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50 Trucking & Transportation Terms You Need to Know
Mariah Barr
10 mins read

How many of these trucking phrases have you heard before?

No matter what type of driver or trucker you are, your vocabulary is probably full of some not-so-common words, like deadhead or bobtail. And if you’re new to the industry, some of these trucking phrases will sound downright odd.

Follow this guide of 50 trucking terms you should be familiar with no matter what type of rig you drive or freight you haul.

Trucking Industry Terms

Bill of Lading – An official itemized list of the goods being hauled in a shipment.

Bobtail – A tractor without a trailer hooked up to it.

Broker – Also referred to as freight broker, who arranges transactions between shippers and carriers.

Carrier liability – The maximum amount for which a carrier could be responsible for if the freight they’re hauling is lost, stolen, or damaged.

CDL – A commercial driver’s license which is required to operate CMVs. To learn more about the different classes of CDLs and endorsements, read our related Foley article: CDL Endorsements & Restrictions – What They Mean & Why They Matter

CMV – Commercial Motor Vehicle used for transporting goods or passengers for compensation.

Day cab – A CMV without a sleeper berth.

Deadhead – Driving a tractor without a trailer attached.

Dedicated run – A route that’s scheduled for the same place at the same time on a regular basis.

Drop & Hook – The process of dropping off a full trailer without unloading it, then picking up a full trailer at the same location.

GVWR – Gross vehicle weight rating, or the maximum allowable weight of the fully-loaded vehicle (including passengers and cargo).

HAZMAT – Hazardous materials that can cause harm to humans, animals, or the environment. Any trailer transporting these materials must be placarded accordingly.

Intermodal – Shipping materials using a combination of transportation types, such as trucks, trains, and planes.

Interstate – Traveling across state lines.

Intrastate – Traveling within a single state.

Jackknife – When the trailer pushes the truck to one side, or all the way around, and they end up at an acute angle to one other. The angle resembles a folding pocketknife.

King pin – A steel pin used to securely lock a tractor and trailer together.

Line haul – Consolidated goods from multiple shippers being delivered to roughly the same area. Intermodal transportation may be used as the goods travel from different depots and sorting facilities.

Long-haul – Long-distance routes that may require drivers to be on the road for days or weeks at a time.

LTL – Less than Truckload. A shipment that doesn’t take up the entire trailer space.

OTR – Over-the-road, or another phrase for long-haul trucking.

Owner-operator – A driver who operates their own transportation business, rather than working for an employer. Find out what it takes to become an owner-operator in this Foley article.

Short-haul – Shorter routes that usually allow the driver to return home the same day.

Sleeper berth – The sleeping area in a truck, sometimes called a bunk.

Weigh station – An official facility that weighs trucks, and potentially checks equipment and driver logs, often found at truck stops or along highways.

Yard jockey – A driver who moves trailers around warehouses or distribution facilities.

Regulatory & Compliance Terms

Authority – Also known as motor carrier authority, refers to a carrier’s legal authorization to transport goods or passengers in interstate commerce.

ATS – Applicant Tracking System. Software that keeps track of candidates during the recruiting and hiring process.

BASICS – Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories used to calculate a carrier’s CSA score.

BOC-3 – Blanket of Coverage form the FMCSA requires carriers to file to prove they have a process agent in each state they operate. You can file your BOC-3 with Foley here.

CDLIS – A report that includes information on a driver’s current CDL number and the issuing state, as well as up to three prior CDLs held by the driver – including those held under an alias or former name.

Compliance review – An audit performed by an inspector from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that ensures a carrier is following all regulations. Need help preparing for an audit? Foley is the compliance partner to trust.

CSA score – A number from 0-100 that represents how well a carrier maintains road safety. Higher scores indicate poor levels of safety measures and may increase a carrier’s chances of an audit.

DOT – Department of Transportation. The federal agency responsible for setting regulation standards for all major transportation networks.

DOT number – A unique eight-digit number required by the FMCSA that identifies carriers and helps monitor their safety and compliance information. Click here to find out if your business requires a DOT number.

DOT physical – Required for drivers who operate CMVs, DOT physicals are administered by certified physicians and indicate whether a person is physically, mentally, and emotionally fit according to FMCSA standards. Schedule your DOT physicals with Foley now.

DQF – Driver Qualification File. As an FMCSA recordkeeping requirement, each driver must have a comprehensive and up-to-date file containing their employment, safety, and compliance records. Foley provides convenient DQF management, so you don’t have to worry about incomplete driver files.

Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse – An FMCSA database that gives insight into CDL drivers’ drug and alcohol violations. Are you aware of the Clearinghouse regulations coming into effect in 2023?

ECCF – Electronic Custody and Control Form, used to collect and track drug tests.

ELD – Electronic Logging Device. The digital device used to track hours-of-service (HOS), such as on- and off-duty time.

FMCSA – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The department that regulates commercial trucking.

HUT – Highway Use Tax. A tax levied on commercial trucks to pay for highway maintenance in participating states. The federal tax applies to vehicles over a state-specified weight limit.

IFTA – International Fuel Tax Agreement, a simplified structure for carriers to calculate and pay their fuel taxes.

MCS-150 – Motor Carrier Identification Report, required by the FMCSA. It includes important motor carrier information, including the number of miles traveled the previous year, the materials hauled, and insurance coverage. Is it time to file your MCS-150 update?

Medical Examiner’s Certificate – Also referred to as a medical card or med card, this document is given to a driver after they’ve passed a DOT physical. A copy of the card must be kept in their driver qualification file.

MVR – Motor Vehicle Report. A summary of a driver’s reported traffic citations, license suspensions, DUI convictions, and accidents. Have you run your MVR checks on all your drivers yet this year?

PSP – The FMCSA’s Pre-Employment Screening Program that provides employers with drivers’ five-year crash and three-year inspection history.

Roadside inspection – CMV and driver safety inspections performed by FMCSA officials, typically on a random basis. There are eight levels of inspections that can occur. See the top inspection violations for 2022 that all carriers should try to avoid.

SPH – Safety Performance History. The process of employers contacting a driver’s previous employers from the past three years to uncover any drug, alcohol, or traffic violations. Starting January 6, 2023, performing a pre-employment query in the DOT Clearinghouse will uncover any drug or alcohol violations for a driver. Find out more about the 2023 regulations now!

UCR – Unified Carrier Registration. A federally mandated system for registering operators of CMVs in North America. You can file your UCR with Foley before 2023 enforcement starts on January 1.

Now that you know these terms, start showing off your new-found trucker vocabulary! Foley can also provide support if you need help with any of the compliance topics we covered.

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