Glossary of Trucking Terms: Most-known Language as a Driver

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Understanding the language used in any industry is important for success, and the trucking industry is no different. As an owner-operator, knowing commonly used trucking terms can help you better understand the business and can mean the difference between smooth transactions and frustrating misunderstandings. 

To help you, we put together a glossary of commonly used terms in the trucking industry. Keep this tool handy and use it to help you in your everyday work.

Glossary of Trucking Terms

Language you need to know as a truck driver

Term Definition
Accessorials Additional services, such as detention and lumper, that go beyond typical pickup and delivery
Anti Lock Braking System (ABS) A safety system that allows the wheels on a vehicle to maintain contact with the road surface according to driver inputs while braking
Axle Weight The weight on a single axle of the truck; this is regulated to prevent road damage.
Backhaul Carrying cargo on a return trip—either hauling the same or different goods back over part of the same route
Bill of Lading (BOL) A legal document between the shipper and the carrier detailing the type, quantity, and destination of the goods being carried
Blind Shipment When the shipper and receiver are unaware of one another
Bobtail Driving a semi tractor without a trailer attached
Bulk Freight Goods that are not packaged, like grain or coal
Cab The driver's compartment of a truck
Chassis A special trailer used to transport shipping containers over the road; it has no walls or roof and is merely a frame with wheels, brakes, and necessary equipment
Commercial Driver's License (CDL) The special license required in the United States, Canada and Mexico to legally operate large or specialized vehicles, such as trucks or vehicles carrying hazardous materials
Consignee The person or place where a shipment is to be delivered
Consignor The person or place where a shipment originates—aka: the shipper
Container A standard-sized, large box used for freight shipment via different modes of transport, such as truck, rail, and sea
Converter Dolly An unpowered commercial vehicle that is designed to convert a semi-trailer into a full trailer
Deadhead Operating a truck without cargo between two locations
Dedicated Lane A regularly scheduled route for a specific shipper; it usually involves moving freight in both directions but it can also be “backhaul back” or “deadhead back”
Demurrage A fee for leaving equipment in someone else's terminal, rail yard, or port
Detention A fee for holding a truck and/or driver beyond the scheduled pickup or delivery window
Doubles Two trailers pulled by one tractor
Drayage Transport of goods over a short distance, often as part of a longer overall journey
Drop and Hook When a driver “drops” off a trailer and “hooks” to (hauls away) a different trailer
Dry Van A standard, enclosed trailer, usually 53' long or 28-1/2' long
ELD (Electronic Logging Devices) Devices used by drivers to automatically record driving time and hours of service
Factor A financial institution that buys a shipper's or broker's accounts receivable at a discount and collects the full amount
FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) The U.S. federal agency regulating the trucking industry
Freight Forwarder An individual or company that acts as an intermediary between a shipper and various transportation services
Fuel Surcharge An additional charge to cover the fluctuating cost of fuel. It's typically a percentage of the base rate
Hazmat Short for Hazardous Materials. It refers to goods that can pose a risk to health, safety, or property during transportation
Hotshot Loads Small loads that require quick delivery and can fit on a box truck, pickup truck, or trailer
Hours of Service (HOS) Regulations by FMCSA that limit when and how long truck drivers may drive and dictate required rest periods
IFTA (International Fuel Tax Agreement) An agreement among the 48 contiguous U.S. states and 10 Canadian provinces that simplifies the reporting of fuel use by motor carriers operating in multiple jurisdictions
Intermodal The process of moving freight using two or more modes of transportation, typically trucks, trains, and/or ships
Jackknife A dangerous scenario where a truck and its trailer fold at the connection point, resembling a folding pocket knife
Kingpin A coupling pin centered on the front underside of a truck's trailer that connects the trailer to the truck's fifth wheel and provides pivoting
Landing gear The legs that support the front of a semi-trailer when it's not attached to a tractor
Lane A term often used to refer to a specific freight shipping route between two points
Less than Truckload (LTL) A shipment that does not require the entire space of a truck. Companies that specialize in LTL make extensive use of “double” and “triple” trailer configurations
Linehaul The movement of freight over the road from one location to another, excluding pickup and delivery service
Logbook A record of a driver's hours of service. Formerly written on paper, logbooks are now kept electronically
Lowboy A type of flat bed trailer with a lowered section in the middle, which rides lower to the ground, allowing for the transport of taller/bulkier loads
Lumper A person hired to load and unload the truck, often at a warehouse or distribution center
Manifest A document listing the cargo, passengers, and crew of a ship, aircraft, or vehicle, for the use of customs and other officials
Owner Operator (O/O) A truck driver who owns and operates their own truck(s) or small trucking business
Payload The weight of the cargo being hauled
Power Only When an owner-operator or fleet provides only the tractor portion to haul someone else's trailer
Reefer A refrigerated/heated trailer used for temperature-sensitive cargo
Roll When a load is moved to the next day or a later time; the term can also refer to the movement of a truck from one place to another
Sleeper A compartment attached to the cab where drivers can rest or sleep
Tandem A set of two axles, one immediately following the other
TMS (Transportation Management System) A software platform designed to streamline and optimize the planning, execution, and monitoring of transportation operations, including shipment planning, carrier selection, freight auditing, tracking, and reporting
TONU (Truck Order Not Used) A fee charged when a carrier reserves a truck for a shipper, but the shipper cancels the load
Transload The process of transferring a shipment from one mode of transportation to another
Tridem A set of three axles, one immediately following the other (not common in US interstate commerce)
Triples Three trailers pulled by one tractor
Yard Goat A specialized yard truck designed to move trailers within a terminal or warehouse yard
Yard Jockey Person who operates a yard truck (or hostler or “yard goat”) that moves trailers within a terminal or warehouse yard

Armed with this glossary, you will be better equipped to navigate the trucking industry. Hopefully, this knowledge can make your day-to-day tasks smoother and your business communications more effective. Happy trucking!

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