Do People Still Use CB Radios? How Many Still Are?

There was a time when the idea of going on a backcountry trip or driving a tractor trailer without a CB radio would have been unthinkable. That time was back in the 1970s, and as time and technology marched on CB radio became less and less ubiquitous.

Baofeng HAM radio, walkie-talkies, flashlight and two chemlights
communication devices inside bug out bag: a Baofeng HAM radio, walkie-talkies, flashlight and two chemlights

The advent of the smartphone and ever-broadening cellular networks seemed to be the final nail in the coffin for the old trusty CB. Or were they? Just how many people still use CB radios, and how many are there?

Today, according to one survey there are nearly 6 million CB radios in use in the professional driving sector and many more elsewhere in civilian hands. More than 3 ½ million professional drivers use them daily.

That is still a heck of a lot of people using CB, and you might be surprised to know that CB radio usage is actually on the rise after nearly two decades of decline.

Whether you’re getting interested in amateur radio generally or CB radio specifically, you don’t need to worry because it’s not going anywhere, and you’ll still have plenty of people to talk to. Keep reading and I’ll tell you more about it.

Who are the Primary Users of CB Radios?

The primary users of CB radios are, not surprisingly, still truckers.

Ask anyone in the trucking industry, and they will tell you that the days were literally every single truck driver had a CB radio or two installed are over.

The advent of cheap and affordable smartphones, reliable cellular networks that cover pretty much every interstate and highway in America, and specialized subscription-based communication services just for the trucking industry definitely disrupted the market for radio.

However, a poll conducted among professional drivers (truckers and others) by Road Pro discovered that there are presently, at least, 5.9 million CB radios currently in use, and out of the professional drivers that responded 75% of them use a CB radio daily. That is a humongous number no matter how you slice it…

Is the Use of CB Increasing or Decreasing?

Believe it or not, increasing! Perhaps not surprisingly, since March of 2020, it saw an incredible rise in interest, purchase, and licensing for amateur radio use according to the FCC and major sellers like Walcott Radio.

And although licensure isn’t required to own and operate a CB radio, as compared to other kinds of ham radio, the sales numbers don’t lie: CB is back, and in a big way. More than that, it’s not just for truckers!

Civilians and particularly preppers are once again coming around to the idea of owning and using a completely self-contained, reliable, and versatile means of communication for all sorts of reasons.

How Many Truckers Still Use CB?

It’s tough to say exactly how many, but out of the nearly three and a half million professional drivers in the United States, 90% of them responded to a poll claiming that CB radios are critical tools and there are an estimated 5.9 million CB radios in use on the roads today.

Conservatively, there’s probably quite a large number of professional or semi-professional drivers that owner use a radio and either didn’t get or didn’t respond to the survey. I don’t think it’s any stretch to say that the actual number is probably closer to 7 million radios in use across 4 million or so drivers.

Do Other Private Citizens Use CB?

Absolutely. CB radios are incredibly popular with radio enthusiasts, RV owners, off-roaders, hikers, overlanders, and even brothers who just stay at home.

The relatively short range of CD radio, on average about 5 miles and that best around 10 miles, is not much of an impediment for typical use cases when groups of people want to keep in touch or check in on each other when other, more modern forms of communication fail or are offline for whatever reason.

How Many CB Radios Are in Civilian Hands?

It’s hard to say. Without question, many, many millions: probably 15 million or even more including the ones installed in the vehicles operated by professional drivers.

CB radios are among the cheapest, most accessible, and most common amateur radios out there, and because people don’t have to get any sort of license to own or operate them the barrier for entry is very low, and many amateur radio enthusiasts will likely have many sets.

Some of them will be installed at home, others in the vehicle, and others may be redundant or hobby sets for tinkering and modification or as backups.

CB is also extremely common in use at loading facilities, dockyards, and other areas where instant, reliable communication is a boon.

How Many CB Radios Are in Use in Non-Civilian Hands?

There’s just no telling, but it has to be a bunch. CB is still used by all kinds of government agencies and operations, and by who-knows-how many contractors, adjuncts, and other quasi-official capacities.

For short-range, reliable comms, CB always makes sense as long as users don’t require encryption or discreet conversations for any reason.

CBs are in use in and around toll booths, weigh stations, police outposts, park services, and many more besides.

Does the Military Use CB Radios?

As a rule, no, though they might be in use for the most rudimentary, non-essential tasks stateside where security, performance and versatility don’t matter or as a cost-saving measure for civilian personnel. There are no estimates or numbers for these sets whatsoever.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *