Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Trucker Talk

Dear Joe and Vicki: What in the world are the truckers talking about? We are new to RVing and this is the first time we have had a CB radio. For the life of me, I can't seem to decipher half of what the truckers are saying to one another. Will I miss anything if I don't turn on the CB?

Joe: I happen to like listening to the CB radio while we are traveling. I particularly enjoy listening to the truckers. I consider that prime time entertainment.

Channel 19 seems to be the most popular CB channel for truckers across the nation. They use channel 17 along the west coast and, occasionally, we pick them up on 21. Truckers in the west are not very talkative. You don't seem to hear from them unless they have something to say. East of the Mississippi, however, truckers get real chatty. They talk to one another about anything that comes to mind. Sometimes without even filtering it through their mind. That's the entertaining part.

Listening to truckers is also educational. You gain some insight into their lives and what it is like to move those big rigs around the country. You learn that truckers work long, hard hours. They deal with a lot of pressure, boredom and frustration. You also come to realize that, while most have a professional approach to their driving, there are a few immature hotdoggers out there that have no business pushing 80,000 pounds of steel and cargo down the highway at 65 miles per hour (or more).

I learned a long time ago that truckers use the CB to advise one another of road and traffic conditions. Their advisories, more often than not, apply to RVers as well. If there is a traffic situation that has blocked one or two driving lanes, truckers will radio which lanes are open. This information allows us to change lanes before traffic begins to back up. When there is an unexpected road closure, truckers will broadcast directions to alternate routes. We have avoided time consuming traffic jams on more than one occasion by paying attention to the truckers.

So, yes, we listen to the CB radio as we drive. It keeps us tuned into the road. And, every now and then, we enjoy a conversation with a trucker who also happens to be an RVer.

Vicki: Truckers have developed their own colorful terminology. It took a while for us to learn what most of them meant.

Many State Police officers and Highway Patrolmen wear a hat similar to the one we see on Smokey the Bear. That's why the terms "Smokey" and "Bear" are used when talking about police officers who patrol the highways.

Truckers seem almost paranoid about the State Police and Highway Patrol and are constantly updating one another about their location. I love the way they differentiate between the various types of "bears". A "full-grown"Bear is a State Police officer or Highway Patrolman. Since one of their primary duties is to police the highways, truckers are particularly interested in the whereabouts of bears. A "County Mountie" is a local Deputy Sheriff. They may or may not be interested in truckers and seem to command a little less respect than the "full-growns." A "Local Yocal" is a city police officer. A local yocal is rarely interested in enforcing traffic laws on interstate highways but truckers keep a wary eye on them anyway. A "plain-wrapper" is an unmarked patrol car. "Polar bear" refers to a white patrol car. A "bear in the air" is a police helicopter or airplane. A "She Bear" or "Mama Bear" is … you guessed it … a woman police officer. And, my favorite, a "Kojac with a Kodak" refers to a police officer using a radar gun.

When a police officer has a vehicle pulled over to the side of the road he has "captured" that driver. A lot of "capturing" activity will bring out the expression "there's bears everywhere" or "they got us surrounded"

Truckers apply their own descriptions to the vehicles sharing the road with them. A "four-wheeler" is a car (seemingly a constant source of annoyance to truckers); "stagecoach" is a bus; "bread truck" is a motorhome, and "draggin wagon" a tow-truck.

And, they have names for their own as well. A "covered wagon" is a flatbed or open trailer with a tarp cover. A "parking lot" is a car transporter. And we have heard truckers refer to their sleeper as a "condo".

They call weigh stations "chicken coops" (a closed coop is cause for celebration). So now you know where the "Chicken Inspector" works.

You've seen those strips of tire tread lying on the road. Truckers call them "alligators". If your wheel rolls over an alligator, it has a tendency to jump up and attack your vehicle. The highway department trucks that remove these road hazards are known as "alligator catchers"

When a trucker warns of a "brake check", he's talking about an unexpected slowdown in traffic (brakelights everywhere). Get ready to slow down or stop.

The "hammer lane" is the far left fast lane. That's where you can put your "hammer" or accelerator down (providing that Smokey.isn't around)

If someone (or something ) is "in the bushes" they're off the side of the road and pretty much out of sight until you get close to them. Bears like to hide in the bushes.

"Yard line" or "yard stick" refers to the mile markers at the side of the road. If something is located at the "20 yard line" it is near the 20 mile marker.

There are a few more terms that I won't mention here. This is a family website, after all. But if you turn on your CB radio and listen to the trucker talk you can hear and figure them out yourself.

So, the next time you hear a trucker call out, "northbound, you've got an alligator in the hammer lane", you'll be able to take evasive action. And if they tell you there's a "Kojac with a Kodak in the bushes at the 32 yard line", it’s your own fault if you get captured.

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