Trucking Glossary: Key Terms to Know

The trucking industry is an essential aspect of our economy, providing transportation for goods and services all around the world. However, the trucking industry can be a complicated and confusing world with a lot of technical jargon. As a result, it is essential to understand the terminology used in the trucking industry to ensure you can communicate effectively with drivers, carriers, and other professionals in the business.

This article will explore and define key terms used in the trucking industry to help you become more familiar with the terminology.

Words and their meaning:

1. Air Suspension: Air suspension is a type of vehicle suspension system that uses compressed air to adjust the suspension’s height, stiffness, and ride comfort. Trucks and trailers with air suspension are highly sought after in the trucking industry due to the benefits of improved fuel economy, ride comfort, and reduced maintenance costs.

2. Bill of Lading: A bill of lading is a document that serves as a receipt of goods shipped, proof of ownership, and a contract between the shipper and carrier. It includes details such as the origin and destination of the shipment, type of goods, weight, and quantity.

Example: The truck driver received the bill of lading from the shipper before beginning the transportation of goods.

3. Break Bulk: Break bulk refers to the process of unloading cargo from a large container and repackaging it into smaller units for distribution. Break bulk cargo is typically transported on flatbed or specialized trailers and requires proper handling to avoid damage during transportation.

4. Capacity: Capacity refers to the amount of goods that a truck, trailer, or other transportation equipment can carry safely. It is essential to understand the equipment’s capacity to ensure cargo is loaded correctly and transported safely.

5. Deadhead: Deadhead refers to the distance that a truck travels while empty. Deadhead miles occur when a trucking company has to transport an empty vehicle to its next pick-up location.

Example: After delivering a load, the truck driver had to travel 100 miles deadhead to pick up the next shipment.

6. Hours of Service (HOS): Hours of service regulations are a set of rules which limit the number of hours a commercial truck driver can operate within a specific time frame. These regulations aim to prevent driver fatigue and improve safety on the road.

Example: The truck driver had to stop driving after 11 hours of service due to HOS regulations.

7. LTL (Less than Truckload): LTL shipping refers to shipping that does not require a full truckload. It is typically used for smaller shipments that take up only a portion of the truck’s available space.

Example: The shipper only had 5 pallets to transport, so they decided to choose LTL shipping instead of a full truckload.

8. Perishable: Perishable goods refer to items that are likely to spoil or deteriorate over time, such as food, medicine, or plants. The transportation of perishable goods requires special handling and equipment to ensure their quality is maintained during transportation.

9. Reefer: A reefer is a type of trailer that is designed to transport temperature-sensitive goods such as frozen food, produce, and pharmaceuticals. The trailer is equipped with a refrigeration system that maintains the cargo’s required temperature throughout transportation.

10. TMS (Transportation Management Systems): TMS refers to a software system designed to optimize transportation operations, route planning, scheduling, and tracking. TMS helps streamline trucking operations, improve efficiency, and reduce transportation costs.


In conclusion, the trucking industry has unique terminology that can be challenging to understand for those outside of the industry. However, the terms we have explored today help people communicate effectively and streamline operations. Understanding these key terms can help businesses succeed and grow. We hope this article has helped you build a strong foundation in the language of the trucking industry.