‘Common sense, you’ve got it for a reason’ -- Use your CB already, owner-ops say

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Updated Feb 3, 2023

Updated February 2, 2023, in the wake of disastrous winter weather in Wyoming, Texas and elsewhere around the country. This story's original publication followed the events described in January of 2017.

Commentary flooded in following driver Scott LeVan‘s account of a deadly night on I-80 in Pennsylvania. The issue much of the commentary was addressed toward: was whether declining CB radio usage could have in part been to blame in, at least, the severity of the crash. LeVan was confident his warning might better have helped, and callers to Overdrive‘s podcast line stressed the need for better use of what most viewed as a necessary safety tool, the CB, no matter how much you might dislike the foul language around major cities or certain truck stops (a common complaint). Catch a variety of views via the podcast here, part of Overdrive Radio's mailbag series of featuring owner-operator commentary on a bevy of issues. 

This time of year, with more than occasionally dicey weather, particularly, things up ahead can change fast.

“My radio is on if I’m in the truck, period,” noted Jason Puniak in commentary under LeVan's original account of the Pennsylvania pileup. “No excuse to not have it on. And mine will also get out and receive. Its a big Stryker. I’d hate to be that guy who comes around a blind curve at 65 or 70 mph on a highway only to hit stopped traffic.”

[Related: The 'original social media,' CB still meets needs even if its glory days have passed

Longtime Overdrive contributor Clifford Petersen seconded that notion with a winter-driving infographic, developed in part in hopes that “more drivers will use their CB radios this winter to help other drivers”: 

Winter Driving Tips infographic, by Clifford Petersen

Kenneth Williams at the time noted he believed “the biggest difference from the old days and now with a CB is in the 1970s there were fewer trucks on the road,” he wrote. “And no way to just call for help if you needed help. Even pay phones were only in towns. As a trucker you were on your own, except for other truck drivers. So you made a lot of friends on the road. And yes there were a lot of rude jerks back then. Most were base-station types with a big radio.”

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Those types are still out there -- I’ve heard one in recent years repeatedly somewhere around Nashville, Tennessee, where I'm based, picking fights with drivers. At once, Williams added, “now most have found the Internet. But as for the CB, it still has a place in trucking today. Although the negative comments happen a lot more, I think it is a social problem today -- rudeness is more acceptable. Back in the day, if you were rude on the radio to some men they would most likely drag you out of your truck and give you an attitude adjustment.”

Too many today seem to think that the CB is little more than a “movie prop from a silly movie from the 1970s,” Williams said. For the sake of safety, for camaraderie among drivers, among other things, he added, “truckers need to take back your lives and get rid of the negative talk on the CB. And when you stop at the truck stop, go meet your fellow drivers and make friends. I will see you out there.”

Williams’ thoughts were one example among many under the original story about LeVan’s incident. LeVan, in his original note to me with his message for drivers, hoped “it gets shared in the classrooms,” he said, that are today turning out the next generation of CDL drivers.

[Related: Respite, brother- and sisterhood, fellowship on the long, cold road this season]

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