CB History

What happened to Citizens Band radio?

12.3.2019 - 2:10 PM Comments: 0

Citizens Band Radio, for a long time, was one of the most unique innovations in the trucking industry. Truckers were no longer alone in their cab, as they could tune into channels on their CB and communicate with their peers. Where did it all go wrong?

Launched in 1945 by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), CB radio was described as a private, two-way, short-distance voice communication service. Nonetheless, conversations being had on CB radio were further from private, especially throughout its peak. 

While it was required to have an FCC license in order to use the service prior to 1982, the requirement was discontinued, opening the floodgates for everyone to use. 

CB radios became extremely popular in the 1970s, which coincided with the release of the song “Convoy,” by Bill Fries. Released in 1975, the song was later turned into a feature film in 1978. 

Other films such as Smokey and the Bandit also helped catapult CB radios into the mainstream, eventually popularizing them among truckers. 

Back then, drivers used them to give other truckers weather and traffic updates, as well as just talk about what they had going on. They also created what seems like a totally different trucker language.

It was like a social network for truckers, depending on what channel you were on, of course. 

One of the most impressive uses of CB radio came in 1973, according to Roger Schlueter of the Belleville News-Democrat.

During the oil crisis that led to a nationwide 55-mph speed limit, truckers used CB radio to organize am interstate highway blockade of hundreds of tractor-trailers. Shoutout to River Rat, aka J.W. Edwards, for almost single-handedly coordinating such an impactful event using only a CB radio.

While still in use, CB radio is now a shell of what it once was. With just a quick skim through blog threads, you’ll find that while some are still dedicated to the art of using a CB radio, others complain about how they're now grossly misused. 

“The only people on them are agitators trying to cause trouble,” said one man in a comment thread online. “[New drivers] lie to you because they think it’s funny.”

Nonetheless, for those who can’t easily adapt to newer technology, their CBs are still a vital tool. Along with the above trucker, many still depend on their CB radio for important information such as weather conditions or finding out whether a weigh station is open. 

CB radios could still be useful for truckers today, but other technologies have proved to be more efficient for many. Why wait for someone to call out traffic or weather conditions when you have an app that tells you everything before you even start driving?

The days of CB radio may be way in the past, but it’s good to see that it still holds some value to an abundance of drivers. Do you still use CB radio? Let us know in the comments or on social media!

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