How to Carry on a Conversation on a CB Radio


CB radio was a very popular method of communicating while on the road before the cell phone took over as the mobile communication method of choice. While its popularity since the heydays of the 1970s has waned, it still sees a good deal of use among truckers and those on the road frequently.


  • The FCC placed 40 different CB channels into use, numbered 1 through 40. Legal CB radios have a range of about four miles using the maximum legal power of four watts in AM mode and 12 watts using SSB mode. Range may be decreased due to weather conditions, surrounding geography and any obstacles in the signal’s path.


  • There are no restrictions on how CB channels are used, although the FCC has designated Channel 9 (27.065MHz) as a channel for emergency use. Since using CB requires no license, the FCC permits anyone -- whether an individual or a business -- to use these frequencies with one exception. Under FCC rules, “representatives of foreign governments” are banned from using the service. Conversations must be kept short: the FCC limits conversations to five minutes, with a minute break before starting a conversation with another station.


  • There are no call signs to identify your station like there are in amateur radio. Instead, users create their own handles -- nicknames they use while on the air. The FCC puts no restrictions on what these handles can be, although profanity is strongly discouraged. Names like “Trucker Bob,” “King Cobra,” and “Jumpin’ Joe” are all possible handles. The best advice on creating a handle is to be creative.


  • CB users have their own lingo. Possibly the most recognizable is the “10-code:” the number 10 followed by a number between 1 and 34. You are probably familiar with 10-4, which is shorthand for “message received/acknowledged.” Other common 10-codes used on CB include 10-2, which means you’re receiving the others transmissions well, or conversely 10-1, which means you’re receiving poorly. 10-20 or “what’s your twenty?” means "what’s your location?" and 10-100 is shorthand to let the recipient know you’re taking a restroom break.


  • Since there are so few rules when it comes to CB, the best thing to do is to listen first and transmit second. Understand the customs of fellow CB users in the area first before using it yourself. Profanity is frowned upon; it's also best to cut down on the slang if it’s unnecessary. Remember, whoever’s listening might not understand the ins and outs of CB slang, so if you don’t need to use it, don’t.

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