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Look it up in the trucktionary

Bill Hudgins
Columnist

 

“Whatever happened to just plain old driving truck?” my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe asked me the other day. He was home for the July Fourth break and had been looking around for a new fleet to hook up with.

“Whaddaya mean?” I asked, puzzled.

“I mean, nobody calls it ‘driving truck’ anymore. A lot of places, they don’t even call us truck drivers, or truckers or owner-operators,” he said. “Now we’re ‘human resources’ or even ‘human capital.’ They talk about how we’re more than a number, but if that’s so, why try to hide what we do? I’d rather be Driver No. 4795 than called human capital.”

I realized Rufus had a point.

Nobody knows how many slang terms there are in trucking. But it’s a safe bet few of them came from the front office. Now, though, the self-esteem police, the lawyers and the marketing specialists have gotten hold of trucking lingo, and are doing their best to twist it into a big wad. Soon we’ll need a trucktionary to understand the job applications.

A certain large o/o fleet calls its lease operators “Business Capacity Owners” or BCOs. The phrase is meaningless outside the company. Maybe someone thought it sounded fancier than owner-operator or even truck driver. However, it is very impersonal – and, it’s easier to swap one for another if you think of them as BCOs and not as Tom or Cindy with a truck payment, a mortgage and a family.

A popular Web site dedicated to drivers who specialize in hot loads has at least two different ways to say trucker – “Emergency Freight Transportation Specialist” and “Professional Freight Transporter.” That’s fine, but to me, that doesn’t quite say who these people are or what they do. You could be talking about a broker, or even a dispatcher.

And it’s not just drivers.

In the 1990s, many of America’s truck stops disappeared. Like a scene from “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” they were replaced by “travel centers,” “travel plazas,” “travel stops” and “stopping centers.” Many “freight transportation specialists” felt like second-class guests as these “centerplazastops” tried desperately to draw in more four-wheeler traffic.

You wonder where this political correctness will lead, Rufus says. Take Werner, for instance. With its paperless logbook-keeping, it’s obvious they should call their company drivers “Paperless Truck Operators” or PTOs. Their o/o division could be called POTs, for “Paperless Owners of Trucks.”

How about Swift? Most everyone believes the company name stands for “Slow Wagons in Fast Traffic.” So, the PC term for their drivers would be “Slow-Lane Operators,” or SLOs for short.

Schneider National, “The Orange On-time Machine,” says it employs “safe, courteous, hustling associates creating solutions that excite our customers.” And you thought they just delivered freight in trucks. I don’t know any truckers who want to be known as “hustling associates” who excite their customers – there’s enough problem with that at those plazastopcenters. But I could see their drivers being designated “Deliverers Of Orange Machines,” or DOOMs.

There’s no reason to stop with the drivers. For instance, every trucker knows what a reefer is, but say that to a civilian, and you can tell they are thinking about wacky weed, Rufus says. “I could see the PC folks suggesting something like ‘Cargo Refrigerated And Preserved,’ ” he adds.

“That would sound really nice, until someone abbreviates it on the CB …”

Until next time, be safe, make money and get home often.

Bill Hudgins may be reached at billhudgins@earthlink.net.

Aug/Sept Digital Edition