A CB handle is a short but memorable nickname used by a citizen's band radio enthusiast while broadcasting. A typical handle might be "Lucky Dave" or "Big Red" or even something less likely to be copied, such as "Skinky Do-Rag" or "Mister Dodo Head." The point is to create a unique identity while communicating with others on a CB radio channel. In a sense, this nickname is the forerunner of the avatars and nicknames often created for anonymity while participating in web chats or online forums.
Sometimes, a CB handle reveals something about the user's occupation, such as "Mama Flapjacks" or "Gas Hog." This shorthand could come in very handy for other CBers looking for a good restaurant or gas station nearby. Other regular CB users may have more obscure handles, such as an explosives hauler calling himself "Nervous Charlie" or a school bus driver calling herself "Mama Hen." A good nickname often lets others know something interesting about the user.
Another typical handle could describe a personal hobby or interest. CB radio listeners might discover "Quilting Bee" or "Old Fisherman" chatting on the airwaves, for example. An avid football fan might use "Pigskin Pete," or a baseball fan might use "Hammering Tony." When it comes to selecting a handle based on a personal interest, the trick is to keep it short, memorable, and as unique as possible. Because the frequencies assigned to citizens' band radio usage are regulated — by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) in the US — obscene or offensive names are generally discouraged.
Originally, CB radio users in the US had to apply for a license and use an assigned series of call letters as personal identifiers. When the FCC allowed 23 channels (later raised to 40) to be used by unlicensed citizens, the call letter system gave way to the more informal use of a unique CB handle. During the 1970s, CB radio usage became extremely popular in the United States, and certain nicknames and the personalities behind them became infamous. CB lingo also became a popular form of communication among those in the know.
Do Truckers Still Use CB Handles?
With digital communication technologies in use today, you may expect CB radios to have gone the way of the dinosaur. However, some truckers still rely on these radios to communicate with each other. Many who've been in the industry for 10 years or more have been using CB radios and handles for a long time.
Some state laws ban the use of cell phones while driving. But truckers can use their CB radios to quickly relay important information. While CB usage may not be completely distraction-free, it can be more road-safe than using a smartphone. Transmitting directions, weighing station locations and other essential information isn't usually done via CB radio anymore. Most of those functions have been assumed by smartphone apps. However, drivers use their CBs to let each other know when severe accidents or road hazards occur.
Can You Still Apply for a CB Handle and License?
CB radio users are no longer required to apply for handles and licenses. Consequently, they come from a wide range of backgrounds besides trucking and logistics. You can also choose your own handle, so long as no one else in your local area is using it. Try to select something that's easy to pronounce and remember. Avoid selecting a handle that's crude, off-color or offensive.
A Quick Overview of CB Radio Etiquette
Citizens Band radio culture is mostly informal. General mores and forays may vary according to where you live and travel. However, there are some good etiquette practices you'll want to keep in mind. First, speak more clearly and slowly than you do in everyday conversation. Keep your messages as short and simple as possible — convey the important details, but don't get too wordy. Also, steer clear of revealing personal and private information while speaking.
A few other good practices can help you get along with other CBers. Do not hold a channel for more than a few minutes at a time. Also, pay attention to local customs on channel usage. For instance, channel 19 is the unofficial truckers' channel in most parts of the country. Try to avoid talking at the same time as another operator. Wait for others to finish speaking before keying up. Finally, take note if someone breaks into your conversation. Ask the person to repeat the message — from there, you can determine if you need to yield the channel for emergency use.
Is It Illegal To Have a CB Radio in Your Car?
Most CB radios are legal to operate inside of a car, truck or any other type of passenger vehicle. There's only one basic requirement: Any operator must follow FCC rules governing Citizen Band radio. These rules don't specify a minimum age for operating a CB radio. According to FCC rule 95.403, anyone can operate a CB radio with only two exceptions:
- Foreign governments, their representatives and federal government agencies are prohibited.
- Anyone to whom the FCC has issued a cease-and-desist order cannot operate a CB radio while the ban is in effect.
FCC Requirements for CB Radios
When broadcasting on Citizens Band, you must use an FCC-certified unit. Your radio's modulation cannot go over 100% or exceed power output standards set by the FCC. That power output maximum is currently set at 4 watts. By broadcasting within these limits, you avoid causing interference with other devices such as televisions, stereos and emergency radio equipment. Part 95.410 of the FCC's Personal Radio Service rules also specify that you cannot raise the power output of your unit nor can you attach an amplifier or modify the unit internally.
Channels and Frequencies
As of 2022, the FCC has authorized 40 channels use in CB radio. These frequencies range between 26.965 MHz and 27.405 MHz. The only channel that cannot be used by the general public is channel 9, which is reserved for emergencies or traveler assistance. Channels are not formally assigned, but keep in mind that emergency communications must take priority.
Safety and CB Radio Usage
Most state laws that ban cellphone use while driving do not apply to CB radios. Although there are no rules against using a radio while driving, you should be mindful of safety practices. To avoid distracted driving, do not avert your attention from the road. Watch in front of you, but don't forget to also check your mirrors. Driving takes priority, so keep talking on your radio to an absolute minimum.