Jargon Watch: Truckers And The Language Of The Road

When you stop to ‘pay the water bill,’ you might want to fill up on ‘motion lotion.’ Here’s your guide to the fascinating and hilarious world of truckers’ slang.
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Jargon Watch: Truckers And The Language Of The Road

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

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