Al Gross invented the CB radio (short for “citizens band” radio) in 1945. It was perfect for communicating across short distances. With just 23 channels, it was used primarily by the military and required a special $20 license, severely limiting the number of people using it.
To avoid paying a licensing fee, users created nick names, or “handles,” so they could anonymously chat for free.
On Sept. 11, 1958, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the Class D CB service which deregulated CBs and added another 17 channels for a total of 40. Over the next 20 years, the CB starting gaining popularity – especially among truck drivers. Cell phones weren’t around, so CB radios were how truckers communicated with each other, their employers, and even family members. It was also a cheap and convenient way to pass all that over-the-road time and ease some of the solitude and loneliness that comes with being a truck driver.
The first oil embargo happened in 1973. Fuel became very expensive and harder to find. In addition to that, the national speed limit was lowered to 55 mph, and a lot of truck drivers started to get hit in their wallets by way of speed traps and higher fuel prices. They started using CBs to communicate cheap fuel spots and tell other truckers where the speed traps were located.
In eastern Pennsylvania, “River Rat” (real name J.W. Edwards) used his CB to organize what became the largest convoy ever to protest the difficulties truckers were experiencing.
Truckers parked across the interstate blocking traffic for 10 days! It quickly culminated into hundreds of trucks around the country forming blockades across interstates. (Edwards went on to become the first president of the OOIDA!) Truck drivers became cult heroes and spurred pop cultural phenomenons like “Convoy” and Smokey and the Bandit.
Although mobile devices and social media have made it much easier to stay in touch today, CB radios are still in use among truckers, outdoor enthusiasts, RV owners, and more.
In honor of 10-4, a day we get to celebrate the CB slang slingers of the world, Truckstop.com is bringing you a list of CB radio terms. Enjoy!
CB radio slang
- 10-4: OK; message received
- 10-20: Location
- All locked up: Closed weigh station
- Antler alley: Deer crossing
- Back ‘em up: Slow down
- Bear: Police officer
- Bear bite: A speeding ticket
- Bear cave: Police station
- Bird dog: Radar detector
- Bulldog: Mack truck
- Bumper sticker: A tailgating vehicle
- Cash register: Toll booth
- Chicken coup: Weigh station
- Destruction: Road construction
- Double nickel: 55 mph
- Dragon wagon: A tow truck
- Driving award: A speeding ticket
- Evil Knievel: Motorcycle cop
- Got my nightgown on: In the sleeper
- Granny lane: Slow land
- Greasy side up: A car with its wheels in the air
- Grossed out: Gross vehicle weight is at capacity
- Hammer down: Move faster
- Parking lot: A truck hauling cars
- Pay the water bill: Restroom break
- Roller skate: A small car
- Salt shaker: Snow plow
- Stagecoach: Tour bus
- Taking pictures: Police using radar
- Toothpicks: A load of lumber
- Travel agent: Dispatcher
- Wiggle wagons: Double or triple trailer trucks
- Yard stick: Mile marker