Students in Dispatcher Training: Here's the History of CB Radio
January 4, 2017
For years, it was the habit of many truckers on long drives to have an occasional chat with dispatchers, fellow drivers, and even non-industry individuals over their CB radios. CB radio, or citizens band radio, is a short-range radio technology that functions a little like walkie-talkies. It is still commonly found in trucks today, though the advent of mobile phones and new in-cab entertainment options have contributed to a reduction in its use.
Though you may not work with CB radio on a regular basis, it is a common enough tool for emergency communication, and is also quite useful in remote areas.
Want to learn a little more? Here’s a look at CB radio’s history.
Students in Dispatcher Training Might Not Know CB Radio Was Originally for Everyday People
In 1945, Al Gross invented CB radio, and hobbyists soon began using the technology to form clubs, chat with strangers, and even contact businesses. The CB community began to develop its own slang, and even began using their own “Ten-codes” to communicate more quickly (Ex: 10-4 = “acknowledged”). Truckers were in the minority of users during these early days.
The same benefits that got people into CB radio in the earliest days are what keep it in use in the trucking industry now. CB is inexpensive to operate, doesn’t take much energy to run, and some people enjoy chatting on open channels. You likely won’t find it is always the best tool for dispatch work, but there’s a chance you’ll have a bit of fun if ever you do get to use it after dispatcher training.
The Energy Crisis of the 1970s Led to Widespread CB Use in the Transportation Industry
In the 1970s, oil production peaked in several countries, and in places like the US and Canada, the supply of oil and gas began to fall, prices began to increase, and the transportation industry quickly felt the effects of a higher cost of doing business. Truck drivers and dispatchers began using CB radio to share information about which gas stations had fuel available, in addition to exchanging other news and information.
Gas stations are pretty reliably full of fuel nowadays, so the main draws for CB in the transportation industry are pretty well covered now. If you end up using CB radio for dispatching purposes, expect it to be for limited supplemental purposes, not as a main source of delivering information.
Today, CB Is Used Less Often by Pros With Dispatcher Training
Cell phones have made it easier for truckers to keep in contact with distant loved ones, and GPS has simplified navigating in new places. Dispatching software and changes in shipping routes have also made it easier for dispatchers to establish routes and communicate with drivers.
These are among the reasons that CB radio, though still in use among truckers, is less common today than it was before. However, some drivers maintain that it contributes to their safety. It can help them stay in contact with others when they are away from cellular network coverage, and can also help them get advance warning of fresh accidents just ahead. After completing your transportation operations program, you might want to encourage the new drivers you work with to keep an ear on their CB radio while they are driving. Doing so might help maintain a good level of safety and efficiency.
Though it is not as popular today as it was from the 1940s to the 1970s, CB radio remains useful to some truckers today, and is a communication tool dispatchers might find worth exploring in their careers.
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