These days, there always seems to be a new app or gadget you’re being told is a must-have for your business. In our blog post about choosing a GPS unit, readers may have been surprised to learn that we recommended truckers, old and new, keep an actual paper copy of an atlas.
You’d think that the use of cell phones and GPS would render the paper atlas obsolete, but you’d be wrong.
Out on the road, a trucker needs access to as many tools as possible. A GPS unit, an atlas, even Post-Its detailing specific route instructions, are all used in tandem to help the trucker deliver their loads safely and securely.
Another vital tool that truckers use to complete their jobs is the CB radio. It was made popular among non-truckers by the 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit. But as cell phone use took off in the early 80’s, the CB radio’s popularity began to decline among hobbyists. The new communication technology even led some truckers to question whether CB radios are still relevant.
At Perfit Computer, we know they are. A CB radio can be used to :
• communicate with guard shacks when picking up or delivering a load.
• get traffic updates, avoid major traffic backups allowing drivers detour and save time.
• warn other drivers of road conditions ahead e.g. accidents, bad weather, construction, etc.
• alert them to DOT roadside inspections, problems underneath their trucks or on the back of the trailer.
• even provide some entertainment at truck stops.
Can you see why the CB is an important tool for keeping truck drivers and other road users safe? For some truckers, the two simply go hand in hand.
Now before you go looking to buy the most expensive squawk box available, note that you may not need to pay big money to get big power; a good basic CB may be all you need.
Being able to communicate with other drivers many miles away may seem like a good idea, but isn’t unnecessary chatter just another distraction? Remember, we’re trying to use the info from the radio to avoid accidents, not cause them.
With that said, the following some of the essential features to consider when choosing a CB radio:
1. Weather Tracking capabilities: With the recent spate of hurricanes that have run through the USA, knowing the kind of weather to expect is vital information to truck drivers that ply those routes.
Apart from information from other truck drivers, some CB radios have a weather band that allows them connect to NOAA, the National Weather Service. This grants them access to real-time weather updates allowing them to plan accordingly.
2. Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL): What’s the point of having a radio when you can barely hear what’s been transmitted? White noise interferes with the quality of transmissions, especially those coming from a far distance. Investing in a radio that has an in-built noise limiter, allows users receive and transmit clearly.
3. Backlit Display: Squinting to read the display on your CB or having to pull the radio closer just to see the dials can be distracting. By taking your eyes off the road (and hands off the wheel), you increase the risk of getting in an accident. To avoid this, consider getting a radio with a backlit or nightwatch display. This allows for safer and more efficient use at night.
4. RF Gain: While most CB radios have a decent range out of the box (around 3 miles), occasionally the signal becomes weak and communications faint. The RF gain feature in some radios provides a boost that allows the CB radio user control and filter out weaker signals, to pick clearer signals.
5. Antennae: The type of antenna you use with your CB will determine its range of communication. Out of the box, a CB produces around 4 watts of output (up to 2 miles of range). Most truckers peak and tune their CB to boost it to put out 35 watts (reaching 7-10 miles of range).
Using an external mounted antenna is better than an internally mounted antenna, as those give a better range. While you may be tempted to use the internal antenna, note that the make of the truck can also impact the quality of the CB radio transmission.
For example, truck drivers report that the antennae mounted in the frame of the Freightliner model, are not very good for “talking” or transmitting. As the antenna is built into the frame, they don’t transmit more than 400 yards.
These five are the most important features to consider before buying a CB radio. Finding a radio that ticks these boxes isn’t hard, some of the most popular models have these features and more.
The following are some of the most popular CB models that will keep your drivers on the road at all times.
• Cobra makes a range of CB radios known as the Cobra 29 radios. These models include the Cobra 29 LX, the 29 LTD, and the Cobra 29 Classic. Cobra 29 radios are full sized radios, packed with many different features.
Take the Cobra 29 Classic CB radio that ships with an antenna warning indicator, a signal strength meter and a 9 foot mic cord.
The Cobra 29 LX is based on the 29 Classic but with added features like: automatic scanning of 10 noaa weather channels, auto advancing to the next clear channel ensuring the driver is always getting up-to-date weather alerts and warnings. Its dimmable multi-color display can be set to one of four colors. It also has a radio check diagnostic that provides info on battery voltage, RF power etc.
The Cobra 75 is a compact but full-featured CB radio best used in vehicles where space is a premium. With its soundtracker system that cuts noise for clearer communication, noaa weather & emergency band, illuminated LCD display – the Cobra 75 remains portable enough to fit in your hand.
• Next up is the Midland 75-822 40 channel CB radio – With dual power options using either portable power with six AA batteries or the included cigarette lighter adapter for mobile use, it also boasts:
instant access to noaa radio, ANL (Automatic Noise Limiter) and squelch control for eliminating background noise.
• Another popular option with truckers is the Uniden 40-channel CB radio (PRO505XL).
Weighing less than two pounds for easy handling, the Uniden features include automatic noise limiting, an external speaker jack, large dedicated up and down buttons and an external PA jack that allows connection of a PA speaker.
Its compact size makes the Uniden a highly rated radio among truck drivers. The 505XL also comes with a signal/RF power indicator that allows users check the relative strength of incoming transmissions. Other features include 40 channel operation, squelch control, and a large, easy-to-read orange backlit display.
• The Galaxy brand of CB radios is known for being quite sturdy and d while this translates into a larger heavy duty radio, it also means more can be done with them. The Galaxy DX-949 features a channel display with large yellow digits for easy identification. It has a noise filter circuit that boosts weak signals and clears up any background noise.
Between these options, truck drivers will find a model with their preferred features and one that fits their budget. With the most expensive of these costing only $160, one can see why paying big money to get big power in the CB is redundant.
Instead start small and get the base model peaked, tuned and matching your antenna. You’ll be surprised at how much use you can get out of such a simple setup.
The CB radio is indispensable to drivers, as it is one tool that can save you all kinds of grief, while making your journeys into unknown territories easier and safer. Equip yourself with one and don’t leave the outcome of your trip to chance.
While fleet managers expect drivers to have the right tools at hand, they seem to be winging it. Many fleet managers leave their truck maintenance to chance, instead of constantly measuring to keep on top of things.
Sure, you can keep track with pen and paper, but do you really want to go through the stress of deciphering that technician’s writing?
Save yourself all that hassle and go digital with a fleet management software system. Using a truck maintenance software can allow your fleet management to become truly hands-off.
At Perfit Computer, we worked with fleet managers to develop the EMDECS Fleet management system. EMDECS allows fleet managers to reduce the cost of vehicle maintenance, keep track of deferred repairs/warranties, track repair orders in real time using the Technician’s Repair Order (Tech RO) and so much more.
Learn which processes are costing you money today. Contact EMDECS today for a free demo.