Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Things I Never Knew I’d Need to Know About Trucks

Having a 2-year-old son has been an education in a lot of things, but the most obvious at this point in time is trucks. I know things about trucks that I didn’t know I didn’t know. Thank goodness for the internet and DVDs, particularly the “Twenty Trucks” series (www.twentytrucks.com). Thanks to them I am now quite well-versed in the many kinds of trucks out there as well as their various features. For those of you not so well-informed, here are the basics of what you need to know about trucks in order to converse intelligently with your friendly neighborhood 2-year-old.

An excavator truck is also called a digger truck. It has tracks instead of wheels and its cab, where the driver sits, can swing all the way around in a big circle. It has a single arm called a boom with a scoop at the end called a bucket, which is often tipped with heavy teeth. An excavator truck can dig the deepest holes of any machine. It is also extremely entertaining to watch it push over trees.

Front-End Loader

A front-end loader works to move lots of dirt around. It has very large tires and is very strong. It scoops up a load in its bucket and dumps it into a pile or into a dump truck. Some front-end loaders are hinged in the middle so they can turn around in tight spaces. These loaders are called articulated front-end loaders. Most two year-olds can pronounce the word “articulated” better than you can.


A backhoe is the most versatile digging machine. It has a boom with a bucket (like an excavator) on one side and a large bucket or blade (like a front-end loader) on the other. A backhoe can take off its bucket and use attachments like a compactor or a grapple, which looks like a giant claw, to do different things with dirt. Unlike an excavator, it has wheels and uses short legs called stabilizers to steady itself as it digs. Most two year-olds can also pronounce the word “stabilizers” better than you can.

A bulldozer is another truck that has tracks instead of wheels. It has a heavy blade in the front that it uses to push dirt around. In back, it sometimes has a ripper, which has one, two, or three shanks that tear up hard dirt behind it as it moves.

Dump Truck
A dump truck often works alongside excavators, front-end loaders, and backhoes. Those trucks dump piles of dirt, sand, or rocks into the dump truck, and the dump truck brings the load somewhere else. Some dump trucks are also roll-off trucks, which means that their hopper (the back part where the load goes) can be rolled off the back of the truck when it’s full and an empty hopper pulled onto the truck by a big cable. The best part of this process is that the dump truck goes “beep beep beep” as it backs up to the empty hopper.

Garbage Truck
There are lots of different kinds of garbage trucks. Some have a compactor in the back that squishes the trash. Some have arms at the side that reach out to pick up trash cans from the side of the road and dump them out into the truck’s hopper. Some have a hopper in the front, and when it gets full, the truck has arms that lift the front hopper over its head and dump it into the main hopper. Hopper is a fun word to say.

The most important feature of the feller-buncher is that it has a goofy name. But it also has a big, six-foot-wide saw blade that cuts down trees, and arms that pull the trees into a big bunch.

Fire Engine/Ambulance/Police Car
All you really need to know about any of these trucks is that they have lights and a siren. Oh, and fire engines also sometimes have stabilizers.


Forklifts have two long teeth that pick up heavy things and raise them up on a tall mast. The forklift driver has a safety cage over his head in case he drops anything, so his head doesn’t get squished. It is important to be able to recognize a forklift because you will see them at Costco and will need to follow them around for a long time or tears will ensue.

Skid Steer

If you’ve ever seen a little Bobcat digger in someone’s yard, you’ve seen a skid steer. The most interesting feature of a skid steer is that the wheels don’t turn, they lock on one side so the machine literally skids around instead of turning like other vehicles. Its scaled-down size makes it especially appealing to little boys; however, the fascination that a two-year-old boy has for skid steers will not abate for the next 75 years or so.

If you can master these ten trucks and their various features, you will become a total rock star in the eyes of every small boy you encounter.

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