Understanding Trucking Industry Terminology in Your Truck Accident Claim

Reviewed by Louis Patino, JD, DC

Louis Patino, JD, DC
A former U.S. Army Combat Medic, Dr. Louis Patino is a distinguished attorney recognised by Top Attorneys of America, Expertise, and the American Institute of Trial Lawyers. He has a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Southern University and a Doctor of Chiropractic from Parker College of Chiropractic.

trucking accident claim

You’ll likely encounter a lot of trucking lingo after a truck accident. You might feel intimidated by terms like hours of service, logbook, and black box — not to mention acronyms like CDL, CMV, and ELD — but they can make all the difference in your truck accident claim.

In this blog, San Antonio and McAllen truck accident lawyer Dr. Louis Patino explains all the truck accident terminology you need to know.

Common Legal Terminology in Your Truck Accident Claim

While trucking lingo is a world of its own, several legal concepts relate more generally to personal injury claims. We explain these fundamental principles below.

Make sense of complex trucking terminology with the help of our experienced Texas truck accident lawyer. Book a free case review to see if you have a claim.

Catastrophic Injury

A catastrophic or incapacitating injury is a severe injury resulting in long-term or permanent disability. Examples of these injuries include spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries.


A personal injury claim is the process of filing an insurance claim with the insurance company of the party responsible for your accident. Your truck accident lawyer will negotiate a settlement with the insurance company to ensure it fairly compensates you for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.

A claim is typically the first step in recovering compensation after your accident. If negotiations fail or the insurance company disputes that their client is responsible for your accident, you may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit.


Damages are the losses you’ve experienced as a result of your accident. Damages divide into several categories.

Economic damages are the quantifiable losses you’ve experienced, such as medical expenses and lost wages. Non-economic damages compensate you for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, and more. These damages are harder to calculate as they do not have a fixed dollar value.

Punitive (exemplary) damages are available in personal injury lawsuits and punish or make an example of a defendant whose behavior is particularly egregious (such as driving while intoxicated). Punitive damages are at a jury’s discretion and do not apply in every case.

Related: See how much compensation you’re entitled to with our personal injury calculator


When you file a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant is the other party you are suing. They defend your claim that they are liable for your accident and owe you compensation for your injuries and other damages.


A personal injury lawsuit is a legal action filed with the court. The main difference between a claim and a lawsuit is that the former is handled between the parties, while a judge or jury decides the latter. Lawsuits typically take longer to resolve than claims, and there is more risk involved — as the jury may decide in favor of the defendant — but there is also the potential for a much larger compensation payout.

Negligence Per Se

Negligence per se is a legal concept that applies when the party that caused your accident violated a law or regulation. This violation allows you to more easily establish negligence — a critical component of a successful claim. In a truck accident claim, negligence per se may apply if a driver or company fails to comply with federal trucking regulations.


In a lawsuit, the plaintiff is the party seeking compensation from the defendant.

Respondeat Superior

Respondeat superior is a legal doctrine that holds an employer responsible for their employee’s actions at work. This doctrine means a trucking company can be liable for an accident if a truck driver is negligent while on the clock — like texting during a delivery.

Trucking Industry Terminology You Need to Know


An 18-wheeler truck is a large truck used for hauling freight. It may also be called a big rig, semi-truck, or tractor-trailer.

Anti-Lock Brake System (ABS)

An ABS is a safety system designed to prevent a truck’s wheels from locking up under braking, improving vehicle control and reducing the risk of skidding.

Bill of Lading

A bill of lading is a legal document that outlines the details of a shipment, including the type of cargo, quantity, where it’s going, and who is responsible for it. This document can be critical evidence in a truck accident claim, helping to prove liability.

Black Box

A black box is a device installed in a commercial vehicle that records data on a truck’s operation. Black box data can prove who is responsible for an accident by showing the vehicle’s speed and when (or if) a truck driver hit the brakes. A black box is also called an event data recorder (EDR).


Bobtailing is the act of driving a tractor without the trailer attached. This scenario commonly occurs when a trucker is on the way to pick up a load. Bobtailing presents unique challenges and requires different handling techniques versus operating a tractor-trailer.

Braking System Failure

A braking system failure can occur due to faulty brakes, inadequate maintenance, or improper repairs. A brake manufacturer, mechanic, or truck company may be liable for a braking system failure.


A broker is an intermediary company that connects shippers and carriers to facilitate transportation services.


The cab — short for cabin — is the enclosed compartment of a truck where the driver sits and operates the vehicle.

Cargo Securement


Cargo securement on a commercial vehicle prevents shifting, loss, or damage during transport. If cargo is not secure, it may come loose and strike traffic. A driver, employer, or cargo company can be liable for an accident caused by improper cargo securement.

Related: Read more about falling cargo accidents

City Driving

City truck driving is the transportation of goods within city limits. It presents unique challenges, requiring truckers to navigate congested traffic and adhere to specific regulations.


The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) classifies commercial truck vehicles according to their gross weight. The FHWA broadly classifies trucks into three categories: light-duty (Classes 1-2), medium-duty (Classes 3-6), and heavy-duty (Classes 7-8).

Truckers must have a commercial driver’s license to operate heavy-duty trucks.

Combination Vehicle

A combination vehicle refers to a truck and trailer combination, such as a tractor-trailer or semi-truck, where the trailer connects to the cab. A combination vehicle without a trailer attached is known as a bobtail.

Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)

A CDL is a specialized license required to operate heavy-duty commercial motor vehicles.

Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV)

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used to transport passengers or property. It includes trucks, buses, and vehicles designed to transport hazardous materials.

Common Carrier

on carrier is a motor carrier that provides transportation services to customers or the general public.


A consignee is a person or company that receives goods. A consignee is also called a receiver.


A consignor is a person or company that sends or delivers the goods to a consignee. A consignor may also be called a shipper.


A consignment is a truck term for the goods or cargo entrusted to a carrier for transportation.


A contract is a legally binding agreement between parties that outlines the terms and conditions of a transaction or business relationship.

Contract Carrier

A contract carrier is a motor carrier that operates under a contract with specific customers or consignees, providing dedicated transportation services.

Day Truck

A day truck, or a day cab, is a truck without a sleeper berth. Drivers typically use day trucks for shorter trips or local deliveries that do not require overnight stays.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

The Department of Transport (DOT) is the federal agency responsible for regulating the transportation industry, including trucking. The DOT has several branches that enforce specific regulations (see FMCSA) or oversee transportation at a state level (see Texas Department of Transportation).


Discovery is the first phase of a lawsuit, during which parties obtain and share evidence to prepare their cases for trial.

Electronic Logging Device (ELD)

ELDs are electronic devices installed in commercial vehicles to record a driver’s hours of service (HOS) and duty status. This data is recorded in a trucking company’s fleet management software and displayed to drivers in the cab, providing accurate real-time data on how long a trucker has been on the road. ELDs replace traditional paper log books.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

The FMCSA is a branch of the Department of Transport that enforces regulations to improve the safety and efficiency of commercial motor carriers.

Fifth Wheel

The fifth wheel is a coupling device mounted on a tractor that connects to the kingpin on a trailer.


A flatbed is a type of trailer with an open platform and no sides or roof, suitable for transporting large or irregularly shaped cargo that cannot fit inside a traditional trailer.

Gross Combination Weight (GCW)

The gross combination weight is the total weight of a truck and its trailer, including the cargo and any other attached equipment.

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR)

The GVWR is the maximum weight limit specified by the manufacturer for a fully-loaded vehicle, including its cargo and passengers.


Hazmat — or hazardous materials — are substances that pose a risk to health, safety, property, or the environment.

Highway Truck Driving

Highway truck driving is the long-haul transportation of goods between cities or across states. It involves driving on highways and adhering to interstate regulations.

Hours of Service (HOS)

Hours of service regulations state the maximum time a commercial driver can spend behind the wheel and how long they must rest between shifts to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents. Both drivers and employers can be liable for accidents caused by HOS violations.

Independent Contractor

An independent contractor is a self-employed individual who provides services to a motor carrier but is not an employee. A truck company may argue a driver is an independent contractor to avoid liability under the respondeat superior law.


Intrastate refers to transportation within a single state, such as Texas.


Interstate transportation involves crossing state lines and is subject to federal regulations governed by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).


A jackknife is a type of trucking accident that occurs when a truck’s trailer swings out to the side at an extreme angle, resembling the shape of a folding pocket knife. Jackknifing often causes a driver to lose control of their vehicle, resulting in an accident.

Related: Read more about jackknifing accidents and what causes them


A kingpin is a mechanism on the underside of the front part of a semi-truck’s trailer. It extends from the trailer’s fifth wheel and connects the trailer to the tractor, allowing for proper weight distribution and maneuverability. The kingpin also allows the trailer to turn with the tractor when navigating a corner or tight space.

Log Book

A log book is a record maintained by commercial drivers to document their driving hours and rest breaks. Truck companies may use an electronic logging device (ELD) instead of paper logbooks. Electronic log books record data automatically, but drivers and trucking companies can manually edit or annotate records — called falsifying log book entries — to minimize fault after a truck accident.

Long-Haul Trucker

A long-haul trucker is a driver who specializes in long-distance transportation and operates over extended periods.

Negligent Hiring

Negligent hiring is when a motor carrier hires a driver without conducting proper background checks. Drivers may not be allowed to drive because of a previous traffic violation or be unqualified to drive a specific truck class.

Negligent Supervision

Truck companies are required to monitor and supervise drivers. You can hold an employer accountable if a driver engages in unsafe driving practices or does not comply with regulations due to negligent supervision.

Negligent Training

Negligent training occurs when a motor carrier fails to train its drivers, increasing the likelihood of an accident due to an inability to operate or handle the vehicle.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that enforces standards to ensure safe and healthy working conditions.


The payload is the total weight of a commercial vehicle’s cargo, equipment, and passengers.


A receiver — or consignee — is the person or company that receives a consignment.


A shipper — or consignor — is the person or company responsible for arranging the transportation of goods.

Sleeper Berth

A sleeper berth is an area in a truck’s cab where the driver can rest or sleep during long-haul trips. It has a bed and basic amenities.

Tank or Tanker

A tank or tanker is a type of trailer designed to transport liquid or gaseous cargo, such as fuel and chemicals.


A terminal is a designated location where trucks load, unload, and exchange cargo.

Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)

TxDOT is a branch of the Department of Transport (DOT) and the state-level agency responsible for regulating transportation in Texas.

Truckload (TL)

A truckload is a shipment that occupies the entire capacity of a truck. Truckloads are commonly from a single shipper to a single receiver, such as a pallet of consumer goods from a factory to a retail store.

Tire Blowout

A tire blowout happens when a tire suddenly bursts or loses air pressure, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle.

A Truck Accident Lawyer Can Help You Understand Trucking Industry Terminology

Truck accidents are complex and require specialized knowledge of the law and trucking lingo. 

Truck terms play a crucial role in gathering evidence. An attorney well-versed in this terminology can identify and request relevant records — such as driver logs, maintenance records, and bills of lading — to prove the other party is responsible for your accident. Understanding truck terminology also allows your McAllen personal injury lawyer to work with expert witnesses to yield testimony that will benefit your case and enhance your chance of a successful outcome.

If you’ve been injured in a truck accident in Texas, our McAllen and San Antonio truck accident attorneys can help you secure maximum compensation. At Patino Law Firm, we offer a free consultation so you can find out if you have a case, and you won’t pay any fees until we win. To see if you have a truck accident claim, call 855-LAW-NINJA, submit a contact form, or visit us in McAllen or San Antonio.

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