Updated date:

Trucker Talk is Becoming a Thing of the Past


Fading Era

Language is becoming more unpredictable every day. We're trying to keep up with a variety of modern lingo changing at warp speed. The ancient Tower of Babel isn't the most intimidating prospect in language confusion.

There's an important aspect of the American lingo that is fading from our repertoire. Part and parcel, it's the unique lingo and jargon of the truck driver.

Creative Language

Truckers have always been creative with their speech. They often borrow from the admired professions of cowboy, sailor, farmer, and railroader.

Consider the phrase "Pour on the coal." An old reference to a rail fireman feeding coal into the firebox of a locomotive. Adding water to created the steam power to move the train.

But for the trucker, the phrase means bearing down on the accelerator (not and action I advocate).

"That some part of the trucker's heritage is derived from his wanderlusting cousins is most significantly attested to by his vocabulary. Mysterious as a strange tongue and varied as the geographical regions of the United States, the trucker's language is a coalescence of the familiar and the foreign." (Roach, 1971)

So pour em' a cup of strong, hundred mile coffee for a two hour ride then throw out the anchor by applying the brakes. How about the notion that a truck driver is training to be an Eskimo by riding with the windows open in cold weather. He's riding in a kidney-buster, a rough riding tractor.


Recorded History

The American Trucking Association sought to capture the essence of the trucker's lingo. The association published The Truck Drivers Dictionary in the mid-twentieth century.

"This language, coined by the drivers, gives a 'picture' description of a particular trucking job or piece of equipment. Often, a rather involved process or complicated situation is summed up in one word. For instance, the word 'spotter' refers to a driver who parks vehicles at the terminal or sometimes refers to supervisors who observe and record driver activities on the road."

"Oh, the things we said back then," remembers Charles Whorley. The Nashville driver retired from trucking after more than forty years on the road. His diverse driving career included hauling grain, livestock, cement, and general cargo. "We called a weigh station a chicken house," he remembers. "If a trucker came upon a slow moving pick-up truck he called it a Country Cadillac. When you lost a tire while driving, you'd lost one of your tennis shoes."

He reflects on the kind of camaraderie that sparked the inventive quality of the lingo. "The cell phone has taken it away," says Mr. Whorley.

Modern Influence

The austerity and regiment of federal transportation regulation has contributed to the decline. Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) "...is working to further reduce commercial motor vehicle crashes, fatalities, and injuries on our nation's highways."

In their downtime, drivers work to keep the spirit of trucking alive. Life on the Road is a driver blog that offers truck drivers an outlet for creative speech. Visual medial like vlogs about trucking are plenty.

"The newer drivers don't use the lingo. They just pick up the CB radio and talk normal," says veteran driver Danny Bennett. He continues with "Some of the older drivers still usse it and you can usually understand what they mean."



Has trucker lingo "gone 10-7" meaning dead or deceased in driver speak? Or is it "heading for a hole" meaning giving advance notice of going to a low spot for communication?

The voice of history tells us that one day "Everything old is new again." A rally for the old trucker lingo may be on the horizon.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Sharon R Hill

Related Articles