What Do Truckers Use Instead of CB Radios?

Citizens band or CB radio has long been associated with truckers.

Pop culture has driven it into our heads since at least the 1970s through movies and television that when truckers wish to communicate, that’s the radio they use.

However, it’s now the 2020s. Which CB radio alternative do truckers rely on?

Truckers will communicate via smartphone However, some still staunchly support using CB radios, which are modernized today.

This guide will examine the heyday of CB radio, where it fits into a trucker’s job and life, and which communication methods for truckers reign supreme in the 2020s.

The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of CB Radio

Trucker wearing a brown jacket, a hat, and sunglasses talking into a CB radio in a truck
CB radio fell out of fashion for a long time, but truckers favor it today more than ever.

We can’t properly talk about whether truckers use CB radio without briefly discussing the technology first.

CB radio is a type of land mobile system for short-distance communication.

Truckers can communicate with others in their fleet using a two-way radio with 40 shortwave channels.

One of the benefits of using CB radio is that you don’t need a license in many parts of the world (although you once did in the United States!).

CB radio arose in the US in the mid-1940s, but its zenith occurred in the 1970s, which explains why pop culture became obsessed with CB radio around this time.

Unlike some myths that pop culture has perpetuated, such as that cats drink milk or rabbits subsist on carrots, truckers used CB radios back in the day.

In 1973, fuel was in short supply, and the US introduced a speed limit of 55 mph.

Truckers had to communicate with their fleet to ensure their drivers met the required speed limit and had enough fuel to get from Point A to Point B.

This led to films and TV like 1978’s Convoy or 1979’s The Dukes of Hazzard to feature CB radios so prominently.

As the decades wore on and communication advanced, the appeal of CB radio naturally dwindled. Time caused speed limit regulations to change and fuel to become more plentiful.

Most CB setups at the time were huge and bulky, so it would have been a struggle for a truck driver to fit it in their vehicle.

They did it because that’s what was available at the time. Still, when mobile phones and walkie-talkies came to the forefront, those became the preferred means for some truckers to communicate.

However, what’s old is always new again, and what was unpopular is bound to become popular a second or third time around.

Such is true for CB radio, which had a resurgence in the late 2010s and early 2020s.

It’s not just truckers using CB radio today but hobbyists. Manufacturers have responded in kind, continuing to produce the radios.

What CB Radio Alternatives Do Truckers Use?

CB radio may still exist today, but it has its limits.

For example, the range of most CB radios is 30 miles at most.

Federal power limitations of up to four watts also hinder the radio’s potential.

Truckers have gotten with the times and will use these alternatives to communicate.


Trucker wearing a jean jacket and a hat smiling and talking in a smartphone while a red truck is behind him on a clear day
If not using CB radios, truckers will communicate via smartphone.

We live in an age of abundant technology, which has made smartphones more accessible than ever.

Many manufacturers produce smartphones, which are all slim and streamlined enough to fit into one’s pocket (or thereabouts!).

Alternatively, a trucker can keep their phone in the cup holder or the compartment at the front of the vehicle.

It’s best to use a smartphone connected to a Wi-Fi signal to avoid data overages, but smartphones don’t have to connect to Wi-Fi to work.

LTE and 5G signals can transfer data, but you will chew through your data supply.

If not chatting on the phone, truckers can also communicate with one another through specialized apps designed for those in their field.

However, truckers should not drive while they use an app, as they’re at a higher risk of crashing because they’re not paying attention to the road.

Trucker wearing a red, white, and black hat with sunglasses and a blue button-down shirt rolled up to the sleeves holding one arm up and holding a CB radio in the other against bright lights
Today’s truckers will use CB radio for professional and personal communication, arrival updates, and accident warnings.

As discussed in the intro, today’s truckers have not completely eschewed CF radio, not by a long shot.

Some never stopped using the technology because it’s what they’ve become accustomed to.

Others might have fallen out of favor with CB radio but returned to it.

After all, with the resurgence of CB radio, today’s models are more compact and easier to use than ever.

Let’s explore some ways that truckers use CB radio.

Personal/Professional Communication

Although truckers can use their smartphones to communicate with friends, family, or fellow drivers, there are more conducive options.

Phones can experience interference and disconnections, especially when traveling over long distances.

If drivers have no signal, they can only communicate once they reach a better location.

Further, phone batteries can die, and if a trucker has no spare USB ports (or no USB charging in their vehicle), they have to drive around with a dead phone until they arrive at their destination.

CB radio doesn’t have those kinds of issues. The reliability of this mode of communication can help stave off the loneliness that can make driving a truck so difficult.

Arrival Updates

When a trucker pulls into their destination, they can radio other drivers in their fleet and let them know immediately via CB radio.

If a driver still needs a dock assignment before proceeding, they’ll often receive it via radio.

Accident Warnings

Most truckers driving in a fleet are heading toward the same destination. Suppose one driver sees an accident, disaster, or interruption ahead.

In that case, they can let the others know through CB radio’s short-range so they can plan an alternate route.


CB radio became a trucker’s best friend in the 1970s before falling out of favor in the 1990s and returning in the 2010s and 2020s.

That’s one of many modes of communication truckers rely on, though. They also use marine radio and smartphones to stay in touch on the road!

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