Truck drivers have an array of technology at their fingertips. From electronic logging devices (ELDs) to smartphones, it’s easier than ever before to track and communicate with drivers. This begs the question, are CB radios still necessary?
CB radios, or citizen band radios, have a long history. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) created the CB radio service in 1945, and designated a portion of the radio spectrum for personal communication. CB radios reached a peak in popularity due to pop-culture exposure and accessibility to inexpensive equipment.
While CB radios were often associated with truck drivers, there was a time when they were everywhere. Today they have largely faded from existence, so why does the transportation industry still cling to them?
CB radios have a few shortcomings that modern technology, such as smartphones, have fixed. CB’s can only be used over short distances, meaning dispatchers cannot rely on them to stay in touch with drivers. There is also an issue with security and privacy. CB radios operate on public frequencies, meaning anyone can tune in and listen.
As a technology, CB radios should be in the obsolete pile with 8-Tracks! Smartphones not only offer private, secure communications over long distances, but they also allow freight tracking, navigation help, traffic reports, and weather updates. There are three main reasons why CB radios continue to remain in use; nostalgia, connection, and emergencies.
Given how integrated technology is in the transportation and logistics industry, it can be easy to forget that before the 2000s cell phones were rare. For a good portion of today’s truck drivers, CB radios were the norm for most of their careers. There is a nostalgic connection to this tech, even as outdated as it is.
In addition to the memories CB radios hold, they’re also one of the ways drivers stay connected on the road. Being in a cab on long drives can be lonely. CB radios allow drivers to communicate with other trucks nearby, providing comforting chatter and stimulating conversation.
There are still many areas in North America where cellphone service is non-existence or unreliable. When this happens, CB radios can be used to get updates on traffic, roadblocks, and weather reports. CB radios are also crucial in emergency situations when communication infrastructure may be damaged, which is why emergency responders often use them during disasters. Drivers can get assistance if there is a mechanical breakdown or medical emergency, even when their cellphone isn’t working.
CB radio usage may slowly be fading, but this technology isn’t completely obsolete yet. As cellphone services improve and a new generation of drivers take the road, CB usage will likely decline even more. For now, CB radios still play an essential role in keeping drivers connected and assisting them when modern tech fails. There is a reason this technology has stuck around for 75 years!