Can You Talk Trucker? It Is a Whole Different Language

Have you ever listened to a CB channel and thought you could barely understand what truckers were talking about?  As kids in Texas, and many of us with families that were generational truckers, we grew up listening in. And having fun trying to figure out what truckers were talking about.

Citizens Band Radio (CB for short) started in the United States in the 1970s. It became popularized in the 1980’s with shows like “BJ and the Bear” and “Movin On”, and movies like “Convoy”. 

Who can forget:

Ah, breaker one-nine, this here’s the Rubber Duck
You gotta copy on me, Pig Pen, c’mon?
Ah, yeah, 10-4, Pig Pen, fer shure, fer shure
By golly, it’s clean clear to Flag Town, c’mon
Yeah, that’s a big 10-4 there, Pig Pen
Yeah, we definitely got the front door, good buddy
Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy

That was when the real culture and language of the American trucking industry was shown on television.  We are convinced about 60% of truckers driving today were inspired by that movie. And about 80% of highway patrol officers. ????

It was not long before countries like Canada and Mexico adopted the U.S. CB jargon.  From there, the radio chatter grew as a way for truckers to entertain themselves over the long miles of drayage service.  And it was also a kind way for truckers to check up on their buddies, to make sure they were okay.  In the days before GPS and smartphones.

Trucker Handles and the Canal Cartage Hand

Some terms like “Good Buddy” faded out and are hardly used anymore.  But many truckers still have a handle, or a confidential CB nickname or “Hand”.  And when they get on the radio to talk (its get’s lonely on the highway sometimes) they still use those Hands to address other truckers they know.  And sometimes they have a Handle for the company they drive for. 

Truckers in Houston refer to Canal Cartage as “Slow Poke”.  To be clear, that does not mean we have any problem with picking up or dropping off drayage on a deadline.  It actually goes back to when Canal Cartage was founded in 1983.  We started as a bootstrapped logistics provider, with only a handful of owner-operator drivers on our team. 

Canal Cartage quickly built a reputation for safety, customer service and competitive rates.  But if you wanted to use our logistics services back then, you may have had to wait a little while we juggled a great (but small) team of drivers.  With more than 800 company-owned chassis and a large number of owner-operator partners and drivers, our capacity has grown over the past thirty years.  No waiting.  But the handle “Slow Poke” remains.

The Secret Codes of CB Trucker Language

By now you probably guessed that just about anyone could be listening in on the CB radio.  From civilians sitting at home (dreaming of the open road and the roar of a big truck) to law enforcement officers.  Remember back in the good old days when other drivers would “flash their lights” to warn you about a radar trap? That was always risky.  But talking in code on the CB meant that truckers could socialize and, well, protect themselves from getting a ticket or two.

Some of the terms used by truckers then, are still used today.  We think it is part of our heritage, and worth protecting an important part of the culture of the trucking industry.  We might be breaking an unspoken rule by sharing the inside meanings of some of the best CB radio terms.  But they sure are interesting and fun to learn. 

We have decided to break up the CB trucker language into categories by function.  And if you are a trucker, why not share some of these fun references with your children or grandchildren.  You probably have some pretty interesting conversations and memories on CB to share. It is about preserving the rich culture and history of American trucking.  We hope you enjoy a refresher on some of best and most colorful phrases.

Law Enforcement

For safety sake, we want every truck driver to obey the laws.  But back when CB language was first created and used, trucking was a little more like the “wild west”.  And you bet truckers helped each other avoid fines for broken headlights or bald tires.

Here are some of the CB terms for law enforcement that were used:

Dot: Department of Transportation Officer and enforcement vehicle.  Ready for random spot checks, pullover and inspection of trucks and truckers.  

Evel Knievel: A highway patrol or municipal police officer on a motorcycle.  Nicknamed after a famous American motorcycle stunt performer.

Bear Trap: A police officer speeding or radar trap.

Polar Bear: A white unmarked police vehicle.  Today on highways, you will see patrollers in a black unmarked vehicle.  Fun fact! Back then, police drove Ford LTD’s or Chevrolet Caprices.  In the south, you saw a lot of Plymouth’s, which were boats, with powerful V8 engines.

General Highway Terms and Places

Every major freight hub or city had its own name in classic CB lingo. Some of those names are still used today, along with other conveniences and necessities truckers needed on the road. 

Cash box: Toll highway.

Draggin Wagon: Tow truck.

Reefer: Refrigerated truck.

H-Town:  Houston, Texas.

Alamo City: San Antonio

Alligator Station:  A teasing reference to a truckdriver on a channel, who will not stop talking, and who never lets anyone else talk.

Chicken Coop: Weigh station.

Mud Duck: A CB user that has a weak signal and they keep trying to talk despite the fact that no one can understand them.

Turn and Burn:  To return from a destination back to the original starting point of a trip, especially in a hurry and/or non-stop so as not to lose time.

Bobtail or Bobtail Rig: Road tractor driving without a trailer.

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