CB Radio Code & Lingo: What's Your 20?, 10 Codes, Trucker Talk
If you want to get anywhere on CB, you have to be prepared to talk trucker talk, and that can mean learning a lot of rules of conduct. Learning CB lingo and radio code is a critical first step to effective communication.
The most important rule of conduct when using a CB radio is don’t take up more airtime than you have to on a crowded channel. CB 10-codes and Q-codes give you the power to say a lot in the limited space available. Use them wisely, and you'll not only communicate effectively but you'll also gain the respect of your peers.
Learning a few simple rules will help you figure out how to get your codes in edgewise so you’re making friends and not enemies over the airwaves.
Before we dive in, let’s have a little fun with CB lingo!
Meaning or Translation
|All locked up||The weigh station is closed.|
|Anteater||Kenworth T-600; this truck was so-named because of its sloped hood, and was one of the first trucks with an aerodynamic design. Also known as an aardvark.|
|Alligator||A piece of tire on the road, usually a recap from a blown tire, which can look like an alligator lying on the road. These alligators are hazards which are to be avoided, if possible. If you run over them, they can "bite you" -- bounce back up and do damage to hoses or belts, fuel crossover lines, or to the body of your tractor. They can also bounce up and go towards another vehicle, possibly causing an accident. A baby alligator is a small piece of tire, and alligator bait is several small tire pieces. Sometimes called just a "gator".|
|Back door||Something behind you. "There's a bear at your back door".|
|Back it down||Slow down.|
|Backed out of it||No longer able to maintain speed, necessitating a need to downshift. When a truck's climbing a steep incline, and for whatever reason, the driver has to let up off of the accelerator, he'll lose whatever momentum he had and have to downshift. "I'm backed out of it now, I'll have to get over into the slow lane."|
|Back row||The last rows of parking in a truck stop, often a hangout for prostitutes (see "lot lizards").|
|Bambi||A deer, dead or alive|
|Base station or unit||A powerful CB radio set in a stationary location.|
|Bear||A law enforcement officer at any level, but usually a State Trooper, Highway Patrol.|
|Bear bait||A speeding vehicle, usually a four-wheeler, which can be used to protect the other speeding vehicles behind it.|
|Bear bite||A speeding ticket.|
|Bear den or bear cave||Law enforcement headquarters,station.|
|Bear in the air||A law enforcement aircraft which can be monitoring the traffic and speeds below.|
|Bear in the bushes||Law enforcement (at any level) is hiding somewhere, probably with a radar gun aimed at traffic.|
|Billy Big Rigger||Another term for "supertrucker"; one who brags about himself, or his big, fast, shiny truck.|
|Bingo cards||These cards held stamps from each state a motor carrier would operate in; these cards are no longer used, and have been replaced by the Single State Registration System (SSRS).|
|Bedbugger||Can refer to a household moving company or to the household mover himself.|
|Big R||A Roadway truck.|
|Big road||Usually refers to the Interstate, sometimes any big highway.|
|Big truck||Refers to an 18-wheeler or tractor-trailer. "Come on over, big truck".|
|Bird dog||A radar detector.|
|Big word||Closed, when referring to weigh stations. There is often a big sign preceding the weigh station indicating whether the station is open or closed, in bright lights. From a distance, you can't tell what the word says, but you can usually tell whether it's a big word or small word. So, when you hear "the big word is out", you'll know that the weigh station is closed.|
|Black eye||A headlight out. "Driver going eastbound, you've got a black eye".|
|Bobtail||Driving the tractor only, without the trailer attached.|
|Boogie||The top gear (the highest gear) of the transmission.|
|Brake check||There is a traffic tie-up ahead, which will require immediate slowing down or stopping. "You've gotta brake check ahead of you, eastbound".|
|Break||If the radio's busy, saying "break-19" is the proper way to gain access to the channel, and begin talking.|
|Breaking up||Your signal is weak, or fading.|
|Brush your teeth and comb your hair||Shooting vehicles with a radar gun.|
|Bubba||What you call another driver, often in a kidding way.|
|Bull dog||A Mack truck.|
|Bull frog||An ABF truck.|
|Bull hauler||A livestock hauler.|
|Bumper sticker||A vehicle that's tailgating. Sometimes called a "hitchhiker ".|
|Bundled out||Loaded heavy, or to maximum capacity.|
|Buster Brown||A UPS truck or driver.|
|Cabbage||A steep mountain grade in Oregon.|
|Cabover||Abbreviated term for Cab-Over-the Engine (COE) type of tractor.|
|Cash register||A tollbooth.|
|Checking ground pressure||The weigh station is open, and they're running trucks across the scales (see "running you across").|
|Chicken coop||A weigh station, often called just a "coop".|
|Chicken lights||Extra lights a trucker has on his truck and trailer.|
|Chicken hauler or truck||A big, fancy truck; a large, conventional tractor with a lot of lights and chrome. Also, one who hauls live chickens.|
|Comedian||The median strip in between opposite lanes of traffic.|
|Container||Refers to an overseas container; intermodal transportation.|
|Come-a-part engine||Cummins engine.|
|Come back||An invitation for the other driver to talk. Sometimes used when you couldn't hear the last transmission, "comeback, I didn't hear you".|
|Come on||Telling another driver that you hear him calling you, and to go ahead and talk. "Yeah driver, come on".|
|Comic book||The log book.|
|Commercial company||A prostitute.|
|Convoy||A group of trucks traveling together.|
|Copy||Transmission acknowledged, agreed with, or understood, as in "that's a copy, driver".|
|Cornflake||Refers to a Consolidated Freightways truck.|
|County Mountie||County police, often a sheriff's deputy.|
|Covered wagon||Flatbed type of trailer, with sidewalls, and a tarp.|
|Crackerhead||A derogatory term; insult.|
|Crotch rocket||A motorcycle built for speed; not a Harley-Davidson.|
|Deadhead||Pulling an empty trailer.|
|Diesel car||A semi- tractor.|
|Diesel cop||A DOT, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement officer.|
|Donkey||Behind you. "A bear is on your donkey".|
|Do what?||I didn't hear or understand you.|
|Double nickel||55 mph.|
|Doubles||Refers to a set of double trailers.|
|Drawing lines||Completing your log book|
|Driver||What drivers call other drivers on the CB, especially if their CB handle is not known.|
|Driving award||A speeding ticket.|
|Downstroke||Driving downwards, downhill, on a decline.|
|Dragon wagon||A tow truck.|
|Dragonfly||A truck with no power, especially going uphill.|
|Dry box||An unrefrigerated, freight trailer. Also considered a dry van|
|85th Street||Interstate 85.|
|Evil Knievel||A law enforcement officer on a motorcycle.|
|Eyeball||To see something.|
|Feeding the bears||Paying a ticket or citation.|
|Fingerprint||To unload a trailer by yourself.|
|Flip-flop||Refers to a u-turn, or a return trip.|
|FM||An AM-FM radio.|
|42||Yes, or OK.|
|Four-letter word||Open; referring to weigh stations being open or closed.|
|4-wheeler||Any passenger vehicle; cars or pickups.|
|Freight shaker||A Freightliner truck.|
|Front door||In front of you.|
|Full-grown bear||State Trooper, or Highway Patrol.|
|Garbage hauler||A produce load, or produce haulers.|
|Gear Jammer||A driver who speeds up and slows down with great frequency.|
|General mess of crap||A GMC truck|
|Georgia overdrive||Putting the transmission into neutral on a downgrade, to go extremely fast. Definitely not recommended!|
|Go-go juice||Diesel fuel.|
|Good buddy||This used to be the thing to say: "10-4, good buddy". Not anymore, as this calling someone a homosexual.|
|Good neighbor||Usually used when you're showing appreciation to another driver, as in "thank you, good neighbor".|
|Got my nightgown on||I'm in the sleeper, and ready to go to sleep.|
|Go to company||When you tell another driver from your company to go to the designated company CB channel. Drivers do this so that they can talk about company business or personal matters without monopolizing channel 19.|
|Go to the Harley||Turn your CB to channel 1.|
|Got your ears on?||Are you listening|
|Gouge on it||Go fast, put the throttle to the floor, step on it, etc.|
|Granny lane||The right, slower lane on a multi-lane highway, or on the Interstate.|
|Greasy||Icy, or slippery.|
|Greasy side up||A vehicle that's flipped over.|
|Grossed out||Your gross vehicle weight is at maximum capacity; commonly 80,000 pounds.|
|Ground pressure||The weight of your truck, as in "the scale's testing your ground pressure".|
|Gumball machine||The lights on top of a patrol car.|
|Hammer down||Go fast, step on it.|
|Hammer lane||The left, passing lane of traffic.|
|Hand, Han||What a driver sometimes calls another driver. Stems from the term farmhand, and means helper, or fellow worker.|
|Handle (CB handle)||The FCC encourages the use of CB handles. CB handles are nicknames which are used to identify the speaker, in place of on actual name. A driver often selects his own handle, one that he feels reflects his personality, or describes his way of driving.|
|Happy happy||Happy new year; "Have a happy happy, driver".|
|Having "shutter trouble"||Having trouble keeping awake.|
|Ho Chi Minh Trail||Refers to California Highway 152, known for it's abundance of accidents.|
|Holler||Call me on the radio, as in "give me a holler when you get back".|
|Home 20||A driver's home location.|
|How 'bout||When you're trying to contact other drivers, you can say "how 'bout you, eastbound?".|
|Hood||A conventional tractor, as opposed to a cab-over.|
|Hundred dollar lane, high dollar lane||In certain heavily populated areas, trucks will be prohibited from driving in the far left lane, with a heavy fine for violators. This term refers to that prohibited lane.|
|Jackpot||Same as gumball machine, refers to a patrol car's lights.|
|Key down||When you talk over somebody who's trying to transmit. A bigger, more powerful radio can easily drown out a lesser one.|
|Key up||Pushing the transmit button on the CB Mike. "Key up for about 20 minutes, and tell me how bad you are".|
|In my back pocket||Behind you; a place you've passed.|
|In the big hole||The top gear of the transmission.|
|K-whopper||A Kenworth tractor, or just KW.|
|Kojak with a Kodak||Law enforcement using a radar gun.|
|Land line||A stationary telephone; not a cellular-phone.|
|Large car||A conventional tractor, often with a big sleeper, lots of chrome and lights, etc.|
|Left Coast||The West Coast.|
|Local information||A driver asks for local information when he needs directions in area he's unfamiliar with.|
|Local-yokel||A county, city, or small-town officer.|
|Lollipop||The small reflector or marker poles on the sides of the highway.|
|Lot lizard||A prostitute that solicits truck-to-truck in a truck stop or rest area.|
|Lumper||Casual labor that loads or unloads your trailer, often requiring payment in cash.|
|Male buffalo||A male prostitute.|
|Mama-bear||Refers to a female law enforcement officer.|
|Mash your motor||Go fast, step on it. Same as gouge on it and hammer down.|
|Meat wagon||An ambulance.|
|Merry merry||Merry Christmas.|
|Motion lotion||Diesel fuel.|
|Moving on||Heading down the road.|
|Mud duck||A weak radio signal.|
|Negatory||Negative or no.|
|95th Street||Interstate 95.|
|On the side||On standby.|
|Parking lot||An auto transporter, often used when the trailer is empty.|
|Pay the water bill||Taking a rest room break.|
|Pickle park||A rest area frequented by lot lizards (prostitutes).|
|Pigtail||The electrical connection from the tractor to the trailer.|
|Plain wrapper||An unmarked law enforcement vehicle, usually said with color added as a description: "you've got a plain brown wrapper on your back door".|
|Plenty of protection||Usually means there's plenty of police in the area, but I've heard it used to tell drivers to go ahead and step on it because there's speeding four-wheelers ahead blocking or covering for them.|
|Pogo stick||Usually a metal, flexible support located on the tractor catwalk, that holds up the connections to the trailer.|
|Power up||Go faster, speed up.|
|Preeshaydit||Thank you, I appreciate it.|
|Pumpkin||A Schneider truck, because of it's orange color.|
|Radio||A CB radio.|
|Radio check||How's my radio working, transmitting, getting out there.|
|Rambo||Someone who talks really tough on the radio, especially when no one else knows where they are.|
|Ratchet jaw||Someone who talks a lot on the radio, while keying-up the whole time and not letting anyone else get a chance to talk.|
|Reading the mail||Not talking; just listening to the radio.|
|Reefer||Usually refers to refrigerated van trailer, but sometimes just to the reefer unit itself.|
|Rest-a-ree-a||Another way to say rest area.|
|Road pizza||Roadkill on the side of the road.|
|Rockin' chair||A truck that's in the middle of two other trucks.|
|Roger beep||An audible beep that sounds when a person has un-keyed the mike, and finished his transmission. Used on only a small percentage of radios, and not recommended.|
|Roller skate||Any small car.|
|Rooster cruiser||A big, fancy truck; a large, conventional tractor with a lot of lights and chrome.|
|Runnin'you across||The weigh station is open, and they're weighing trucks, probably in a quick fashion.|
|Salt shaker||The road maintenance vehicles that dumps salt or sand on the highways in the winter.|
|Sandbagging||To listen to the radio without talking; also "readin' the mail".|
|Sandbox||An escape ramp, which sometimes uses sand to stop vehicles.|
|Schneider eggs||The orange cones in construction areas.|
|Seat cover||Sometimes used to describe drivers or passengers of four-wheelers.|
|Sesame Street||Channel 19 on the CB.|
|Shaky||Refers to California in general, sometimes Los Angeles, and, occasionally, San Francisco.|
|Shiny side up||Your vehicle hasn't flipped over after a rollover or accident. "Keep the shiny side up" means to have a safe trip.|
|Shooting you in the back||You're being shot with a radar gun as your vehicle passes a law enforcement vehicle.|
|Short short||A short amount of time.|
|Shutdown||Put out of service by the DOT because of some violation.|
|Sleeper creeper||A prostitute; same as a lot lizard.|
|Skateboard||A flatbed, or flatbed trailer.|
|Smokin' scooter||A law enforcement officer on a motorcycle.|
|Smokin' the brakes||The trailer brakes are literally smoking from overuse down a mountain grade.|
|Smokey or Smokey Bear||A law enforcement officer, usually highway patrol.|
|Split||A junction, where the road goes in separate directions.|
|Spy in the sky||A law enforcement aircraft, same as a "bear in the air".|
|Stagecoach||A tour bus.|
|Stand on it||Step on it, go faster.|
|Swinging||Carrying a load of swinging meat.|
|Taking pictures||Law enforcement using a radar gun.|
|10-4||OK, message received. Some drivers just say "10".|
|Thermos bottle||A tanker trailer.|
|Through the woods||Leaving the Interstate to travel secondary roads.|
|Throwin' iron||To put on snow tire chains.|
|Too many eggs in the basket||Overweight load or gross weight.|
|Toothpicks||A load of lumber.|
|Travel agent||The dispatcher, or sometimes a broker.|
|Triple digits||Over 100 mph.|
|VW||A Volvo-White tractor.|
|Wagon||Some drivers refer to their trailer as a wagon.|
|Walked on you||Drowned out your transmission by keying up at the same time.|
|Wally world||Wal-Mart (the store or the distribution center), or a Wal-Mart truck.|
|West Coast turnarounds||Uppers; speed or benzedrine pills; the idea is that a driver can drive from the East Coast to the West Coast, and back again without having to sleep. Obviously illegal!!|
|Wiggle wagons||A set of double or triple trailers.|
|Yard||A company terminal, drop lot, etc.|
|Yardstick||A mile marker on the highway.|
Cledus Maggard's Rundown of CB Lingo
Jay Huguely, the man behind Cledus Maggard & the Citizen's Band, was an interesting man. Outside of dabbling in recording and songwriting, he was an stage actor, advertising and television executive who built his reputation in the 1970s. In this video, he brings humor to commonly used CB Radio Lingo.
Get a Grip on 10 Codes Used in CB Lingo & Radio Code
The Most Commonly Used 10 Codes
When getting started, remember at least the following 10 codes:
- 10-1 Receiving Poorly
- 10-4 Ok, Message Received
- 10-7 Out of Service, Leaving Air (you're going off the air)
- 10-8 In Service, subject to call (you're back on the air)
- 10-9 Repeat Message
- 10-10 Transmission Completed, Standing By (you'll be listening)
- 10-20 "What's your location?" or "My location is..." Commonly asked as "What's your 20?"
And maybe also this code... 10-100 Need to go to Bathroom. Also, remember that the code 10-4 only means "message received". If you want to say "yes", use "affirmative". For "no", use "negative" or “negatory”.
The Complete List of CB 10 codes
- 10-1 Receiving Poorly
- 10-2 Receiving Well
- 10-3 Stop Transmitting
- 10-4 Ok, Message Received
- 10-5 Relay Message
- 10-6 Busy, Stand By
- 10-7 Out of Service, Leaving Air
- 10-8 In Service, subject to call
- 10-9 Repeat Message
- 10-10 Transmission Completed, Standing By
- 10-11 Talking too Rapidly
- 10-12 Visitors Present
- 10-13 Advise weather/road conditions
- 10-16 Make Pickup at...
- 10-17 Urgent Business
- 10-18 Anything for us?
- 10-19 Nothing for you, return to base
- 10-20 My Location is ......... or What's your Location?
- 10-21 Call by Telephone
- 10-22 Report in Person to _____
- 10-23 Stand by
- 10-24 Completed last assignment
- 10-25 Can you Contact ______
- 10-26 Disregard Last Information/Cancel Last Message/Ignore
- 10-27 I am moving to Channel ___
- 10-28 Identify your station
- 10-29 Time is up for contact
- 10-30 Does not conform to FCC Rules
- 10-32 I will give you a radio check
- 10-33 Emergency Traffic at this station
- 10-34 Trouble at this station, help needed
- 10-35 Confidential Information
- 10-36 Correct Time is _____
- 10-38 Ambulance needed at _____
- 10-39 Your message delivered
- 10-41 Please tune to channel ___
- 10-42 Traffic Accident at _____
- 10-43 Traffic tie-up at _____
- 10-44 I have a message for you (or ____)
- 10-45 All units within range please report
- 10-50 Break Channel
- 10-62 Unable to copy, use phone
- 10-62sl unable to copy on AM, use Sideband Lower (not an official code)
- 10-62su unable to copy on AM, use Sideband Upper (not an official code)
- 10-65 Awaiting your next message/assignment
- 10-67 All units comply
- 10-70 Fire at _____
- 10-73 Speed Trap at _____
- 10-75 You are causing interference
- 10-77 Negative Contact
- 10-84 My telephone number is ____
- 10-85 My address is _____
- 10-91 Talk closer to the Mike
- 10-92 Your transmitter is out of adjustment
- 10-93 Check my frequency on this channel
- 10-94 Please give me a long count
- 10-95 Transmit dead carrier for 5 sec.
- 10-99 Mission completed, all units secure
- 10-100 Need to go to Bathroom
- 10-200 Police needed at _____
10 codes originated in the USA and are CB radio lingo mostly used in English-speaking countries. However, no matter which codes are used in your country, be aware that there are local dialects in every urban area and region. You have to listen to others to learn the phrases and codes in your area. And not everyone knows or uses 10-codes, so be prepared for some people to not understand you.
Be aware that the use of codes specifically to obscure the meaning of a transmission is probably illegal in most countries. The difference is this codes which are well known and make communications shorter or more efficient are normally allowed.
Familiarize Yourself with Q codes Used in CB Radio Code & Lingo
Some of the More Common Q Codes
Q codes are used in many kinds of radio communications, including CB sideband but not typically on CB AM. (If your radio doesn't have sideband, don't worry about Q codes.) Q codes originated with amateur radio but their use in CB radio lingo varies even more than 10-codes.
The following is an abbreviated list of Q codes borrowed from amateur radio:
- QRM man made noise, adjacent channel interference
- QRN static noise
- QRO increase power
- QRP reduce power
- QRT shut down, clear
- QSL confirmation, often refers to confirmation cards exchanged by hams
- QSO conversation
- QSX standing by on the side
- QSY move to another frequency
- QTH address, location
The following is from a list of Q codes used by the X-Ray Club (a sideband-users club headquartered in Paradise, California):
- QRL Busy, Stand By
- QRM Man Made Interference
- QRT Stop Transmit or Shutting Down (same as 10-7 on AM)
- QRX Stop Transmit or Standing By
- QRZ Who Is Calling?
- QS Receiving Well
- QSB Receiving Poorly
- QSK I have something to Say or Station breaking QSM Repeat Message
- QSO Radio Contact
- QSP Relay Message
- QSX Standing By (same as 10-10 on AM)
- QSY Changing Frequency
- QTH My Location is _____ or What's your location? QTR Correct Time
Q codes may be used to ask questions (QTH?) or to answer them (QTH is 5th and Ivy Streets.)
The ARRL Handbook and the ARRL operating guides have more complete listings of those used for amateur radio. (ARRL is an amateur radio organization.) Historically, the Q signals were instituted at the 'World Administrative Radio Conference' (WARC) in 1912. Because of their international origin, Q codes may be more accepted outside English-speaking countries than 10-codes are.
Some Tips for Communicating with Others on a CB Radio
The following is a list that is generally considered proper procedure or polite when using a CB radio. It can also be considered a beginner's survival guide. This list was compiled from common problems that have plagued beginners since CB radios first became popular.
Conduct on the radio is guided by two principles: respect for users and respect for the CB channel.
Other users are people trying to use the CB channel just like you, and the only reason any of us is able to do so is because we all respect one another. The CB channel is a shared limited resource. When it’s not being used, you have more leeway to use more. When the CB channel’s in demand, you have to yield it to others.
When two people are talking, essentially they temporarily "own" the CB channel.
US FCC regulations say that they have to give other people opportunities to use the CB channel if they're going to use it more than several minutes. But it is not up to an outsider to "take" the CB channel from them.
Take care not to "step on" other units (i.e. transmitting at the same time as they are, thereby making both your transmissions unreadable.)
This usually means that you should adjust your break squelch level so that you can hear the other unit and then only begin to transmit when you can't hear anyone else.
NEVER deliberately key over someone else.
Nobody likes that.
If you hear one unit break for another unit, give some time for the unit to respond before you say anything yourself.
Keep in mind that they may have to fumble for a CB microphone in a moving car or dodge furniture en route to a base station. Remember, the calling unit has the CB channel.
If you want to talk on a CB channel that is in use, it is very likely that your initial transmissions will accidentally "walk over" someone else's.
So you must keep them short. The word "break" is generally accepted as both a request for the CB channel and an apology for stepping on others. Try to time it in a pause in the conversation.
Even when your "break" has been recognized, keep your next transmission short.
For example, "Break one-seven for Godzilla" if you're on Channel 17 and looking for someone whose handle is Godzilla. If Godzilla doesn't answer in a reasonably short amount of time, it doesn't hurt to say "thanks for the break" to the units that stopped their conversation for you and give them permission to resume their conversation.
If you break on an open (unused) CB channel, you don't have to be as brief.
For example, "Break 17 for Godzilla. Are you out there Godzilla?" However, the short form is perfectly acceptable, too. Use what fits your style.
If someone speaking to you gets "walked over" so that you can't understand the message, you basically have two options.
You can tell the person you were listening to, "10-9, you were stepped on", or you can find out what the breaker wants, "Go ahead break", before returning to your original conversation. You should eventually recognize the breaker and find out what they want. If two people are talking and you would like to interject a response, you will probably just walk over someone. Use the procedure above to properly break into the conversation.
What should you do if someone doesn't answer your breaks after two or three attempts?
Stop and wait for several minutes or, in mobile units, for several highway miles or city blocks. Others may have their radios on and don't want to listen to the same break more than three times in succession.
In unforseen circumstances, improvise.
Take into account other people's points of view. Give people proper access to the CB channel and try not to do anything to annoy other units.
If you make a mistake in any of the procedures above, don't waste air time on a busy CB channel by apologizing.
If the CB channel isn't busy, it's your choice.) Just try to do it right in the future. Everyone takes a little time to learn.
CB Radio Code & Lingo in Review
These codes and basic rules will give you a good head start on using the radio properly, but there are many subtleties that can’t be explained here. CB is a vibrant community with more than a century of rich history. The only way to learn about it is to participate, so get out there and do it. You’ll find that you’re an old hand at this after just a little while.
And once you’ve become an old hand, if you hear a novice on the CB channel making mistakes, don’t try to enforce any rules. You don’t have any authority, and trying to pretend that you do just takes up precious air time. Be patient, and remember when you were a novice and what that felt like. Be helpful and welcome them to the party, because that’s what CB is: a giant party that anyone and everyone can join. And everyone has a better time when we all follow the rules.