This glossary of trucking terms — aka trucker lingo or trucking terminology — is provided as a courtesy to help you professional truck drivers save money in the transportation industry.
These have been compiled primarily for use by truckers in the USA. Other terms may be used in other countries.
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Numbers
- 18 wheeler: A nickname for a semi-tractor trailer, pertaining to those trucks that have a 10-wheel tractor (steering axle with two tires and two drive axles with four tires each) and an 8-wheel trailer (two axles with four tires each).In order to drive an 18-wheeler, a driver must possess a Class A Commercial Driver’s License. (Note: not all large trucks have 18 wheels; some have more and some have less.)
- 34-hour restart: Regarding professional drivers’ hours of service (HOS), as defined by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, is any period of 34 consecutive hours off-duty that “restarts” the 60/70 hour calculation.(1)(2)
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Letters A-B
- ADS: automated driving systems.
- ADL: alternative delivery locations;
- articulated: When applied to a large truck, is each segment (tractor and each trailer) connected by a pivoting joint (king pin fitting into a fifth wheel platform).
- backing: The activity being performed when a driver has his or her truck in reverse gear. Among the most often used forms are straight line backing, 90-degree alley docking, and offset alley docking. See our article on how to back up your truck safely.
- BEV: “Battery Electric Vehicle” or “Battery-Powered Electric Vehicle.”
- big rig: A nickname for a semi-tractor trailer, consisting of the tractor and trailer.
- BOPIS: Buy-online, pick-up-in-store.
- BOPA: Buy-online, pick-up-anywhere.
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Letter C
- CAYG: Clean As You Go.
- CDL: Abbreviation for Commercial Driver’s License.
- CMV: Abbreviation for Commercial Motor Vehicle.
- Comdata Card: Also known as a “ComCard,” a plastic card with an embedded magnetic strip, issued by Comdata Services, which is connected to a credit account, most often used by some professional drivers to buy fuel, but also used to purchase other goods and services.
- Comdata Check: Also known as a “ComCheck,” a piece of paper issued by Comdata Services, which is connected to a credit account and requires additional authorization (such as a purchase order number), most often used by some professional drivers to buy lumper services, but also used to purchase other goods and services.
- Comdata Services: According to its website, http://www.comdata.com/, “For four decades, Comdata has been at the forefront of payment innovations. We invented the concept of electronic payments for transportation, and in the process launched the Comdata Card – a payment solution that helped drive an industry.”
- CPG stands for Consumer Packaged Goods.
- CSA 2010: According to its website, http://csa2010.fmcsa.dot.gov/about/, “Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) … is FMCSA’s data-driven safety compliance and enforcement program designed to improve safety and prevent commercial motor vehicle (CMV) crashes, injuries, and fatalities. CSA consists of three core components; the Safety Measurement System (SMS); interventions; and a Safety Fitness Determination (SFD) rating system to determine the safety fitness of motor carriers. “
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Letters D-H
- DOT: U.S. Department of Transportation.
- drop and hook: Being able to drop a loaded trailer at the consignee, hook to an empty trailer and not have to wait on your trailer to be unloaded live before leaving.
- double drop and hook: The series of moves a driver undertakes when he
- drops trailer #1,
- hooks to trailer #2 (which is almost always in a space or dock where trailer #1 needs to go),
- moves trailer #2 and drops it,
- rehooks to trailer #1,
- moves trailer #1 to the desired space and drops it,
- rehooks to trailer #2.
(Even though this series of moves actually involves three drops and three hooks, it involves only two trailers.)
- doubles: two short trailers connected back to front by a converter gear and pulled in series behind a tractor. Because of the height to length ratio, they are more likely to overturn than a standard long van, high cube doubles even more so.
- double forty-eights: instead of two short trailers being pulled by a tractor, this is two 48-foot trailers being pulled by a tractor. Because of the length of this kind of rig, some drivers refer to double-48s as “freight trains.” The number of places where this length of vehicle is permitted to operate is small, usually on turnpikes with parking areas near toll plazas where drivers can connect or disconnect the trailers.
- Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): According to its website, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/, “FHWA is charged with the broad responsibility of ensuring that America’s roads and highways continue to be the safest and most technologically up-to-date” and its mission is to “Improve Mobility on our Nation’s Highways Through National Leadership, Innovation and Program Delivery.”
- Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) : According to its website, http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/, “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) was established as a separate administration within the U.S. Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000, pursuant to the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999” and “Our primary mission is to reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving large trucks and buses.”
- G.O.A.L.: Get Out And Look.
- “high cube”: A short van which is usually pulled as part of “doubles” or “triples” but which is 14’3″ tall instead of the standard 13’6″ tall. Because of its extra height, it is intended to be run only in western U.S. states where the height restriction is higher than on the East Coast. A driver who drives high cubes in states where the height restriction is 13’6″ risks receiving a fine and being put out of service.
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Letters I-J
- ICE : “Internal Combustion Engine.”
- IFTA: According to The Free Dictionary on this subject, “The International Fuel Tax Agreement (or IFTA) is an agreement between the lower 48 states of the United States and the Canadian provinces, to simplify the reporting of fuel use by motor carriers that operate in more than one jurisdiction. An operating carrier with IFTA receives an IFTA license, a set of decals which are applied to qualifying vehicles, and a quarterly fuel tax report. This report shows the net tax or refund due.”
- jackknife: The acute angle (less than 90 degrees) of a tractor in position to the semi-trailer to which it is attached, most often seen in accidents in which a professional driver has lost control of his or her articulated vehicle. During accidents resulting in jackknifed rigs, the momentum of the trailer has forced the tractor to spin around facing backwards. See the similarities between a jackknifed rig and the blade of a folding pocket knife in an acute angle with respect to its body in these images:
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Letters K-M
- inverter: A device used to invert DC (direct current) power into AC (alternating current) power. See our article on inverters.
- live load: The loading of freight onto a semi-trailer which the driver is waiting to move.
- live unload: The unloading of freight from a semi-trailer which the driver is waiting to move.
- LTL: less-than-truckload.
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Letters N-P
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): According to its website, http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/, this government agency’s mission is to: “Save lives, prevent injuries and reduce economic costs due to road traffic crashes, through education, research, safety standards and enforcement activity.”
- National Motor Freight Traffic Association (NMFTA): According to its website, http://www.nmfta.org/, “NMFTA publishes the National Motor Freight Classification (NMFC), which is a standard that provides a comparison of commodities moving in commerce.”
- NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard.
- NRW: Acronym for “not road worthy.” This means that the vehicle or trailer is not in good enough shape to be taken out on the open road. A trailer so designated may, in some cases, still be used for storage.
- Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI): According its website, http://www.ptdi.org/, “PTDI is the first nonprofit organization to develop uniform skill performance, curriculum, and certification standards for the trucking industry and to award course certification to entry-level truck driver training courses and motor carrier driver-finishing programs.”
Glossary of Trucking Terms starting with Letters Q-Z
- tandems: A pair of axles, usually denoting trailer axles that can be moved by sliding them forward or backward along a track built on the underside of the trailer.
- THC: tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the “main psychoactive property in marijuana.”
- transloading (courtesy of Investopedia): “a shipping term that refers to the transfer of goods from one mode of transportation to another en route to their ultimate destination.”
- triples: like “doubles” except three short vans connected in series with two converter gears between them.
- UCR stands for “Unified Carrier Registration”.
- U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT): According to its website, Transportation.gov “The Department of Transportation was established by an act of Congress on October 15, 1966. The Department’s first official day of operation was April 1, 1967.” and this government department’s mission is to: “Serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.”
- VMT: Vehicle Miles Traveled (a taxing mechanism).
- Wheel-Off: When a wheel comes off a tractor or trailer, possibly with more hardware.
- WIA: Workforce Investment Act.
- Wide-Base Tire: The same thing as a “super single.”
1. www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/truck/driver/hos/brochure.htm (no longer online)
2. www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/truck/driver/hos/hos-faqs.asp#_Toc111021256 (no longer online)