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Trucking Glossary

Understanding terms and jargons in the trucking industry

A paper document between a shipper and a carrier acknowledging the receipt of goods for transport. Usually describes the nature of the cargo; hazardous materials classification (if any); amount of cargo by weight, size, and/or number of pallets, boxes, barrels, etc; and the origin and destination of the cargo.

A truck's blind spots, or 'No Zones', are areas around the truck where your car is no longer visible or you are so close that the truck can't stop or maneuver safely. Thus, both truck drivers and other traffic participants, have to be aware of blind spots created by heavy trucks.

Bobtailing (bobtail, straight truck) – driving a tractor without a trailer attached. Driving a bobtail truck is considered more dangerous. It is a lot easier to skid and lose traction due to the lack of weight. The name comes from the description of cats with short tails. Don't mix up with deadheading, a backhaul with an empty trailer. Bobtailing and deadheading generate no profit and drive up cost per mile.

Broker is a person or company that arranges for the truck transportation of cargo belonging to others, using for-hire carriers to provide the actual truck transportation.

Company driver is an employee of a carrier who is assigned to drive company-owned trucks.

Cross-docking is the practice of unloading goods from inbound delivery vehicles and loading them directly onto outbound vehicles. By eliminating or minimizing warehouse storage costs, space requirements, and inventory handling, cross-docking can streamline supply chains and help them move goods to market faster and more efficiently.

Day cab is a tractor that has no sleeper berth. Used for local work where the driver gets home every night.

Dedicated route is an assigned route for a truck driver. Regular route drivers usually are at home on regular intervals, given the scheduled nature of their routes.

Electronic logging device (ELD or E-Log) is electronic hardware that is attached to a commercial motor vehicle engine to record driving hours. ELD replaces paper logbook used to record driver compliance with hours of service (HOS) requirements. An ELD monitors a vehicle’s engine to capture data on whether the engine is running, whether the vehicle is moving, miles were driven, and duration of engine operation.

The fifth-wheel coupling provides the link between a semi-trailer and the towing truck. The term fifth wheel originates from a comparable coupling utilized on four-wheel horse-drawn carriages. The device enables the front axle assembly to pivot horizontally facilitating turning.

See also "kingpin".

Freight – the materials or goods being transported.

A grill guard is a steel framework attached to the frame of semi-truck to keep a front end of a vehicle safe. It reduces the effect of unexpected animal collisions and the toughest road conditions. Grill guards protect vehicle's lights, bumper, radiator and help eliminate downtime from front end collisions.

Hazardous materials (abbreviated as hazmat) are substances, solids, liquids, or gases that can harm people, other living organisms, property, or the environment, more specifically. The transportation of such products is regulated under the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act, 1992. A system of diamond-shaped placards and labels is used to identify different categories of dangerous goods.

Hours-of-service is safety regulations governing how long and when drivers may be on duty and driving.


Intermodal shipping is a way of transportation of a trailer or container that encounters multiple forms of transportation along its route, such as truck/ship/rail.

Jackknifing is an accidental folding of an articulated vehicle. The term comes from a description of how the blade of a jack knife forms the angle with its handle. If the driver is unable to correct it in time, the trailer pushing from behind will continue to push the towing vehicle until it spins around. The event of jackknifing is dangerous and can be fatal to the driver as the top of the cab can be crushed or sliced off.

See also "trailer swing".

Just-in-time (JIT) manufacturing is a system that depends on frequent deliveries of parts and supplies to keep on-site inventory to a minimum. The freight arrives "just in time", and only when it is needed.

Kingpin – a thick metal pin located underneath the front of the semi-trailer. This kingpin connects with the locking jaws of the fifth wheel of the tractor. At this point, the trailer and tractor pivots.

See also "fifth wheel".

Landing gear – a support mechanism to hold up the front end of a semitrailer when it is not coupled to a tractor.

Lane – a particular route, defined as an origin and destination pair. For example, the route from Toronto to Chicago is a lane, and from Chicago to Toronto is a distinct lane.

Less-than-truckload (LTL) - carrying less cargo than a full truckload weight for a customer. This includes shipping one package or half of a truckload.

See also "truckload".

Load bars, or cargo bars, are square bars made of steel or high-performance aluminum with an extendible fitting on each end that helps to keep heavy or bulky items confined to one area of cargo space.

Long-haul – driving long distances.

See also "Over-the-road".

Over-the-road - a driver or carrier who transports cargo to any place at any time, without prescribed schedules or routes. Long-Haul OTR involves being away for weeks, or months at a time, often cross-country or international (Canada and Mexico), given the unscheduled nature of their routes.

Owner-operator – a trucker who owns or leases and operates his own truck(s).

Payload – the weight of the cargo being hauled. Payload capacity can be determined by the formula: Gross Vehicle Weight Rating – Trailer Weight = Payload Capacity.

Pre-load a trailer, or "drop and hook", means that a truck driver drops an empty trailer to a shipper and hook on to the full one. The goal is to use the productive time of a truck driver hauling the load, not sitting around a yard burning up valued hours.

According to the Ministry of Transportation "the most effective method for drivers to determine that their vehicle is in safe operating condition is to do a daily vehicle inspection (also known as a circle check or a pre-trip inspection) before starting the day’s trip." The daily inspection is a requirement of the Highway Traffic Act. Drivers must, by law, inspect their vehicles and be capable of determining if they are in a safe operating condition.

Security seal is a metal or plastic band placed on the trailer door latch. Once it's broken, it cannot be reconnected. An intact seal ensures that the trailer doors have not been opened, and the cargo is untouched.

Truck Share is an option for truck drivers who are looking for flexible schedules. This allows getting the extra home time while the truck continues to move, driven by another driver.

Sleeper – sleeping compartment mounted behind a truck cab, sometimes attached to the cab or designed to be an integral part of it.

Team driving is when two drivers alternate between driving and non-driving time (sleeping, resting, etc.) in order to expedite the shipment and maximize the overall production of the truck.

A terminal is a dock or hub where freight originates, terminates, or handled in the transportation process.

Tire chains, or snow chains, are devices fitted to the tires of vehicles to provide maximum traction when driving through snow and ice.

Tractor-trailer is the combination of a tractor unit and one, or more, semi-trailers to carry freight.

Trailer swing, or trailer slew, is when your trailer starts swinging from side-to-side. This is not the same as "jackknifing" and is not as serious since the trailer moves back into line as the vehicle continues forwards. This situation can occur especially when the trailer is empty or lightly loaded, and weather conditions cause violent gusts of crosswind.

See also "jackknifing".

Truck repair shop is a third party or in-house operation facility for repairing trucks, including major work on engines and transmissions.

Truckload is a full trailer-load of freight.

See also "less-than-truckload".

Video telematics is a system, which is equipped with artificial intelligence technology to help improve the safety and the productivity of trucking service. The system captures only those moments that caused a vehicle to break rapidly, or sharply swerve. These driving events capture on video an objective view of a driver's behavior and help eliminate unsafe habits in the future. Moreover, it provides an objective witness to help exonerate a driver from blame for collisions that were not caused by the driver.

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