So, Do Truckers Still Use CB Radio?

When you think of a big rig truck driver going down the road, how do you picture him? If you imagine him clutching a radio mic in one hand while belting out CB lingo like an auctioneer, you aren’t alone.

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

This popular conception of trucking generally and professional truck drivers has long been a trope in pop culture, but it’s also a truthful one. Or, at least, it was until the advent of the smartphone. But have smartphones truly taken over, even in trucking? Do truckers still use CB radios?

Yes, truckers still use CB radios although they aren’t nearly as ubiquitous today as they used to be. For spontaneous communication with other nearby vehicles, docks, and other installations, CB radio is still the standard.

CB radio has been a facet of trucking for decades, and though it has experienced boom and bust times, it’s still around today in large numbers and isn’t going anywhere.

Many seasoned truckers swear up and down that your truck isn’t complete, and you aren’t roadworthy without one. Keep reading, and we’ll talk more about how CB is still hanging on for truckers.

CB is Still Pretty Common in Trucking

To be totally clear, CB radio is not an anachronism or affectation for trucking today.

I know it’s easy to think that with the massive boom in digital communications made possible by smartphones, GPS systems, and other high-tech electronics. After all, time keeps on marching, and we always throw out the old and go forth with the new, right?

That’s true, but CB still has its part to play and offers capabilities that smartphones and other communication systems simply cannot, and these capabilities are critical for many truckers and many transportation objectives.

Although data on exactly how many big rig trucks on the road today have CB radios installed in them, and it’s most conservative it’s probably around 50% at the very least. That includes older, vintage trucks and newer, state-of-the-art models.

How Many Truckers Still Use It?

According to recent surveys conducted as recently as 2021, only about 32% of truckers say they use CB all the time, with another 32% stating that they use CB, but do so rarely. Only about 17% say they never use CB radio at all.

But what that data can tell you is that 2/3 of truckers on the road use CB at least some of the time! That’s definitely a majority, and as far as I’m concerned proof positive that CB is alive and well for trucking.

Why are CB Radios Less Popular Today in Trucking?

There are several reasons why CB radio is a lot less ubiquitous today than in past decades in the trucking industry.

For starters, and as expected, the rise of the smartphone has taken a big bite out of the necessity of CB for certain truckers.

For truckers who only need to communicate with an agent occasionally, talk to friends and loved ones to help pass the time, and occasionally coordinate a drop-off, smartphones still make a lot of sense.

This is especially the case with modern headsets and driver-friendly apps and programming that facilitate safe and legal usage.

Regrettably, interviewing many truckers about their time with CB says that the past decade or two has led to increasingly clogged, overloaded, useless, and sometimes downright vile communications on the airwaves.

A far cry from the pleasant chats that truckers of yesteryear might have had while rolling down the highway or stuck in traffic, many truckers report a constant stream of complaining, trolling, and borderline unhinged behavior, or else so many people talking over each other that every channel is totally unusable.

Most concerning, but not unexpected, these polluted airwaves are strongest and most pervasive around cities.

What Do Truckers Use Instead?

As mentioned, truckers use smartphones to communicate much of the time these days, but some of them go a step further with optimized trucker chat apps that allow them to talk with each other within a nominal distance very much like a modern, and a much cleaner, CB radio.

Specialized satellite radio systems are also popular, particularly with younger truckers or those who can afford better and more high-tech trucks.

Many of these systems operate off of a subscription model, but offer better reception and a far better and easier user experience compared to CB.

Lastly, some sneaky truckers might resort to marine band radios even though you’re really not supposed to use them on land.

What are CB Radios Still Good For?

CB radios still have a place in trucking for a very good reason, because they are absolutely excellent in several relevant and specialized situations.

For starters, if there’s an emergency on the road or a developing situation, a trucker can pick up his CB mic, tune in to a channel, and receive or broadcast that information to other truckers and any other vehicle that has a CB in a nearby area.

Obviously, you can’t reach out by phone if you don’t have someone’s phone number! With CB, everyone that cares to listen can hear.

Also, CB radios are indispensable for communicating with docks and other installations, particularly those where the driver doesn’t leave the truck.

For getting a dock assignment, clearance to pick up or leave, and other administrative information CB radio is super fast, convenient and facilitates rapid, easy transit.

Lastly, CB radio is still the gold standard for convoy operations or any trucker that has to travel with escorts or outriders. Only CB allows the instantaneous and seamless communication between multiple team members without lots of extra clicking and typing like you need with smartphones.

Being able to pick up the mic, click, and talk is a huge advantage when it comes to safety and awareness while driving.

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