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A Glossary of Slang Terms for Earthmoving Equipment

Solution Plant Hire - Glossary of Slang Terms for Earthmoving Equipment

If you’ve worked outside of Australia, you’ll know that our slang terms for industrial equipment can differ from the rest of the world. Sometimes equipment will be called an entirely different thing due to a history of names or foreign brand names, an association with a cultural icon, figure, or place, an animal that we don’t have, a shortening of a foreign term for the plant, or a thousand other things.

When people who’ve worked overseas come, or return, to Australia, they take these terms with them, and when Australians go overseas they take those terms with them as well. This can sometimes mean that equipment gets called different things from state to state, company to company, or even worksite to worksite!

It gets even more complicated if you’re looking up equipment online, where informative sites may not be Australian, and the words or phrases might not fit. It’s like searching for recipes with capsicum — you’re more likely to get Aussie, Kiwi and South Asian results, but you’ll miss out on all American results where they’re called bell peppers.

Knowing the terms can save you time and hassle in the workplace, so let’s go over a short glossary of terms that can help you.


Back Actor – See Backhoe.

Backhoe – Referred to as such because they’re typically found on the back of a tractor or front loader.

Digger – Self-explanatory, since they’re mainly used for digging.

Dirt Dog – American slang, can also refer to the person holding the controls.

Excavator Loader – Russian slang for a backhoe loader.

JCB – British and Irish slang for a backhoe loader. JCB were the first manufacturers of backhoe loaders, and the name stuck.

Hoehand – Another American term for excavator operator.

Rear Actor – See Backhoe.

Rubber Duck – Thought to be a combination of factors, but primarily it refers to an excavator with wheels. They also tend to rock about a lot on ground under certain conditions (like a rubber duck on water).

Track Hoe – A hydraulic powered machine with tracks.


Dumpy – Get rid of the ‘er’ at the end, add a ‘y’. You stay on a job site long enough, and people start coming up with all manner of strange pet names for things.

Hydrema – Hydrema are a dump-truck manufacturer from Denmark. Much like JCBs are for Excavators, you’ll see the terminology pop up from time to time here. A lot more common in Europe than Australia.

Moxi – Moxi is another manufacturer, hailing from Norway instead of Denmark. Less likely to hear them used than Hydrema, but still used sometimes.

Articulated Dumper

Caterpillar – Another manufacturer name, but gained popularity not because they were the first makers, but due to the similarity between the pivot design and the segmented parts of an insect.

Front Dumper – For dumpers that dump forward!

Swivel Dumper – A nickname based around the pivoting back and front sections, which swivel around corners and bends.

High-lift Dumper – Due to articulated dumpers raising system, they are often used in situations where the arm has to reach higher than a standard dumper.


Sheep’s Foot – If you’ve ever seen a sheep’s foot (as in, the animal) in real life, you’ll know that they have segmented, cloven hoofs. This lines up pretty well with the segmented design of most rollers, which either have a front and back section as a vehicle, or when used as a trailer accompaniment usually have the trailer hitch in the middle, with a cloven design of rollers on each side.

Pad Foot – Essentially a sheep’s foot.

Smooth Drum – Smooth drum rollers are distinct from the ‘knobbly’ design used in many off-road applications, and are meant to roll things perfectly flat.

Double Drum – Double Drum rollers are rollers that have the flattening roll surface on both wheels. They are distinct from Single Drum rollers which have a forward roller and a back wheel.

Single Drum – The other side of Double Drum. Single Drum rollers have a back wheel and a forward rolling surface.

Multi-tyre – Multi-tyre rollers are a strange looking beast. Instead of a roller, they have four separate wheels at the front or back.

Posi Track

Bobcat – Named after the Bobcat Company, an American maker who dominate a large proportion of the international market.

Skid Steer – The ‘official’ term of the thing much more commonly referred to as Bobcat.

Loader – It’s a Skid-Steer Loader, which means that you’re equally able to see it referred to as Skid Steer or Loader depending on which camp is more prevalent in your area.

Water Cart

Water Truck – Cart, truck. A fairly simple analogue.


Rammer – A compaction rammer certainly lives up to its name. It’s a tool that rams down on the ground repeatedly.

Jumping Jack – There’s nothing to this name other than it’s a bit bouncy when not secured down and makes people look like they’re doing jumping jacks.

Hydraulic Breakers

Breaker – You’ll notice a distinct pattern with some of these names. It’s a lot faster to say half of the name than it is to say the full name.

Hammer – A Hydraulic breaker acts very similarly to a hammer in outcomes, even if they function completely differently. End result is a bunch of smash rocks.

Rock Breaker – The main function of a hydraulic breaker is smashing through concrete and rock, hence the colloquial term of rock breaker.

Rock Saws

Saw – Rock saws are often more colloquially referred to as simply saws; make sure not to get them confused with other types though.

Rock Cutter – Rock cutters cut rocks, just like how wood saws cut wood. It might be through a different process, but the result is the same.

Rock Grabs

Grabs – Another easy abbreviation.

Block Grabs – One of the primary uses of Rock Grabs is to grab man-made blocks for movement around construction sites.

Hydraulic Grabs – The vast majority of rock grabs are hydraulic powered, and even the ones that aren’t are sometimes referred to as hydro grabs.

Sieve Bucket

Shaker Bucket – What do you do with a sieve? You shake it until whatever you’re trying to separate comes out.

If you’re looking for plant, and no matter which terms you prefer use, the team at Solution Plant Hire will know what you’re after and help you find the right equipment for your job site.

Contact us through our online contact form today in order to request a free quote. We cater to NSW, Canberra, Queensland and Victorian companies, and provide 247 support for any problems you may have.

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