I have been driving a tractor trailer for about 10+ years. I am a member to many CB Radio Forums, also a lot of Truck Driver Forums.
I see and get this question all the time, so I thought I would try and answer it here.
You made it through truck driving school, now you need a CB Radio? OK, first off we need to do some research on CB Radios. DO you want a 10 meter radio? Or do you want a standard 11 meter CB Radio? Well it is going to have to be the latter of the two. Because unless you are a Ham Radio operator licensed through the FCC, then it is illegal to own a 10 meter radio.
CB Radio operators are only allowed to talk on the 11 meter band.
There are 40 channels in the 11 meter band, no CB Channels go below channel 1- 26.965 or above channel 40- 27.405. Anywhere in between you are allowed to operate as long as your CB Radio has not been “worked on”, we will get into this later. There are several different kinds of CB Radio’s to choose from that are legal in the US.
- Cobra 25 LTD, 29 LTD, 148 GTL, 19 DX, 25 NW, 25 WXNW, 29 NW, 29 WXNW
- Texas Ranger 696, 121,966
- Uniden PRO 538 with weather, 510 XL, PC 68 XL, PC 68 LTW, PC 78 XL, PC 78 LTW, PC 78 Elite
- Galaxy 949 and the Galaxy 959
These listed here are the basic legal radios allowed to be used in the USA today without having to have a Amature radio license. They are allowed to be used as long as no modifications have been made to them such as a “Peak and Tune” where the power has been turned up on the radio. From the factory these radio’s are preset at 4 watts of power, which is legal. Tuned properly they will go up to about 35 watts, but again this is not allowed by the FCC.
But most truckers go to the nearest “cb shop” and pay $50.00 to $100.00 to have a “Connex Board” and a “peak and tune” done to their radios. The “Connex Board” is a echo feature added to the inside of the radio, so as to distort (echo) the voice it also adds a talk back feature so the operator can hear themselves through an external speaker.
Most drivers I know usually buy a decent radio ($150.00) then they buy a cheap antenna to go with it. Well this won’t work, your antenna is 95% of your cb outfit. I recommend any Wilson antenna, especially a Wilson 2000 or Wilson 5000. These range in price from $50.00 to $100.00 and that is usually installed. Yes, have it installed by a tech so that they can set your SWR for your antenna. SWR- Standing Wave Ratio this is what makes your radio talk. If you have a SWR of above a 3 or more it will burn your radio up. The tech will use a SWR meter connected to your coax and antenna to check it’s SWR reading. If it is to high they will cut some of the antenna whip off 1/8″ increments, until a satisfactory SWR is reached. If you do not want to spend a lot on an antenna at least buy one that is tunable.
The coax is another big part of the radios performance. Which would be caught by a good tech when they were installing your “new” antenna. But if you are already using the radio and you notice it drops in performance, it will either usually be the SWR or the coax. Truck stops sell precut lengths of coax, usually you will need a 18′ piece to replace what is bad runs about $25.00, I recommend the gray or clear coax. If you are just replacing the coax you can do this yourself, unless you want the SWR checked.
I hope maybe this has shed some light on what to buy.
Be safe out there.