During my cross-country interstate expedition last month, I was pretty excited to fire up an old CB radio I'd found amongst a pile of my things before leaving. Finally, I'd be able to make my wildest Smokey and the Bandit/Dukes of Hazzard radio banter fantasies come alive.
There was only one problem: I didn't know how to speak CB-ese. So when I clicked the mic to call out a shaky, "Breaker, breaker, this is Subie Storm, come on back, good buddy!" my enthusiastic radio check was met with silence. And it wasn't my rad handle, I can tell you that much.
The reason truckers ignored my pleas for on-air camaraderie is simple. The FCC's Citizens Band has its own peculiar lingo. If you don't know what to say, truck drivers will write you off like the appliance operator (novice CB user) you are.
Even though the popularity of CB chatter has waned with the advent of walkie talkies, cell phones, and iPads, it's still alive and well amongst truckers. But to break into their conversation club, you have to know how to talk. Here's how.
Before getting yourself into a full-blown CB conversation, it helps to learn some vocabulary. You wouldn't barge into a Persian restaurant full of Persians speaking Farsi and drown out their language with English words, would you? Well, CB radio conversations are kind of the same.
So if you're ready to roll with the big dogs, put on your best Jerry Reed voice (you know a Southern twang is pretty much necessary) and come along.
First off, don't call people "good buddy." In the years between now and Burt Reynolds' Trans Am-driving heyday, it has come to be associated with homosexual behavior. Not that there's anything wrong with consenting adult males expressing romantic love for one another in public, but perhaps misdirecting amorous words toward a truck driver who may not yet have adapted to a new, more tolerant social era isn't the best idea.
Also, wait until whoever's talking on the channel you want to break into is done talking before hollering, "Breaker, breaker..." Cutting into a conversation in progress — unless it's to report upon emergency conditions or upcoming bear (police) traps — is bad etiquette. You should also realize that four-wheelers — anything that's not an 18-wheeler truck — aren't truck drivers' favorite things. If you're rude on the CB, you might find yourself boxed in by a convoy of large tractor trailers. Nobody likes a CB Rambo (an on air shit-talker who talks the talk but doesn't walk the walk).
Due to the fact that a collision with a big rig is a million times more likely to end up in your small car-driving guts getting smeared all over the interstate, truck drivers own the road, not you. So bear that in mind when you talk with them on air.
But if you're polite and learn a few new words, there's no reason why you can't have an interesting chat with some random dude about the best kind of tie down straps, or where to find a good burger near Gillette, Wyo. Even if none of that is what you're looking for, you can always ask around and see if anyone's seen a picture taker (cop with a radar gun) inviting motorists to feed the bear (get a traffic ticket) a little further down the road.
To be honest, the list of truckers' CB radio slang terms is so long, it eclipses the list of suggested words prospective graduate students must learn before taking the GRE. But they're mostly simple words, silly rhymes or plays upon syllabic patters, or repetitions of other words. Here's a list of the ones I found most amusing/useful.
- Advertising: A marked police car its flashing lights on
- Alligator: A big piece of blown truck tire in the road
- Anchor Clanker: Boat trailer
- Back Off the Hammer: Slow down
- Backstroke: Return trip
- Band-aid Buggy: Ambulance
- Beaver Fever: Missing your wife/girlfriend
- Brake Check: Up ahead traffic is slow
- Chicken Choker: Poultry truck
- Chicken Coop: Weigh station/port of entry
- County mounty: County cop
- Dirty side: The East Coast
- Driving Award: Speeding ticket
- Drop the Hammer: Hit the accelerator and go for it.
- Everybody's Walking the Dog: All the CB channels are full
- Evel Knievel: Motorcycle cop
- Front Door/Back Door: Front/rear of a truck
- Full grown bear: State police
- Got your ears on? Do you Have your CB on?
- Hammer Down: Speed up
- High Speed Chicken Feed: Stay awake pills
- Hippie Chippie: Female hitchhiker
- Joke Book/Comic Book/Cheat Sheet: Log book
- Kiddie Car: Schoolbus
- Kojak with a Kodak: Cop with a radar gun
- Loot Limo: Armored car
- Lot Lizard: Truck stop prostitute
- Miss Piggy: A not-very-nice way of saying "female police officer"
- Nap Trap: Motel
- Negatory: No
- Organ donor: motorcycle rider with no helmet
- Parking Lot: Car Hauler
- Pickle Park: Rest Area
- Protecting and Serving: A cop has someone pulled over
- Quiz: Breathalyzer test
- Rain Locker: Shower
- Reefer: Refrigerated trailer
- Salt Shaker: Snow plow
- Skate Board: Flatbed Trailer
- Suicide Jockey: Haz Mat Hauler Explosives
- Thermos Bottle: Tanker truck
- Town Clown: Municipal police officer
- Truck Stop Tommy: Pimp
- Turd Hauler/Rolling Ranch: Livestock truck
- Twister: Cloverleaf interchange
- Warden: Wife
- Wiggle Wagon: Truck pulling two or more trailers in tandem
- Yardstick: Mile marker
- Yellowstone Bear: A cop who writes too many tickets
- Yo-Yo: Someone who speeds up and slows down
- Zipper: Painted lines on the road
There you have it — more CB slang words than you probably ever imagined existed. But don't go too crazy with lingo, lest you be accused of transmitting "redneck radio" (using too much CB slang). But before you put your ears on and start jaw jacking with road jockeys, you should know a few ten codes, too. Are you 10-2, good neighbor?
Here are some of the codes gonzotrucker.com has listed:
- 10-1: Receiving Poorly
- 10-2: Receiving well
- 10-3: Stop transmitting
- 10-4: Ok, message received
- 10-5: Relay message
- 10-6: Busy, stand by
- 10-7: Out of service
- 10-8: In service
- 10-9: Repeat Message
- 10-10: Transmission completed, standing by
- 10-11: Talking too rapidly
- 10-12: Visitors present ... Shhhh!
- 10-13: Advise weather/road conditions
- 10-17: Urgent Business
- 10-20: Location
- 10-34: Trouble at this station, help needed
- 10-42: Traffic accident
- 10-43: Traffic jam
- 10-70: Fire at truck stop
- 10-73: Speed trap
- 10-99: Mission completed, all units secure
- 10-100: Gotta go No. 1
- 10-200: Gotta go No. 2
Photo: credit: Cobra; Shutterstock