Tom Kyrk hadn’t been a professional truck driver for long before learning the worth of his CB radio. He was hauling an empty trailer up I-390 in New York State on his way to Canada. It was the dead of winter and the wind was gusting.
“All of a sudden, the CB roared to life,” he said. “Drivers were shouting, ‘Hit the ramp, take the ramp, brake it down!’ I rounded the corner to see traffic rapidly slowing and taking the exit ramp. A lightly loaded truck had been picked up by the wind and was perfectly perpendicular to the road. He was on all his wheels but was blocking all the traffic lanes; both shoulders and his steer tires were in the grass median, and his ICC bumper was against the concrete wall of the bridge.
“This was a case of drivers spreading the word, good following distance and prompt reactions saving some lives and preventing a deadly accident,” continued the RoadPro Pro Driver Council member.
As far as the general public is concerned, the heyday of CB radio was in the 1970s when the country was briefly and inexplicably obsessed with CBs and trucking in general. But citizens band had been a safety tool for truckers long before “Convoy” and Smokey and the Bandit, and truckers have stayed with it after the public has moved on to other fads.
In a recent RoadPro survey, 130 of 150 drivers agreed that their CB keeps them safe.
“If you are any kind of driver, that CB is your best friend when you need help,” commented one respondent.
“It lets us know when the traffic backs up so we don’t end up being part of the accident,” another said.
It’s true that the CB is not as ubiquitous among truckers as it used to be. Driving apps and GPS units provide directions. Cell phones keep drivers in touch with family and friends, and in-cab electronics connect drivers and dispatchers. And Channel 19 can be an ear-bending barrage of preaching, arguing and gibberish.
That’s why Pro Driver Council member Joanne Fatta hasn’t bothered to get her radio fixed since it stopped working a year ago. And why Ryan Sexton got rid of his.
“I got tired of hearing fellow drivers badmouth each other,” he said.
But other truckers rely on it still. No other tool offers the trucker-to-trucker communication the CB does, and, despite what the cellular service commercials show, there are still plenty of places on the map without coverage.
“I love my CB,” said Maggie Riessen, a Pro Driver Council member. “I use it to find out traffic and bear reports and to check in or out at the plants. Traffic and bear reports are important because if the policeman is around, traffic will slow or stop. It’s always good to be prepared for anything when you haul livestock.”
“It constantly helps,” agreed council member, Libby Clayton. “I leave it squelched so I don’t hear a lot of junk, but the words ‘brake check’ get immediate attention. I start looking for the problem before I would have seen it otherwise.”
So, while cabs are more crowded with electronics and devices than ever before, it seems like truckers will always make room for the CB.