March 4, 2013 - by |

Will Mobile Seal the Fate of the CB?

Hank Barton is a second generation trucker-philosopher with a penchant for the written word. He enjoys blogging about long haul trucking, safe driving practices and life on the open road. He writes for E-Gears, an online CDL Test authority that specializes in a variety of study guides. CB radio

CB’s are still in use on US roads, but their popularity seems to be dying out as smartphones and tablets are on the rise. There are certainly truckers out there keeping the CB alive, but some might be wondering how long it will last. People often ask if truckers still use CB’s. Some even go out and buy one of their own to try and experience that slice of the trucker community, but even truckers have come to question the worth of CB units.

The World Gone Mobile

Mobile technology was one of the most influential, rapidly-growing technologies of the past decade. Even when cell phones were not nearly so widespread, people were mocking the use of land lines. In the 2010’s it is difficult to find many people worldwide who don’t use a cell phone, either their own or company-owned.

Thanks to mobile devices, the phrase “there’s an app for that” has been dialed into the mainstream consciousness and software developers have flooded the market to live up to that dream. These days, you can find apps for anything from extreme couponing to monitoring website traffic. As with just about every other industry you can think of, developers are making apps specifically for truckers too.

In earlier days of mobile apps, truckers might have been likely to stick to the ones that keep them in touch with friends and family. Now, there are a bevy of options to help plan routes, find cheap diesel fuel or nearby truck stops, find and bid on loads, etc. Mobile devices also make things easier for fleet managers tracking their drivers. Keep in mind, that’s all on top of the primary communication function that attracted us to mobile devices in the first place. Even for those who love CB style handset, there are ones available for use with your cell phone.

The Ban

In January 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) placed a ban on use of handheld cell phones in trucks. There are stiff fines and a CDL disqualifying period for violations. Visibility on the distracted driving issue has been increasing in recent years, so it is not surprising it would come down to this in an industry where accidents can have exceptionally severe consequences.

However, cell phone use with hands-free devices has not been banned.  Truckers were quick to note there was no ban on use of CB radios, which occupy the hands of truckers on a regular basis. The difference is that cell phones draw the eyes and take more attention than a CB. This does not necessarily mean that CB’s will be favored though.

Hands-free devices are easy to come by and will probably be less expensive than a CB unit. Also, there isn’t much that can be done to make a CB more trucker-friendly, while cell phones will likely keep improving accommodations for truckers. Some of the apps already available are designed to manage the safety issues truckers might run into by blocking texts and emails and automatically responding with “I’m driving.”

Questionable Value of CB Chatter

Even truckers will admit that you hear a lot of garbage on channel 19 and many use CB’s more for their entertainment value than for the job. While the specific near-range, open communicating function of the CB isn’t exactly duplicated, the real useful function of it in trucking – keeping everyone up to date on conditions – is not exclusive to CB. It may still be a good option for staying informed on the roads, but technology seems to be moving ahead to offer better ones. Also, entertainment may be a functional part of trucking since drivers have to stay alert, but the common chatter on “seat covers” or fighting between telephone tough guys may be more distracting than anything.

Though CB’s still seem to have a foothold in their own niche, they are definitely not as much of a staple in the trucking industry as they used to be and mobile technology seems to be filling that void. Most truckers would probably give up their CB before they would give up their cell. I’m curious to see whether the CB will find a resurgence or fade away for truckers in the coming years.  

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