As drivers of regular cars, we interact with semi-trucks on a regular basis, but we have no idea what all goes on inside the cabins while they're on the road. We see them in the right lanes on the highway as we pass them (hopefully respectfully), or we complain about that one person who always tails the semis too close. As kids, we would signal the drivers to toot their truck horn, just hoping they would. The point is, we see semis probably every day, and they see us. But it's their job to be driving, to be communicating with other truckers on the road, their co-workers, and to be hauling things from one place to another, sometimes, those places being vast distances apart.
Naturally, then, truckers, over time, have developed their own nomenclature of sorts, while talking over the radio with their fellow trucker comrades. It's gotten to the point where truckers virtually have their own language that only they understand. It's fascinating to learn about, and fascinating to hear. They have their own lexicon of terms and phrases that sometimes mean surprising things, illogical things even. But it's their language, their radios, and their roads, really, so it makes sense. Of course, these days, living in the information age, it's easy to look up and find definitions for their phrases on the internet, but that didn't use to be the case; it used to just be something people didn't understand and movies used as jokes in their scripts. In any case, here are 18 things truck drivers say but which no one has a clue what they mean.
18 Credit Card Machine
No, this doesn't refer to the credit card machines in every gas station and truck stop across the globe that truckers would talk about using when they want to buy a snack for the road or after they pay for the fuel to fill up their gas tanks for the next leg of the journey. "Credit card machine" refers to the not-so-rare instance of having to drive your semi-truck across a narrow bridge. The feeling, I'm sure, is quite similar to being a card swiped through a credit card machine.
We, as normal drivers, see these on the side of the road all the time, especially on the interstate, where it seems like they litter the shoulders of the roadway every quarter mile or more.
While we may acknowledge them or not, we tend to refer to them as "tires" or "shredded tires" or perhaps "blown out tires."
Of course, we don't spend our days and nights on the road, driving from one end of the country to the other, perhaps even further. So naturally, truckers have found a name for these: "Gators," probably because it's never a good idea to run them over, as they might bite back.
16 Wiggle Wagon
Also known as a "road train," with the obvious explanation being the multiple trailers (or "cars" if you want to use railway jargon) attached to the back of one semi-truck, the next term in our list is the "wiggle wagon," a semi-truck pulling more than one trailer, usually more than two.
These roadgoing trains are fairly common to see on the interstate, but they're special enough to warrant their own trucker label.
It's addictively fun to say out loud, especially in context with other trucker terms. I dare you to say it out loud.
15 Kojak With A Kodak
This term, which sounds really strange and basically like gibberish, is one of the more silly terms found in the dictionary of trucker speak. It obviously caught on because of not only its parallel structure but also its rhyme and alliteration. "Kojak with a Kodak" is a term applied by truckers when they're talking about police officers or state patrol officers who are taking radar, whether on the highway or city roads, "Kodak," of course, referencing the radar guns they hold up to gauge the speed of traffic.
14 Georgia Overdrive
Anybody's guess is as good as the other's when it comes to the definition of this trucker term. Could it be a special gear truckers go into? Does it actually involve truck routes to Georgia? No, actually, none of the above. "Georgia overdrive" means coasting down a hill without using the accelerator to save on gas and improve gas mileage. Who knows why the words "Georgia" and "overdrive" add up to equal that definition, but then again, does it matter? Language is a strange and mysterious thing.
13 Motion Lotion
Any guesses as to what this strange word could mean? It, like a lot of trucker terms, has a catchy ring to it, especially because these two words are identical in every way except for the first letters of each word. Could it be actual lotion? For the hands because they have to steer all day? Or isn't it lotion at all? No, because when a trucker talks about motion lotion, he's talking about something really simple: diesel fuel, the golden fluid that every trucker needs to keep in motion, hence the name.
12 Seat Cover
A lot of trucker terms we find in the trucker glossary of language merely alter the meanings of various different kinds of motorist-related words and terms that we already know and understand. For example, the term "seat cover" refers, as we know it, to the fabric that you use to cover over the seats in your car, most often, for protection, and sometimes, for style. But to a trucker, a seat cover is the passenger in your car, more often than not, in reference to a pretty woman. So, now you know.
11 Bumper Sticker
Here, we have another familiar road term for us as car drivers but not truck drivers. To us, as regular drivers, a bumper sticker is exactly as we know it to be, a sticker that people (mostly overly opinionated people or those who have no shame) will put on their car, usually somewhere on the back. But for a trucker, that means something different entirely.
A bumper sticker is someone who tails way too close, whether to you, as the trucker, or to anyone on the road.
Makes sense actually, and I might start using it in my own daily language.
10 Fifty-Dollar Lane
Here's another more outlandish and incomprehensible trucker term found in the dictionary of phrases. There's not really any etymology documented on the history or origins of trucker phrases like these and many others. But we do know what the word means, and I'm sure if you ask any trucker, they'd be able to tell you just what exactly the origin of the word is. The fifty-dollar lane, if you hear a trucker say it, just means the passing lane of a highway.
9 Double Nickel
Now, this word does have its etymology in order, as we know where the word originated and comes from. Alas, we aren't sure who coined the term initially (no pun intended) or how it came to be such a successful addition to the lexicon of truckers.
"Double nickel" comes from a time when all the interstates across the United States had a standardized speed limit of 55 miles per hour.
The two fives explain why it's called "double nickel," and even though intestate speed limits have since changed, the term is still in use.
8 West Coast Turnarounds
Ever feeling tired, worn out? Has it been a long day? Did you maybe not get any sleep? This happens to anyone, and falling asleep while driving is a pretty unsuccessful way of living life because you might just miss out on it. Truckers face these things, too, and sometimes, they need help to keep their senses on the road. Cue "west coast turnarounds," energy pills, drinks, or caffeine pills to keep you awake and going strong no matter what. More often than not, it involves taking speed in pill form.
7 Bear Bait
One of the biggest enemies of truckers on the roads is bears. No, not grizzly bears nor black bears; not Smokey the Bear (specifically); not golden bears nor polar bears either. That's because when truckers talk about bears, they're not talking about the scary animal with huge claws and fuzzy ears that roams the forests and mountains. They're talking about cops. Yep, and they've got different bear-related names for the different types of police that patrol the highways. So naturally, "bear bait" would refer to one of us, speeding by trucks, being bait for the cops.
6 Paying The Water Bill
One might think that the last thing on truckers' minds (truckers whose homes more often than not are the sleeper cabins of their semi-trucks) would be to pay the water bill. That's because, like most words in this list, it doesn't mean what it sounds like it should mean. The trucker definition of this phrase is this: paying the water bill means that you're going to go to the bathroom. If you have to pay the water bill, you have to pull over to go to the bathroom. It's a pretty tactful and clever term, in my opinion, and it's another term from the trucker lexicon I'll be adding to my own.
5 Reading The Mail
Again, truckers don't exactly get mail, not in the standard sense of things, at least the ones that live out of their trucks and drive them full-time. So, how do most truckers read the mail, then? Do they steal it from other people? Of course not, because that's not what it means—not to truckers, not according to their verbal dictionary.
"Reading the mail" is when other truckers are listening in to the CB radio (likely channel 19) but not contributing to the conversation.
It's another good term—logical, succinct, and somewhat mysterious.
4 Feeding The Bears
Feeding the bears... If you were to have one guess, you'd probably guess that it would mean something that involves the police or state patrol, although you might not know exactly what. And you'd be right, actually, because, in trucker nomenclature, a bear will always refer to law enforcement. So, when someone is feeding the bears, as it were, what else could it mean besides getting pulled over by a cop, whether it be a mama bear, a smokey bear, a carebear, or as our next number will reveal, a local yokel?
3 Local Yokel
Since truckers spend 95% of their time on the major roads, highways, and interstates of the country they're hauling for, they mostly deal with the bigtime law enforcement officers, usually state patrol and highwaymen. But when they do end up passing through towns, smaller ones especially, they find themselves having to deal with a very unique breed of law enforcement, that being the local police. I'm sure dealing with local police, with their small-town outlook but big-time attitude, can be a bit humorous for truckers at times, hence why they call them the "local yokels."
In context, without a picture or reference, this term doesn't make any sense, especially when lumped in along with five or six other trucker phrases you don't understand in a long slew of sentences that don't make any sense. But looking at a picture of what toothpicks are, you'll understand almost immediately. Naturally, of course. L
umber or logs carried on the back of a semi-truck are called "toothpicks" mainly because they do look like toothpicks all stacked up together like that.
Call it like you see it in the truck world.
1 Riding A Cradle
This white semi-truck is powering his way out of riding a cradle, and that small, little Toyota Yaris is about to enter the gauntlet, as it were. Yes, "riding the cradle" is when you, as a trucker, drive between two other semis. Tucking yourself right between the other two and matching speed is the true definition of "riding the cradle," and I'm sure it's pure ecstasy. You might as well have a picnic together, as you're all the same height and can have conversations over the CB radio. Sounds like a really fun time to me; I'm not sure why there aren't more truckers who do it.
Sources: thrillist.com, chicagotribune.com, forbes.com