Truck drivers must routinely communicate with different types of people during the course of their job. Among them are other truck drivers, trucking customers, and official personnel having regular contact with truckers. See CB Terminology for help with any terms you’re not familiar with.
For the most part, the CB radio is (still) how you communicate in truck driving. There are other times, however, when communication is accomplished by truck drivers signaling with the truck’s lights, flashers, and turn signals (See below for more information). In this section:
Communicating With Other Truckers
Information is Key in Trucking! When you’re on the CB, try to offer any useful information first, instead of just immediately asking for the information you need. Of course, the only information may be, “it’s (the weather/traffic, etc. for example) looking good going back that way eastbound.” Then, you can ask, “how’s the weather going this way?”, or whatever information you need.
If it’s late at night and you’re going down the road, or if it’s in a less congested area (out in the country somewhere), truckers can usually talk at lengths without having to worry about monopolizing the radio. Truckers can talk about anything which helps to pass the time, and keeps them alert (at least it can if the conversation’s a good one!)
Information you can share with other drivers
- Adverse weather conditions: report any fog affecting visibility, high winds, winter conditions, heavy rain, etc.
- Accidents and hazards.
- Any kind of traffic conditions or delays.
- Bear reports: if you pass Highway Patrol or another law enforcement vehicle on the side of the road, with or without another vehicle (he may be giving out a ticket, etc.), notify the other truckers of the potential hazards, “there’s a bear on the side of the road with a customer at mile marker 191”. This way, anyone listening can make a lane change, etc. and avoid the hazard.
- Directions to local businesses (shippers, receivers, truck stops, restaurants with truck parking, etc.).
- Learning from other truckers: Listen and learn from other truckers on the CB and in person. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions…that’s how you learn. Don’t try to hide the fact that you don’t know how to perform a certain function of the job. Remember, it doesn’t matter if another trucker thinks, or even knows, that you’re a new driver. Everyone was brand new once. What does matter is that you learn and become a successful truck driver.
Helping Out Your Fellow Truckers
It is common, especially at nighttime (or whenever visibility is limited, as in fog or rain), for truckers to extend common courtesies to each other.
Warning trailing vehicles about upcoming shoulder hazards: If there are hazards quickly approaching: traffic, any slowdowns, alligators (pieces of tire in the road), any brake checks (anything you have to slow down for), vehicles and/or people on the shoulder (or just going slowly on the shoulder), etc: turn your left turn signal on, and move to the left lane, if possible. Move over for your own safety, the safety of the people or hazards on the shoulder, and also for the safety of the vehicles behind you. Notify the trucks behind you of the approaching hazards, by saying “got a big truck (or whatever the hazard is) on the side of the road up ahead” on the CB, especially if you are unable to get over into the left lane.
Announcing a brake check: Saying “brake check” on the CB lets drivers behind you know that they’ll soon have to slow down, or stop, for a traffic tie-up (accident or other hazard up ahead). It’s a common courtesy extended by many drivers.
A driver should always know what’s ahead of him, but it’s easy to sometimes get lost in the scenery, and not realize there’s an abrupt stop coming up. This is another reason why it’s a good idea to keep your CB turned on, even if it’s just turned on low-volume.
Helping truckers make lane changes: Truckers need to help other truckers as much as possible, because other drivers often will not. Other drivers are just thinking about getting to work on time, or getting home as fast as they can, and don’t understand the limitations truckers operate under.
Helping other truckers pass you: If you see that another truck is having a hard time passing you (for whatever reason), consider slowing down (within reason) to allow him to pass, as long as you can do so safely, without causing the trucks behind you to have to slow down. Use your best judgement and try to do what would be the safest thing to do.
When one truck is far enough in front of another to safely pass, it is common to:
- Tell the passing truck on the CB radio that it’s safe to pass (although this can get confusing if there’s a lot of truck traffic, or if the communication isn’t clear or specific enough).
- Signal the driver by turning the headlights off and on again (more common than flashing the high beams on and off).
Note: This latter practice is prohibited by the regulations of the Department of Transportation. Technically, when a driver signals in this manner, he transfers part of the responsibility for safe passing from the passing driver to himself. In the event of an accident, the signaling driver (and his company) can be held liable in the event of an accident.
Hanging Back at an Intersection: If it appears you’ll get to an intersection at the same time as another truck, slow down and tell the other driver on the CB to ‘go ahead’ (or just turn your headlights on and off) as you wait for him to proceed. This is because of the extra room trucks need to make turns on smaller or narrower streets.
Note: Not all truckers have CB radios, especially local drivers. Even trucks that do have them, don’t always have them on.
Communicating With Official Personnel
- Public scales: when you’re on the scale, there will usually be a sign telling drivers what channel to monitor to communicate with the fuel desk. They’ll need truck and company information to enter on the scale ticket, etc.
Law enforcement officials monitor channel 9. Notify them if you observe any emergency situation which requires their immediate attention: accidents that just happened (you may be asked to give more information), vehicles broke down on the road or on the side of the road, etc.
Communicating With Trucking Customers
Customers (shippers and receivers) will often need to contact a driver on the CB with important information:
- When they’re ready to load you and what dock to back into.
- When the trailers loaded or unloaded.
- When the paperwork is ready, etc.