There is arguably no other thing associated with truck drivers as much as using CB radio. Since its invention in 1945, it is still popular among professional truck drivers all around the world; especially, outside of the “West”. Popularized by pop culture and movies like “Smokey and the Bandit”, “Convoy” or "Breaker! Breaker!", it reached its peak in the late 70’s. Although it is often replaced by modern means of communications such as driver apps and GPS access on every smartphone, it still has its old faithful fans.
Life-saving benefits of CB Radio
Citizens' Band Radio, commonly known as CB radio owes its popularity to the relatively low cost, reliability, and versatile application. It’s a tool that allows users to communicate with one another through a short-distance radio system within the 27 MHz (11 m) band. In terms of age, citizenship or licence, there are absolutely no requirements for using CB radio in the US. Research is yet to be done, but the number of avoided tickets for speeding, thanks to this device would probably come at millions.
Everyone with a couple of years of experience under the belt as a long-haul truck driver can easily recall situations when using CB radio saved hours of time. Be it either by avoiding the traffic jam, a roadblock caused by extreme weather or unpredictable events such as collisions or a “smokie” lurking right behind the corner.
There are 40 different channels to choose from, depending on the location and purpose of the communication. The most commonly used one, Channel 19, is used by truck drivers on highways, to the extent that some radios even have a dedicated button to bring up Channel 19 without searching. Channel 9, for that matter, is used for emergencies and for traveler assistance.
The slow decline
Nowadays, thanks to the popularity of cell phones, CB radio usage declines more and more. This is mainly because its range is fairly limited in terms of distance. It covers anything between 1-15 miles between two mobile units. Usage also depends on factors such as terrain, number of drivers using the channel or even the number of buildings around. Cell phones in that regard win uncompromisingly with practically no distance limits. This change, however, when it comes to areas with a limited range for cells. On such occasions, CB radio trumps modern technology and lets you communicate despite being in an area with a week cell phone range. Thanks to the great ease of use, it also very often served and still serves as a means to chat and socialize with other drivers on the road. No easier way to chit chat on a “conference” with other drivers just for the fun of it. And what better way to deliver a warning message about road closings ahead of you or anyone else out there on the route?
Not all that is modern glitters
Truck driving is an undisputable commitment. It comes at a price. Often by sacrificing one’s private life. It may feel lonely and be physically tiring. That’s just another reason why the social aspect of using CB radio cannot be overvalued. It helps route fellows cheer each other up, throw jokes or simply engage in a loose, friendly chatter about this or that.
In the digital era we currently live in, every device out there is rapidly evolving or being replaced by another one at a staggering pace. It is no different with CB Radio. Luckily enough, for many folks out there, technological progress is not the only thing that counts. Sometimes, it’s not about what we have but rather how it makes us feel. CB also gives many of the old birds a sense of belonging; being a part of the community where people help each other. That is hard to achieve using a smartphone that connects you with the whole world, yet with no one for real at the same time. A modern-day paradox.