CB radios: the original social media for truckers on the road

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CB Radios: The Original Truck Driver’s Social Media

The History of CB Radios

Invented in the late 1940s, two-way Citizens Band (CB) radio devices were initially used by the military, the Coast Guard, farmers, and other blue-collar workers that needed remote wireless communication. By the 1960s, refined production of CB radios had made them affordable and accessible to nearly everyone. Then came the oil crisis of 1973, when the U.S faced fuel shortages, gas station closures, and reduced speed limits nationwide. Commercial drivers began using CB radios to communicate which gas stations were open, where to avoid traffic jams and accidents, and how to avoid speed traps set up by local police. By the time the oil embargo ended in 1974, CB radios were a fixture in the cabs of semi-truck drivers across the country, so popular that the FCC opened additional channels to accommodate the increase in traffic.

 

A Community on the Airwaves 

The CB radio has been immortalized in pop culture through movies and television like Smokey and the Bandit and Movin’ On, but its use served a vital function for truckers out on the road that didn’t have access to the technology we have today. Drivers could share information, tips, and warnings about their routes, or just pass the lonely hours with discussions and conversations on a variety of topics. As the community of CB radio users was formed in the 1970s, a whole language and slang arose with it. Truckers began using “handles,” or names used to identify themselves over the air, and various phrases and codes to indicate certain features of the road. Weigh stations became “chicken coops,” cops became “smokeys” and “bears,” and affirmations became “10-4 roger.” This unique CB radio language became a part of trucker culture, and the nicknames, or “handles,” truckers used to identify each other took on a vocabulary of their own.

 

Handles and Nicknames

CB handles became widely popular among truckers in the 1970s, both as a way of maintaining a certain anonymity on the airwaves and as a way to express themselves. Handles can be practical, funny, or descriptive and may incorporate a trucker’s interests, origins, or identifying traits. Names like “Grumpy,” “Twitch,” “Large Marge,” and “Fatcat” give clues about the physical characteristics of their owners, while “Trout Stalker,” “Eagle,” “Scrap King,” and “Sod Buster” might say more about the interests or hobbies of a particular driver.

Create Your Own CB Handle

Though technology has changed the way truckers communicate these days, CB radios are not entirely gone from the road. Many truckers still keep them in their cabs and use them from time to time to talk to other drivers and CB enthusiasts, and many still use the handles and lingo made popular in the 1970s. You may even be thinking of what your own CB handle may sound like if you were to get on the air today. CB handles can be self-created or given to you by other CB radio users. If you want to come up with your own handle, consider something short but memorable. Your handle may include information about yourself, such as:

  • Your interests or hobbies
  • The way you talk
  • What you haul or what you drive
  • What you use the CB radio for
  • A unique physical trait
  • A favorite color or animal

Here is a list of some of our favorite CB radio handles that real truckers have used over the years:

  • Scrap Queen
  • Road Runner
  • Big Bertha
  • Sassy Kat
  • Nighthawk
  • Shakey Pete
  • Luxury Laura

If you are having trouble coming up with a name for yourself, there are also a number of CB Radio Handle Generators online to help you out.

While smartphone trucker apps and other technologies have taken the place of CB radios in recent years, many truckers still rely on their CBs for information and a sense of community while out on the road. Being a trucker can be a challenging job with many lonely hours, and CB radios have been and continue to help drivers connect with one another and form common bonds that can help the miles go by a little easier. With a CB radio of your own and a little practice, you can learn the language of the airwaves, and in no time at all, you can find yourself “backin’ down at the bear bait waitin’ at a flag in five-mile wind” and sending “3s and 8s to all the chicken trucks on nickel road heading into shakeytown.” 10-4, good buddy.

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