In the era before cell phones and the internet, the CB (Citizen’s Band) radio served as a popular means of participating in group conversations, finding nearby gas stations, and reporting traffic incidents. Originally adopted by small businesses, truck drivers, and radio enthusiasts, CB radios became smaller and more affordable with advancements in electronics. By the 1970s, CB radio had become a sweeping trend across the nation. While technically requiring a license and radio call sign, these regulations were seldom enforced, and licensing was discontinued by the FCC in 1983.

Today, online platforms like Facebook and chat rooms provide users with pseudonyms known as screen names. In the CB radio era, individuals used “handles” instead. CB radio enthusiasts and truckers utilized a coded language similar to that of law enforcement, referred to as a “ten-code.” Examples of these codes included 10-1 for poor reception, 10-2 for good reception, 10-4 for message received, 10-6 for standby, 10-7 for leaving the air, 10-9 for requesting message repetition, 10-21 for requesting a telephone call, 10-32 for a radio check, 10-36 for providing the correct time, 10-42 for reporting a traffic accident, 10-62 for being unable to copy a message (use phone), 10-73 for alerting others about a speed trap, 10-100 for needing to use the bathroom, and 10-200 for requesting police presence.

Truckers developed their own specialized vocabulary, which was eventually adopted by other CB radio users. Examples of this trucker lexicon included “Alligator” for a blown tire in the road, “Ankle Biter” for a small child, “Baby Bear” for a rookie cop, “Back door” for someone behind you, “Back Door Closed” for the rear of a convoy being covered from police, “Backside” for the return trip, “Bear” for a police officer, “Barefoot” for using an unmodified radio, “Bear in the Air” for a police helicopter, “Blew My Doors Off” for being passed with great speed, “County Mounty” for a sheriff, “Cash Register” for a toll booth, “Diesel Cop” for the Department of Transportation (DOT), “Deadhead” for driving an empty trailer to get a load elsewhere, “DragonFly” for a trucker who climbs hills slowly and descends rapidly, “Evel Knievel” for a motorcycle cop, “Four-Wheeler” for a car, “Greasy Side Up” for a car with its wheels in the air, “Hammer Down” for driving faster, “Motion Lotion” for diesel fuel, and “Taking Pictures” for police using radar.

The term “Breaker,” followed by a channel number, indicated that anyone could respond to the transmission, or it could be followed by a person’s handle to request a conversation with that individual. Truckers heavily relied on CB radios for traffic updates, police locations, accident reports, and to alleviate the boredom of long hours on the road. Additionally, “Lot Lizards” (prostitutes) used CB radios as a means to conduct their business. The CB radio phenomenon inspired movies such as “Convoy,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Breaker! Breaker!,” and “Citizen’s Band.” While cellular phone technology and the internet have largely rendered CB radios obsolete, truckers continue to use them for traffic updates.