Common Truck Terms

In the trucking industry, there are common truck terms which are used to identify several aspects of the industry’s daily functions. These common truck terms describe aspects such as the trucks themselves, methods and behaviors of truck drivers, systems for operation and shipment, and legal agreements and requirements for truck transportation arrangements. A number of common truck terms may be considered slang within the industry.

Truck Parts Terms

The following common truck terms are used to describe parts and aspects of the truck and the goods transported:

  • Tractor: the powered unit containing the vehicle engine and driver’s cabin, which is used to pull the semi-trailer containing the cargo.
  • Trailer or semi-trailer: the unpowered tractor attachment that is loaded with cargo to be transported.
  • Tractor-trailer: a fully operational truck functioning with both a tractor and semi-trailer, also referred to as a big rig, semi, semi-truck, and 18-wheeler.
  • Pup: a shorter semi-trailer with a single axle, typically measuring between 26 and 32 feet in length
  • Reefer: a refrigerated trailer that has a self-powered refrigeration unit and insulated walls, which is typically used for food transportation.
  • Freight or cargo: the goods or materials contained in the semi-trailer that are being transported.
  • Bulk freight or bulk cargo: large amounts of unpackaged or undivided freight or cargo, such as dry power or grain.
  • Oversize load: a cargo unit that exceeds legal limitations for length, width, weight, or height, but cannot be divided into smaller units.

Driving Truck Terms

The following common truck terms are often used by drivers to describe trucks on the road:

  • Bobtailing: the operation of a tractor that is not accompanied by an attached semi-trailer unit. A tractor without a trailer is also referred to as a bobtail.
  • Deadheading: operating a truck with an empty semi-trailer unit. A tractor-trailer with no cargo is also referred to as a deadhead.
  • Float shifting: shifting the truck’s gears without the use of the clutch pedal, also referred to as dead sticking or slip shifting.
  • Fingerprinting: the behavior of a driver when he or she must unload the trailer’s cargo alone

Legal Truck Terms

Common truck terms for legal agreements between parties include the following:

  • Consignment: a legal agreement between a consignor and consignee which places responsibility for the goods being transported by the third party carrier. The carrier is the entity or individual providing trucking services to transport the cargo. Consignment may also refer simply to the cargo, or consigned goods being transported.
  • Consignor: the entity or individual who transfers ownership or legal responsibility for the cargo to the carrier during the course of transport. The consigner is also often the shipper of the goods.
  • Consignee: the entity or individual who maintains ownership or legal responsibility for the cargo, or the consignment, after it is delivered by the carrier. The consignee is also often the receiver of the goods.
  • Bill of landing: the shipping papers or documents for each shipment that acts as a contract and receipt of shipment and between the shipper and carrier. The bill of landing outlines each item of the shipment, as well as details such as hazardous materials.


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“Trucking Terms.” Driver Solutions. Driver Solutions. Web. 22 Oct 2013. <>.