service – These federal regulations control the number of hours you can drive your truck.

Hydroplaning – when the tires lose traction with the road because of excessive water on the roadways.


Jackknife – is where the tractor is at an extreme angle to the trailer. This is often done intentionally, such as when parking or in an accident.

Jackrabbit Start – this is when you release the clutch too soon and causes the vehicle to jerk forward.

Jake Brake – helps slow down the vehicle, especially when going downhill.

Johnson Bar – is a hand valve used to test brakes after hooking on to the tractor and trailer. This can also be known as a trolley valve.


Kingpin – a metal pin found underneath the front of the trailer. This slides in and connects with the locking jaws of a fifth-wheel tractor.

Kingpin Lock – is a locking device found around or over the kingpin. This helps prevent the fifth wheel from connecting to it and taking the trailer. This is often recommended if you drop the trailer at an unsecured area.


Landing Gear – legs that support the trailer when not connected to the tractor.

Layovers – an off-duty time when away from home.

Lift Axle – an unpowered, extra axle needed when the vehicle is loaded. Having a lift axle allows you to meet the Federal and State vehicle weight standards. The axle can be lowered or raised using an air spring suspension system.

Linehaul – moving freight

Load Locks – metal bars that retract and expand to fit from one trailer’s sidewall to the other.

Loaded Call – a call you make to your dispatcher when your trailer is loaded, and bills have been signed.

Logbook – this is where you keep track of your trucking activities, such as your hours of service and duty status.

Long-Haul – is a long-distance drive several hours at a time before coming to a stop. This is also called Over-the-Road (OTR).

Low Boy – an open flatbed trailer.

LTL (Less-than-Truckload) – less freight than required for a full truckload. Typically, this is about 10,000 pounds.

Lumpers – laborers who load and unload trailers for a fee.


Mini – a shipment under 100 pounds.

MVR Report – this is a driver’s motor vehicle record; this shows your violations and accidents on your driving record.


No Touch – this is where a driver does not have to load or unload the cargo—no touching or fingerprinting the load.


Opti-Idle – equipment that starts and shuts down the truck. This is done to keep a specific temperature inside and help reduce idle time.

Out of Route – carriers set mileage mounts for distances between different cities. This is considered “out of route” miles if you go over this amount.

Overage – extra freight that should not have been shipped.

Owner-Operator – a truck driver who runs their own trucking business. Owner-operators own and run their own truck, trailer, and equipment, considered independent contractors.


P&D – pickup and delivery

Pallets – wooden bases that the product is loaded on.

Pay Load – the weight of the shipment that is being hauled.

Peddle Run – a load that has many and often deliveries.

Piggyback – is a truck built with reinforcements to help withstand the transport by a railroad flatcar.

Pigtail – an electrical line that supplies power to and from the tractor and trailer.

Pintle Hook – is a coupling device used in double and triple trailers and combinations.

Placard – a sign that displays hazardous materials loaded on the vehicle and placed on all four sides of the truck.

Private Carrier – is a trucking company that owns their own truck to transport goods or raw materials.

Proof of Delivery – this is a signed document, usually the Bill of Lading. This documents that the load has been delivered.

PTO (Power Takeoff) – this is a device that tractors use to transmit engine power to auxiliary equipment.

Public Scales – this is used to weigh your truck.

Pull Trailer – a full trailer supported on front and back axles with an extended tongue.

Pup Trailer – is a short trailer about 26 – 32 feet long and has only one rear axle.


Receiver – someone who accepts your shipment, also known as a consignee.

Relay Driving – this is where a driver takes a load partway, and then another driver picks it up. This is usually done in about 8 – 10 hours each way.

Runaway Truck Ramp – this is an emergency escape ramp that is on a downgrade for those that do not have any braking power.


Shag – a local delivery.

Sleeper – where you sleep behind the truck’s cab, behind the driver’s seat, or in part of the cab.

Slip-Seat – when you are not assigned to a specific tractor, but instead move in and out of tractors as they are available.

Space Cushion – this is the area between the vehicle and other vehicles on the road.


Team Driving – two drivers who take turns driving and non-driving.

TL (Truckload) – when there is enough product to fill a trailer greater than 10,000 pounds.

Tri-Axle – this is any combination of three axles that are grouped.

Truck Driver Lingo

Above are the common trucking industry terminology. Truck drivers have their own form of language over the CB radio, and some of these can be funny. Below is some lingo you may hear on a CB radio.

Alligator – a shredded tire on the side of the road.

Bear – Law Enforcement or a State Trooper

Bear Bait – a speeding four-wheeler

Bear in the Bushes – a Law Enforcement Officer hiding or what is known as a speed trap.

Berth – a sleeping cabin that is used when driving long distances.

Billy Big Rigger – a driver who is full of themselves or his fast, shiny truck.

Black Eye – a headlight is out

Bumper Sticker – someone who is following too closely

Cab – the driver compartment of the truck

Camelback – a truck body with a curved floor down toward the rear

Commercial Company – a “professional” boyfriend or girlfriend

Crackerhead – someone looking for trouble

Donkey – a nice way of saying someone is too close behind you – “there is a bear on your donkey.”

Driver – someone who does not have a CB handle (this only applies to truck drivers)

Feeding the Bears – being pulled over for a traffic violation

Four-Wheeler – a vehicle that is not a commercial vehicle

Handle – a nickname that is used over the CB radio

Keying Up – constantly talking on the radio or cutting others off

Kodak – a Law Enforcement Officer with a speed radar gun

Pay the Water Bill – bathroom break

Ragtop – an open, tarp covered trailer

Sesame Street – Channel 19, which truck drivers commonly use

Shutter Trouble – having trouble staying awake

Stack them Eights – So, long, and good luck!

Through the Woods – taking backroads

Now that you know the common trucking terminology and trucker lingo, you can pick your own handle and have fun with other drivers over the road. Keep your eyes open for bears in the woods.