The highway can be a wild place: there are “bears,” “gators” and “sleeper creepers” — and none of those words mean what you think. Truck drivers have developed their own secret language, a truckers’ slang, to communicate with one another over their radios while on the road. This allows them to warn other truckers in the vicinity about police officers, road conditions and other potential hazards to be aware of. It also helps them pass the time and have a little fun on those long, lonely drives.
Turn Up The Radio
For truckers, the CB radio is where all the action happens. CB stands for “Citizens Band,” and it’s a short-distance radio for personal or business uses that doesn’t require a license. In most parts of the country, truck drivers tune in to channel 19 to communicate with other truckers in the area.
Though it was invented in 1945, the CB radio really took off among truckers in the 1970s when a gas shortage led the federal government to impose a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour. Truckers would use their radios to give each other a heads up about cops and places to get cheaper gas, and they often still do.
Use of CB radios isn’t as prominent as it was in the ‘70s, but truckers still use them from time-to-time, and it’s considered important to at least have a radio in the truck for safety reasons.
With the CB radios came an array of jargon words and phrases that were used both as shorthand and to keep what they were saying a secret from outsiders (i.e. the police). Thus, truckers’ slang was born, and one variation or another is still used across the country.
An Abridged Guide To Trucker Jargon
4-wheeler — a car
Bear — a law enforcement officer, usually a state trooper
Bear bait — a speeding vehicle that truckers hope will distract police
Bear in the air (or spy in the sky) — a law enforcement aircraft monitoring speeds below
Black eye — a truck with a headlight out
Cheese wagon — a school bus
Feeding the bears — getting a traffic ticket
Gators — broken pieces of tire on the side of the highway
Georgia overdrive — coasting down a hill to save gas
Got my nightgown on — I’m ready to go to sleep
Kojak with a Kodak — an officer with their radar gun out and pointed at traffic
Lot lizard (or sleeper creeper) — a sex worker that solicits drivers at a truck stop
Meat wagon — an ambulance
Motion lotion — diesel fuel
Mud — coffee
Mud ball — a doughnut
On your donkey — right behind you
Paying the water bill — stopping to use the restroom
Road pizza — roadkill
Sesame Street — channel 19, the main CB radio channel truckers use