For years, long-distance truck drivers have communicated with each other using CB radios in their cabs, and even in the 21st century – when almost everyone has their own hi-tech communication device tucked away in their pocket – truckers still like to rely on their good old-fashioned CB radio.
And it isn’t just the way they communicate that hasn’t changed in decades; truckers have also developed their own language to keep their fellow long-haul drivers informed about what's happening on the road and to warn them about any hazards or the presence of police officers.
These phrases may sound like nonsense to the uninitiated, but truckers will have used all these strange expressions in chatting with other drivers on their CB radios while on the road.
20 Back Off The Hammer - Slow Down
Even non-truckers might be able to guess what the warning to “back off the hammer” might mean. Of course, this phrase is telling other drivers to slow down, usually because there is some problem up ahead on the road, or perhaps because a driver has spotted the traffic cops lurking by the side of the road.
19 Crotch Rocket – Motorcycle
While crotch rocket may sound like a rather painful medical condition, it is in fact trucker lingo for a motorcycle, particularly a fast superbike which is roaring past traffic at high speed. Sometimes the phrase will be used enviously – what trucker wouldn’t rather be on a classic motorbike? – while on other occasions, it can be used to give drivers a heads-up.
18 Baby Bear - Rookie Cop
A lot of the CB radio chat between drivers is about the police – who are called “bears” in trucker slang. There are lots of different kinds of bears, however, including “mama bear” for a female officer and “baby bear” to let truckers know that there is a rookie cop patrolling in their area.
17 Bear In The Air - Police Helicopter
Bears don’t just patrol by the roadside, however, and truckers who like to push their speed to the limit also get caught by cops who can appear unexpectedly.
There is not only a specific CB term for police who are using radar guns (bear trap), but also for police helicopters flying overhead – “bear in the air”.
16 Bumper Sticker - A Tailgating Vehicle
Tailgating is regularly voted one of the most annoying driving habits among motorists, and it's even more problematic for truck drivers as they simply cannot see any cars which are driving too close behind them. Fellow truckers may give them the heads-up that they have a tailgater by using the phrase “bumper sticker” over the radio.
15 Driving Award - Speeding Ticket
Sometimes, despite all the warnings from their fellow motorists, truckers will get caught driving over the speed limit and end up getting pulled over by the police. Even this is apparently seen as something of a badge of honor in the trucking community, however, as their CB radio slang for a speeding ticket is “driving award”!
14 Meat-Wagon – Ambulance
A lot of the trucker phrases have developed as a way of communicating essential information about other road users to drivers so that no-one gets any nasty surprises! CB radio slang has nicknames for all different kinds of vehicles, including ambulances that have been given the descriptive moniker “meat wagon.”
13 Cash Register - Toll Booth
Truckers use toll roads all the time to get from point A to B in the quickest time possible, but this also means that they can get stuck in queues if there’s traffic at toll booths. If drivers are using their CB radio to warn other truckers about backlogs at these locations, then they will instead use the slang term “cash register.”
12 Double Nickel - 55 Mph
The speed limit on the interstate back in the 1970s was 55mph when CB radio slang was first being developed, although the speed limit has since increased on many roads, even for truckers.
Nevertheless, truckers still use the old “double nickel” slang to refer to the speed limit, even though it represents 55mph.
11 Granny Lane - Slow Lane
When it comes to communicating with other truckers where hazards can be found, it's important to be as specific as possible. It isn’t just a case of identifying the road, but also where on the road an ice patch or a piece of debris can be found. Anything lying in the slow lane would be described by truckers as being in the “granny lane.”
10 Pickle Park - Rest Area
Rest areas are hugely important for truckers, who need to find somewhere to eat, sleep and answer the call of nature. If a driver is in need of a break, he may ask his fellow CB radio users if there is a “pickle park” up ahead – trucker chat for a layby or rest area where they can pull over.
9 Clean Shot - Road Is Clear Of Police
Warnings about the police presence on the roads may make up most of the trucker chat on CB radio, but it also provides an opportunity to let other drivers know that they have a “clean shot” – or that the coast is clear, allowing them to put the hammer down for a while without having to worry about any bears.
8 Greasy - Icy Road
Chatting on CB radio can be a great way for truckers to pass the time while they are driving alone on a long journey, but it can also provide mobile public service announcements for drivers who are going to be passing your way soon. Warning motorists about a “greasy” road means that there is ice or snow up ahead that could prove a hazard.
7 Antler Alley - Deer Crossing
There are lots of different hazards and pitfalls for truckers to keep an eye out for when they are on the road, and they can vary depending on whether they are driving in the city or in the country. Rural roads are often used by wildlife, and drivers can let other road users know that there are deer around by using the phrase “antler alley.”
6 Salt Shaker - Snow Plow
In bad winter weather, a snowplow is a trucker’s best friend, clearing a safe path through the snow and allowing them to make good time on their journey.
Therefore, it is great news for drivers to hear another CB radio user talk about seeing a “salt shaker” on the road, as this is trucker slang for a plow.
5 Deadhead - Driving An Empty Truck
There are also a lot of CB radio phrases that are very specific to the trucking industry that truckers use in their conversations with each other as they wile away the time driving long-distance journeys. A “deadhead” is an empty truck that the driver is taking to a depot in order to pick up their next load.
4 Big Road – Interstate
“Big road” is another piece of trucker talk that has a pretty obvious meaning, as it refers to the interstate and is used along with the road’s identifying number to help drivers let other road users know if there are any traffic problems that their colleagues need to be aware of.
3 Motion Lotion - Diesel Fuel
Truckers over the years have been very creative when it comes to making up slang for some of the everyday terms that they use in the course of their work. “Motion lotion” makes stopping for gas sound a lot more poetic than it really is, and refers specifically to the diesel fuel that the biggest trucks use.
2 Got My Nightgown On - Going To Sleep
Taking a truck across America can take days, especially when you include the time they legally have to spend resting. Top-of-the-range trucks can even have beds in the back of the cab, although some drivers will just sleep in their seat.
Wherever they rest, when a trucker is bedding down for the night, he or she will tell their fellow drivers that they have got their nightgown on.
1 Hammer Lane - Fast Lane
Similarly, truckers even have their own slang term for the fast lane of the highway or interstate – the “hammer lane.” Telling another driver to put their “hammer down” is also a way of telling them to speed up, or to warn them that another motorist might be going too fast to be safe.
Sources: Highland Wireless, The Truckers Report, Convoy, Freight Waves