Trucking Terminology

More Trucking Terminology & Abbreviations Broken Down

We recently wrote another glossary of trucking terminology frequently used in another blog. Which you should definitely go and check out. However, because there are so many different abbreviations and terminology used in the freight trucking world, we thought it might be useful to break down some more of the most commonly used terms. So you’re not left feeling like your logistics partner is talking in a different language πŸ˜…

Let’s get straight into it!

Essential Trucking Terminology & Abbreviations

1. Over The Road Trucking (OTR) πŸ›£

OTR trucking is a term used to describe truckers who are away from home for an extended period on work, where they travel long distances to make lengthy deliveries possible. OTR truckers deliver across States and countries to keep cargo moving between regions. Thank you OTR truckers!!

2. Department Of Transportation (DOT) 🚚

The Department of Transportation is a federal agency responsible for setting safety regulations for major modes of transportation including, road safety, infrastructure and other regulations regarding trucking.

3. Weigh Station πŸ‹οΈ

Weigh stations can be found just off of highways, and are used to check the weight of a truck. These checks are usually carried out by the federal agency we’ve spoken about above ⬆ the Department of Transportation or highway patrols. Their main use is to make sure trucks are abiding by the state laws and are not overweight.

4. Deadhead Trailer 🚚

A truck might be referred to as a deadhead trailer, if it’s empty and has no cargo in tow. Empty miles for a truck can be seen as a waste of fuel, so carriers try to, where possible minimize empty miles for fuel efficiency by optimizing routes and consolidating freight. Deadhead trailers most commonly happen when a truck is returning to its’ origin after completing deliveries.

5. Reefer (Refrigerated Trailer) πŸ₯Ά

A reefer is a term used when talking about a truck with a refrigerated trailer. They’re used mainly for hauling specialized cargo or perishable goods. Essentially, any freight that needs temperature control might opt for a ‘reefer’.

6. Drop & Hook πŸͺ

A drop and hook delivery is an extremely efficient method. It’s the process of delivering an entirely full truckload to perhaps a warehouse and instead of waiting around for the loading and unloading of the freight, the driver already has another full trailer load waiting for them that they can hook straight onto their truck and get straight back on the road.

7. Hazmat Trucking ☣️

Hazmat trucking refers to the transportation of hazardous material through trucking methods. It’s a specialized form of trucking and drivers must have specific allowances on their commercial drivers license (CDL) to ensure they’re fully trained and will stick to regulations.

8. Bobtail πŸ›»

The term bobtail is used when a truck does not have a trailer attached and just has the cab. This usually comes about when they’ve just dropped off a full trailer at its’ destination and the bobtail is returning to its’ origin.

9. CPM πŸ’΅

CPM stands for cents per mile. Which can relate to the amount drivers are paid per mile driven.

10. Owner-Operator 🚚🚚

An owner-operator is a trucker that owns or leases and operates their own fleet of trucks.

11. Detention Charge 🧾

A detention charge is only applied when a trucker arrives at the freights pick-up or destination point and ends up waiting around for their truck to be loaded or unloaded. Usually carriers allow some leeway, and to their discretion may allow for up to 2 hours free before charging anywhere between $50-$100 per hour there after. After all, transportation companies are only making money while moving goods. So any down time, especially when it’s completely out of the truckers control needs to be compensated.

12. Motor Carrier Number #

A motor carrier number (MC#) is a number that all carriers must obtain, if they’re crossing state borders. All carriers with an MC# is then traceable through government systems.

13. Force Majeure πŸ“ƒ

This is a part of a contract that relieves the carrier of their liability in the instance that they cannot fulfil their role due to an unforeseen disruption like, severe weather or other natural disaster, etc.

14. Freight Forwarder πŸ“¦β­

A freight forwarder is extremely similar to a freight broker and receives and ships cargo on behalf of third parties. The main difference is that they usually deal with international freight.

15. Bonded Warehouse 🏒

We’ve written a super helpful blog all about bonded warehouses, because we actually have a great bonded warehouse that we offer to customers, so you should check that out if this peaks an interest for you 😁

So, a bonded warehouse is a legally authorized warehousing space that allows imported freight to be stored in for up to 5 years without paying import taxes and other duties owed on the cargo. You only pay duties owed, when one of two realities comes true, either the 5 year time frame is up or you move your freight before then to its’ final destination.

16. Carrier Liability πŸ“„

Carrier liability establishes the maximum amount in dollars ($) that a carrier is held liable for in the circumstance that any freight becomes lost, damaged or there are delays to shipping. All trucking companies have different amounts that they will be held liable for, but the liability amount is usually calculated using the type of freight being transported (freight class) and the value of the freight.

17. Truck Dispatcher πŸššπŸ‘©β€πŸ’»

Truck dispatchers coordinate and organize truck drivers to make sure deliveries are made as efficiently as possible and every job is carried out in a timely manner. They’re normally employed by the carriers company and act as the middle man between the truck drivers and shippers and handle all communication between the two. So, if you’re a shipper, you will most likely deal with a dispatcher when you need information about any of your loads that are in transit.


Understanding the trucking industry requires at least a basic understanding of the unique language and trucking terminology used in industry day to day, to better improve your logistics. If you are a shipper decoding these common logistics terms can shed a light on the complex web that keeps goods moving across America.


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