Look Ma, no hands!

John Baxter | February 01, 2010

Another important issue is the convenience of using the controls. Driving hands-free loses its appeal if you become distracted fumbling around, looking for a volume control or trying to answer a call. You might choose to get a headset that has volume, answer and end controls on the headset itself, like the MobileSpec Silencer RX Noise Canceling Bluetooth model. The Cobra CBTH1 features a multi-function button that allows answer/end, redial and voice-activated dialing. The volume buttons also help with transferring calls, placing on hold or three-way conference calling.

Operating distance from your cell phone may be critical if you leave your cell in the cab while doing tasks outside the truck. “The cell phone has to be within a range of around 30 feet, depending on the Bluetooth device,” says Bethany Steinbach, a salesperson at Aries Manufacturing. That’s the typical range, though the VXI BlueParrot B250XT permits distances of up to 66 feet.

Make sure you have enough talk time on a single battery charge to get you through one on-duty cycle. The VXI BlueParrot B250-XT and Xpressway models, for example, offer 16 hours.

Also look at the charging options that come with the device. The ideal is the capability to use 120-volt AC and 12-volt DC (as supplied in your truck’s on-dash charging socket or cigarette lighter), as well as USB-port charging.

As to cost, the biggest factor is whether you want noise cancellation technology. The Cobra CBTH1, which Steinbach says was designed for truckers, goes for about $90, while the CBTH2, which does not have noise cancellation technology, sells for about $60. You can also buy headsets that plug into the cell phone for less, but for ease of use during driving and walking around, Bluetooth technology may be worth the higher cost.

Lamoureux says, “A trucker should expect to spend up to $120 for a high-quality, professional-grade headset. In terms of performance, noise-canceling and audio quality are must-have features.”

Many models are offered in truck stops. For example, Barjan Marketing Director Steve Stombaugh says his company sells Motorola, Cobra, BlueParrot and Jabra at Travel Centers of America, Petro, Flying J and Love’s. n

Try it on for size, function

When shopping for a headset, note:

• Does the earphone cushion adequately protect your ear from pinching or other pressure?

• How adjustable is the earpiece?

• Can you adjust it or the frame of the device so it fits over your ear?

• Can the microphone be adjusted so you can reverse the headset?

• If so, can you switch ears to combat fatigue periodically?

• The ear cushion gradually loses resiliency. Does the manufacturer sell replacements?

How to connect

A new Bluetooth headset might not initially recognize your cell phone and connect with it. “The phone has to have Bluetooth capability,” says Bethany Steinbach of Aries Manufacturing. “All newer phones are coming out with this technology.”

To activate:

• Charge the headset completely.

• Turn on your cell phone’s Bluetooth option.

• Turn your headset to Bluetooth mode. Check the instructions for your device’s alert. 

• Once the headset is ready to be paired, it is your phone’s job to connect to it. Connection varies by phone, so check your device’s instructions.

• Next, select the unit the headset has found.

• For initial pairing, enter a code. Check your instructions to find the code for your headset. Once this is done, you are likely to get an indication that the connection has been made.

When you are paired to the headset, all calls will go directly to the headset. To make calls, you still need to use the phone to dial.

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