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What do you call a truck? A look at local lingo

(Photo: The Davis Law Group)

What’s in a name? Well, while everyone understands what you’re referring to when you use one of these terms, they don’t actually all mean the same thing. A “semi truck” refers to the actual truck, which contains the engine. Semi trucks frequently travel without a trailer. “Tractor trailer” and “18 wheeler” both refer to the combination of a semi truck and its trailer. Together they form the tractor trailer unit, also called an 18 wheeler, referring to the number of wheels on the unit as a whole.

The Davis Law Group sent FreightWaves a fun project they put together with a goal of looking at the “human side of trucking.” They collected the data and created this map as a fun way to talk about the trucking industry. FreightWaves hopes readers learn something and gain some perspective on the wide-ranging impact of trucking.

Some members of their team are from the East Coast. They tell FreightWaves that as soon as they began the research, they were surprised by the results coming in especially how many people said “semi truck” instead of “tractor trailer.” 

There are plenty of maps and projects that use similar approaches when looking at regional dialect, and because truckers often traverse the country and drive in different regions, they figured their vehicles might be called different terms depending on what state they are in.

The Davis Group often writes about recent developments in the trucking industry and had noticed differences in terms before. They say they really wanted to have hard data behind their assumptions, and were glad to find that there really is a contrast when you look at certain areas of the country. Moving forward, they say they’re better equipped to know what to call trucks when we’re writing about different parts of the United States.

As for the six states that didn’t have enough data, they say they were initially “a bit confused.” Part of it may be a Google algorithm that needs a certain amount of search data to consider the results trustworthy. Google bases its trends data on a sample of searches — not all searches. States with a low population may not have enough searches to qualify for the sampling.

For more on the complete story and how the research was done, check it out at the Davis Law Group’s site.

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