Slang has been a trademark of cultures since the dawn of time. Originally created in an effort to mislead and confuse opposing nations and communities, slang has since evolved into an oral and written cue that shows both a knowledge and acceptance into various sub groups and cultures within our society. From the tech world (ping, surf, user) to popular culture (dope, stoked, swag) slang has pervaded almost every aspect of our society and trucking is no exception.
The average truck driver covers about 2,500 miles per week in their very first year of driving. Spread this out across the year and you have about 130,000 miles of road time. These thousands and thousands of miles have given birth to some truly unique pieces of road jargon and trucker talk, “Watch out for that northbound smokey with the hammer down!” (There is a police officer speeding down the northbound lane). Those of you looking for a job in the trucking driving industry might want to brush up on some of these terms. However, others might be hard pressed to find a practical application for these outside of the trucking industry. Regardless, I challenge you to see just how many you can deftly slide into a conversation the next time the opportunity arrives.
Below is just a small sampling of some of the jargon and slang that permeates the trucking world.
Alligator: Likened to the corrugated skin of the infamous reptile, an alligator is the name for a piece of tire that has been shed from a vehicle. Next time you’re on the road and see the black remnants of a blown out tire sitting haphazardly along the interstate you can be comforted by the fact that it is in fact not a ferocious, scaly-skinned beast set on making you its next snack.
Bedbuggers: The term bedbuggers refers to a U-Haul or other similarly designed vehicle that assists in the moving process. This term appears to stem from some of the popular contents of these vehicles (beds of course) and the idea that individuals operating them (often in one off scenarios) can sometimes be overly cautious when taking to the roads, in essence bugging a more seasoned truck driver.
Comic Book: A comic book is simply another name for a truck driver’s log book. But, thanks to improvements in technology, most of this information tracking is now done electronically. Interesting to note is that back in 1983 Marvel Comics released a not so well known superhero aptly called “US #1”, unfortunately, US #1 wasn’t a hit for Marvel comics both in and outside the trucking sphere and he was quickly scrapped in favor of the brand’s more popular heroes.
Evil Kenivel: Just like the famous motorcycle stuntman, this piece of trucker jargon refers to a sneaky motorcycle cop who might be lurking off the side of the road hoping to catch a speeding trucker or two. It is not uncommon to hear truckers communicating to one another about an Evil Kenivel’s location if both truckers are sharing the same piece of highway.
Going Horizontal: Going horizontal means just what the name implies, finally getting out of that sitting position and moving to the back of the cab and heading to sleep. What most people don’t know is how luxurious some cab’s sleeper sections can be. Right now, Volvo has some pretty impressive sleepers for those independent truck drivers that can afford them and perhaps for the CDL driver who lucks out and gets a generous employer.
Hammer Down: The term hammering down means in essence, “barreling full speed ahead”. Similar to peddle to the metal, hammering down takes its name from the sheer amount of force in which a hammer strikes a head of a nail. In this case, the hammer is the foot and the nail is of course the peddle.
Pregnant Roller Skate: Now you might be wondering, what a pregnant roller skate could possibly have to do with anything related to the trucking world. Well my friends, I would ask that you close your eyes for just a moment and call to mind a Volkswagen Beatle of the 70’s era. Once you make the association is difficult to un-see it.
Also making the list of hilarious vehicle euphemisms is the infamous cheese wagon (school bus), cowboy Cadillac (pickup truck) or the not so savory greasy side up (a truck that has unfortunately flipped over).
Smokey: When a truck driver is referencing a Smokey they are in fact talking about a police officer or a highway patrolmen. The name lends itself from the likeness of the famous Smokey the Bear, whose image can be found displayed across interstates and highways across America. While your typical police officer will of course not be a kind-hearted American Black bear urging you to think twice about your fire safety habits, he or she will in fact share the same hat choice.
It’s probably important to note that if you happen to find yourself in the company of a trucker or two in the near future and you immediately spew out a string of sentences heavily sprinkled with trucker jargon you will probably be looked at in a strange way. While we truckers do in fact use these words in our communication with one another and on occasion, with our family and friends, it is not something that is done on a 100% basis. So if the opportunity presents itself and you are itching to show off your newfound vernacular, remember the time test theory of less is more.
Author Bio: Gus Wright has worked in the truck driving industry for nearly ten years. He and his wife are currently co-navigating the tumultuous road of raising two rambunctious toddlers. Drop him a line at GusWright.BigRig@gmail.com