The Slang / English used on this site was picked up while traveling 48 US states, Canada and the world.
Auto Chains — Chaining system attached to cannisters attached to the two drive axles. Activated by a flip of a switch in the tractor, the cannister descends throwing a 12-inch lengths of chain, attached to a rotating wheel, under the four inside drive tires. The tractor moves forward over the spinning chain lengths. Uber expensive, easy peasy to operate. AKA the Husband Helper because no husband is going to let his wife stand by the side of the road in a snowstorm to chain up by herself. See OnSpot.
Auto Socks — A Teflon coated fabric cover for big truck tires, that fits over the tires like a hairnet. A Norwegian invention, approved by the Department of Transportation (DoT) in Colorado to substitute for chains. And they are machine washable!
Auxillary Power Unit (APU) — A diesel-engine powered generator which provides electricity, heat and air conditioning to the tractor without running the primary diesel engine.
Big House — An RV-inspired extended sleeper tractor, complete with double bed, shower, toilet, kitchen sink, fridge, stove and usually big screen TV and satellite.
Bobtail — Tractor only, no trailer. Referred to by one friend as the BobCat, which I like better.
Can — Longshoreman-speak for steel container put on a chassis and pulled by a big truck.
Chain Law — When DoT decides the roadway is not passable without chains, it issues a chain alert, all commercial vehicles must chain up, the number and configuration of chains depends on the state involved, to continue driving. Common on Snowqualmie Pass, Washington State, the Siskyous on I-5 in Oregon, Donner Pass between Nevada and California.
Chicken Coop — State Weigh Stations or Scale Houses where trucks can be inspected by DoT officers.
Chicken lights — Small lights installed on the side of the tractor and front bumper. Black Beauty has chicken lights, but I think of them as a necklace.
Company Iron — Refers to tractors owned by a motor carrier.
Conestoga — A specific brand which has now become, like Kleenex, the universal term for a tarp covered flatbed or stepdeck trailer.
Consignees — Pronounced con-sin-ays, a la French sounding, we first heard this word at Schnieder National. This term refers to the party where the freight is delivered. It is picked up at the Shipper and delivered to the Consignee. Typically, both Shippers and Consignees have shipping and receiving departments.
Covered Wagon — See Conestoga.
Curry Hook — A nickname given by the British — arguably the home of the best Indian food on the planet — for the hook at the front of the Vespa above the floor plate. Drivers hang the customer’s order from the hook enroute for home delivery.
DoT — Department of Transportation, a National agency and each state has a DoT.
Doubles — A traditional double is a tractor pulling two 27 foot pup trailers, a configuration used extensively by FedEx Freight and UPS. Other configurations involve longer trailers.
Double Drop Low Boy — A trailer deck that drops behind the drive axles, and again before the trailer axle. The trailer has a very low trailer deck, some are 18-inches off the ground when fully loaded, allowing a tall load to still clear a 13’6″ bridge as opposed to a tradional flat bed trailer.
Drag chain — A chain required on one of the rear most trailer tires in Oregon and California under a Chain Law alert.
DropDeck — Platform trailer. See StepDeck or Flatbed.
Dry Box (Dry Van) — An empty 53 foot box trailer on wheels.
Farang (fa-lahn) — Thai word for foreigner.
Flatbed — A platform trailer, about five feet off the road, usually 48 feet to 53 feet in length.
Florry — Australian for fluorescent work gear, t-shirts, jackets, safety vests, toques.
FMCSA — Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the national regulator of the trucking industry.
Gaylord — A shipping container made of corrugated cardboard, with a lid, sitting on a pallet.
‘gators — Pieces of tire from Big Truck tire blowouts, and the separation of retreaded tires, seen littering the highways, especially in the hot weather in the Southern states.
Gherkin — German slang for idiot driver. German-born, Formula One champion Sebastien Vettel used the word, that we know as the pinky-sized, cucumber pickle, to describe a competing driver.
Granny Lane — Driving lane, or the slow lane.
Gunkhole — A term used in sailing that is appropriate for a truck stop. It is a shallow, difficult and dangerous to navigate inlet or cove.
Hammer Lane — The passing lane.
Hammer — Throttle or fuel pedal.
Hammer down — Full fuel pedal on. Used as expression for driving fast.
Hanging the Irons — Hanging chains on the truck tires.
HazMat — Hazardous Materials, a special endorsement, with a criminal background check required to pull HazMat loads.
Hours of Service — The trucker’s rule book outlining when and how long a driver can legally drive.
Irons — Tire chains.
Marker Lights — Lights on tractor and trailer on the side, top and rear, to define its shape. Drivers blink marker lights twice as a thank you.
Nit Noi — Thai word for “little bit.”
On Spot — Automatic tire chains, activated with a flip of a switch on the dashboard. See Auto Chains.
Overhead — A big truck tuneup.
Pillion — Mostly a British English term for the person who rides in the seat, the pad behind the driver of a motorcycle or scooter. I heard this word for the first time at the Horizons Unlimited motorcycle travellers meeting in Nakusp, BC. The person who rides there, usually the wife, the woman, like me on the Vespa, are said to “ride pillion.” It’s derived from the Scottish Gaelic word for the “little rug.”
Posh — The dictionary says the word means elegant or luxurious, but it’s the supposed origin of the word that we love. Although unproven, many believe it stands for Port Out Starboard Home, the most desirable accommodations on a steamship voyage from England to India and return. Many truckers say Black Beauty is a posh ride.
Power Only — A tractor with no trailer attached.
Pre-Pass — A transponder attached to the front window of a Big Truck used to bypass a Weigh Station if the transponder gives a green signal. Green signals are given based on three major components, the safety rating of the carrier and the truck and the weight. For instance a truck registered as an 80,000 pound GVW must weigh less to get a green signal to bypass the scale. A red signal transmitted to the cab says the truck must enter the scale where the DOT officer can choose to inspect the tractor, trailer and/or the driver’s logbook. Also see Weigh-In-Motion.
Reefer – A temperature-controlled trailer to hold freight, typically food and pharmaceuticals, at a certain temperature, usually between -20F and 70F.
Rocky Mountain Double — A tractor pulling a 53 foot or 48 foot trailer and a 27 foot pup trailer.
Running lights — See Marker Lights.
Sabine — our BMW R1200 RT motorcycle. I named her for BMW racing driver Sabine Schmitz, who famously and regularly outshone former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson on the infamous Neurburgring racing track.
Scale House — known to old time truckers as the Chicken Coop. This is the state DoT weigh stations, where trucks are weighed to determine if their weight is legal. In our case less than 80,000 pounds gross weight, generally made up of 12,000 pounds on the steer axle, 34,000 pounds on the two drive axles and the 34,000 pounds on the trailer axles.
Shrimper — The Atlantic Canada word for Yard Dog (see below).
Stepdeck — A platform trailer (also called DropDeck) with a top deck that is between eight and 11 feet long and a bottom deck, a drop deck, that is 40 to 42 feet long.
Super Long — A tractor pulling two, 53 foot trailers typically seen along I-90 in New York State and the Florida Turnpike, also, unbelievably in British Columbia on the mountainous Coquihalla Highway.
Sweet Spot — Sounds sexy, but, it’s the speed at which the driver gets the best fuel mileage. For us it’s 58 mph.
Tractor — A Power Unit with a Fifth Wheel, which PULLS freight in seperate trailers.
Truck — An an all-in-one unit attached to a box, which CARRIES freight.
Triple — A tractor pulling three 27 foot pup trailers, a configuration used extensively by FedEx Freight and UPS.
TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential) — A tax grab against the working person in the form of a picture ID card. Promoted by the Security Industry, the TWIC costs truckers money and is completely useless. Every five years, we must pay $132.50 for a background check for the TWIC card. There are offices around the country, but almost none have Big Truck parking and they use bankers hours, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The cards are supposed to be used as ID in sensitive areas such as ports, but no one seems to have readers for the cards and they are almost never requested. Big manufacturers, such as Boeing will not accept TWIC cards as ID because they do not guarantee citizenship. And Wuppeee, the fee decreases March 19, 2012 to $129.75 due to a fee reduction in the FBI’s finger-print based check. This is not small change, 2,106,123 people have been taxed, er, enrolled. We pay for the same background check for our Hazardous Materials endorsement every four years, which costs $91 in Florida, more in New York.
Weigh-In-Motion — Scales are implanted in the roadway to weigh the commercial vehicle, gross weight and axles, if the registered truck is under the maximum gross for the type of truck, the truck is given a green signal, a bypass on the Pre-Pass transponder in the cab. If not, a red signal is issued and the truck must enter the scales. At this time the DOT officer can inspect the tractor, trailer and/or the driver’s logbook.
Westcoast Mirror — The giant side mirror on the driver and passenger sides of a tractor has two mirrors inside, the larger top one, is the actual view to the rear, the smaller, bottom mirror is a convex mirror, the “objects in mirror are closer than they appear” mirror. Both these mirrors are used continually to check the truck’s blindspots.
Wiggle Wagon — Trucker’s name for Double and Triple Combinations since the truck is now articulated in two or three places.
Wimp — Vancouver, BC word for eight-ounce glass of beer.
Yard Dog — A small tractor with a fifth wheel that is used to move trailers in and out of loading docks. These are typically found in large distribution centers such as Wal-Mart.
Yard Jockey — The Yard Dog’s driver.