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Trucking Terminology 101: Basic Terms for New Truck Drivers

Trucking is an essential part of the modern economy, transporting goods across the country and the world. In the United States alone, the trucking sector transports 10.93 billion tons of goods. And as you can imagine with an industry this size, it has its own set of terms and jargon. These terms and jargon can be confusing to those who don’t work in the trucking sector.

To be fair, even new truck drivers may have a hard time figuring out some of the trucking terminology we use every day. That’s why we wanted to take a moment in today’s blog article to provide a comprehensive glossary of trucking terms. These terms are perfect for new truck drivers, experienced truck drivers, and visitors to our blog. Are you ready to jump headfirst into the world of trucking terminology? Here we go!


A backhaul is a return trip for a truck that is empty or partially loaded. It is an opportunity for truckers to make extra money by picking up a load on their way back from a delivery. Backhaul rates are usually lower than outbound rates because the trucking company does not have to pay for the cost of the initial trip.


Bobtail refers to a truck that is not pulling a trailer. It is usually used when a truck is returning to its base or traveling short distances. Bobtail trucks are typically smaller and lighter than regular tractor-trailers, making them more fuel-efficient.


A broker is a third party who connects shippers with motor carriers. Brokers are responsible for negotiating rates and ensuring that freight is delivered on time. They do not own any trucks, but they do have a network of carriers that they work with. Want to learn more about how to become a freight broker?

Motor Carrier

A motor carrier is a company that transports goods using trucks. They are responsible for hiring drivers, maintaining the trucks, and ensuring that shipments are delivered on time. Motor carriers may have their own fleet of trucks, or they may subcontract work to independent owner-operators. Motor carriers are also often referred to as fleets or in its most basic form, trucking companies.


A shipper is a company or individual who is responsible for sending a shipment. They are usually the ones who pay for the transportation of goods. Shippers may work directly with motor carriers or use a broker to find a carrier. Shippers, brokers, and trucking companies all work together to move freight.


A deadhead is a trip where a truck is empty or not carrying any cargo. Deadhead miles are a significant expense for trucking companies, as they do not generate any revenue.


A long-haul is a trip that covers a long distance, usually over 1,000 miles. Long-haul truckers are typically away from home for extended periods and may cover multiple states or even cross-country.


Detention refers to the time a truck driver spends waiting to load or unload a shipment. This can be a significant issue for truckers, as they are often paid by the mile and not for the time spent waiting. Some motor carriers and brokers offer detention pay to help offset this cost.


A dispatcher is responsible for managing a fleet of trucks and drivers. They are responsible for ensuring that shipments are delivered on time, and drivers are scheduled efficiently. Dispatchers also handle any issues that arise during a trip, such as breakdowns or delays.

Dry Box

A dry box is a type of trailer that is not refrigerated. It is typically used to transport non-perishable goods, such as clothing, electronics, and dry goods. Dry box trailers are the most common type of trailer used in trucking.


An ELD, or electronic logging device, is a device that is installed in a truck to track the driver’s hours of service. The ELD automatically records the driver’s driving time and provides real-time information on the driver’s location and status.

Hours of Service

Hours of service refer to federal regulations that limit the amount of time a driver can spend behind the wheel. Drivers are limited to 11 hours of driving time in a 14-hour period and must take a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving. These regulations are in place to ensure that drivers are well-rested and not driving fatigued.


HVUT, or Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, is a federal tax that is assessed on all vehicles weighing over 55,000 pounds. The tax is used to fund highway and bridge construction and maintenance. HVUT is due annually and is based on the weight of the vehicle.

Dry Van

A dry van is a type of trailer that is not refrigerated or heated. It is typically used to transport non-perishable goods, such as clothing, electronics, and dry goods. Dry vans are the most common type of trailer used in trucking.


A reefer is a refrigerated trailer that is used to transport perishable goods, such as food, medicine, and plants. The temperature in a reefer trailer can be set to a specific temperature range to ensure that the cargo stays fresh.


A flatbed is a type of trailer that has an open top and no sides. It is typically used to transport large or oversized items, such as construction materials, heavy machinery, and vehicles. Flatbed trailers are often equipped with straps or chains to secure the cargo during transport.

Lead Time

Lead time refers to the amount of time between when an order is placed and when it is delivered. In the trucking industry, lead time can vary depending on the distance of the shipment, the type of cargo being transported, and other factors.

Load Board

A load board is an online platform that connects shippers with carriers. Load boards allow shippers to post available shipments, and carriers can bid on those shipments. Load boards can help carriers find new customers and increase their revenue.

Lumper Fee

A lumper fee is a fee charged by some warehouses or distribution centers to unload a truck. This fee is typically paid by the motor carrier and can be a significant expense for trucking companies.


An owner-operator is a truck driver who owns and operates their own truck. Owner-operators may work independently or contract with a motor carrier or broker to find work.


This acronym stands for Truck Order Not Used, is a fee charged by some motor carriers or brokers when a shipment is cancelled after the driver has already been dispatched. TONU fees can be a significant expense for shippers, as they are often charged even if the driver has not yet arrived.


A truckload refers to a shipment that fills an entire trailer. Truckload shipments are typically larger and generate more revenue for carriers than less-than-truckload (LTL) shipments.


BOL, or Bill of Lading, is a document that accompanies a shipment and contains information about the cargo, the shipper, the receiver, and the carrier. The BOL serves as a receipt for the shipment and provides proof of delivery.


This category refers to hazardous materials, which are materials that are considered dangerous or harmful to human health or the environment. Hazmat shipments require special handling and are subject to strict regulations.


Intermodal refers to the use of multiple modes of transportation, such as rail, truck, and ship, to transport a shipment. This freight shipment method can be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly than using only one mode of transportation.

Converter Dolly

A converter dolly is a device used to connect two trailers together. The dolly has a fifth wheel that attaches to the front trailer and a pintle hook that connects to the second trailer.

Long Combination Vehicle (LCV)

LCV, or Long Combination Vehicle, is a combination of two or more trailers that are pulled by a single tractor. LCVs are typically used for long-haul trips and can increase efficiency by reducing the number of trucks on the road.

Line Haul Truck Driver

A line haul driver is responsible for transporting cargo between cities or regions. Line haul drivers typically work long-haul trips and may cover multiple states or even cross-country.


The last mile refers to the final leg of a shipment’s journey, from the distribution center to the end customer. Last-mile delivery can be challenging, as it often involves navigating through urban areas with tight streets and limited parking.


A sleeper is a compartment located behind the driver’s seat in a tractor-trailer. Sleepers are equipped with a bed, storage, and other amenities to allow the driver to rest while on the road.

Fifth Wheel

A fifth wheel is a device that connects the tractor to the trailer. The fifth wheel allows the trailer to pivot and turn with the tractor, making it easier to maneuver on the road.

WOW! How about all those amazing trucking terms? The fact is, if you aren’t an experienced truck driver, these helpful terms are just what you need to acclimate yourself within the trucking sector. The trucking industry has a variety of terms and jargon that can be confusing to those outside of it – and sometimes to those within! Yet, understanding these terms is essential for shippers, motor carriers, and truck drivers to communicate effectively and ensure that shipments are delivered on time and safely.

From backhauls to hazmat, each term plays a critical role in the transportation of goods across the country and the world. Because whether you’re a shipper, driver, or broker, it’s essential to stay up to date with the latest trends and terminology in the trucking industry to ensure that you are successful in this vital sector of the economy. And we hope today’s blog post helped!

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