What Are The Best CB Radios For Truckers? (NEW for 2020)
Like most electronics, radios for truckers have become increasingly digital over the last few years. Even though the new-school digital versions may be the cool new kid on the block, many truckers and freight companies still prefer the tried-and-true CB radios for their communication needs.
No matter how you slice it, CB radios are still the fastest and easiest way to convey critical information when you’re on the road. Sure, CB radios might not have all the bells and whistles of their new digital counterparts, but today’s models are still packed with the features truckers need and want when they’re on the road.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the five best CB radios for truckers.
Compare: Our Picks for 2020’s Top CB Radios
- 5 Best CB Radios for Truckers REVIEWED
- 1. Cobra 29LTD CB Radio
- 2. Uniden Bearcat 980 CB Radio
- 3. President Electronics BILL CB Radio
- 4. Midland 5001Z 40-Channel CB Radio
- 5. Uniden PRO505XL 40-Channel CB Radio
- CB Radio Buying Guide
- A Note About Range
- The Importance of Your Antenna
- Types of CB Radios
- Features to Look for in a CB Radio
- Final Verdict
5 Best CB Radios for Truckers REVIEWED
1. Cobra 29LTD CB Radio
A feature-rich radio ideal for truckers who want an assortment of premium features without the high-end price tag.
This radio is one of the most popular models available, and countless truckers rely on the 29LTD to deliver reliable performance.
The 29LTD has a compact receiver box with a brushed metal face and large, easy-to-use knobs for all the controls. This radio provides access to all 40 channels, with an instant channel 9/19 function for emergency or highway broadcasts.
The handset also has Cobra’s DynaMike feature, which increases the microphone sensitivity for clearer broadcasting. Other handy features include RF gain, a switchable noise blanker, and SWR configuration, ensuring that your antenna is functioning optimally.
The 29LTD is available in black or chrome, and there’s also a model that includes Nightwatch mode so you can easily view the control panel in the dark.
- Packed with premium features
- DynaMike function for enhanced broadcast clarity
- SWR Calibration
- Mic holder is prone to breaking
- Mounting screws are easy to strip
2. Uniden Bearcat 980 CB Radio
An affordable unit with modern looks and features ideal for today’s truck drivers.
Truckers who aren’t afraid to break from convention are sure to appreciate this CB radio, which offers a decidedly digital take on a classic design.
This compact radio offers an easy to read illuminated display that lets users choose between seven different LED color options. The screen can be adjusted depending on conditions to set the perfect brightness level for day or night operation.
This radio features 40 channels with an instant channel 9 function. Users can also access local weather reports with the click of a button.
The onboard microphone has a noise-canceling feature for clearer transmissions, and there’s also an optional wireless mic you can purchase to eliminate the wired handset.
Other handy features include an onboard SWR monitor, ANL, and loudspeaker functionality.
- Modern, easy to read display
- Noise-canceling microphone for enhanced broadcast clarity
- Compatible with wireless microphones
- Stock speaker is tiny and difficult to hear
- Doesn’t transmit as well at long ranges
3. President Electronics BILL CB Radio
A compact workhorse that’s perfect for truckers that demand top performance but don’t need all the bells and whistles of more expensive radios.
The BILL CB radio from President is a tiny radio loaded with features that modern truckers demand.
This radio offers a full 40 channels plus AM radio functionality, which includes seven local weather channels and weather alerts. The easy-to-read LCD offers seven different color configurations to choose from, and it’s the perfect brightness for day and night operation.
Additional features include frequency display, manual squelch control, ANL, hi-frequency cut, a USB jack for charging your phone, and an external loudspeaker jack.
- Compact design is perfect for cramped cabs
- USB jack
- Compatible with external speakers
- Easy-to-read display
- Tiny buttons are difficult to control in the dark
- Doesn’t transmit as well at long ranges
4. Midland 5001Z 40-Channel CB Radio
A compact radio with impeccable broadcast quality that’s less than half the price of high-end CB radios.
The Midland 5001Z is an ideal option for truck drivers who need a compact CB radio and are more interested in broadcast quality than loads of bells and whistles.
This simple CB radio offers a brushed metal control panel with a channel selection knob and knobs for volume, mic gain, squelch control, and RF gain. There are also switches that control ANL, display brightness, and instant channel 9 access. There’s also an analog power meter.
The 5001Z comes equipped with a large handset that fits nicely in your palm, and the chrome grille cloth adds a touch of class to this utilitarian radio. The ¼” connector locks in place to prevent it from being accidentally unplugged.
This CB radio also offers an external speaker jack for connecting the radio to a larger speaker, and a loudspeaker function that allows you to use the radio as a PA.
- Compact design
- Large, well-built microphone
- Analog S meter
- Other channels can sometimes bleed into the signal
- Automatic gain control function is a bit glitchy
5. Uniden PRO505XL 40-Channel CB Radio
An ideal radio for truckers who want a reliable radio for the lowest price possible.
This incredibly inexpensive CB radio from Uniden features one of the most compact receivers on the market, so it’s perfect for mounting in tight cabs. It provides users with the most critical CB radio features while opting out of all of the extras that drive up a CB radio’s price.
The PRO505XL offers only two knobs, one for volume and one for squelch control. A large backlit display lets you know what channel you’re tuned into, and there are up/down buttons to select between the 40 available channels.
The only other controls on the receiver are an instant channel 9 button, and a selector switch to toggle between CB and PA operation. Even though the receiver is small, the lack of knobs and buttons makes this unit easy to control, even when driving at night.
- Compact design is perfect for small cabs
- External speaker out
- PA functionality
- Weak signal output makes it difficult to communicate beyond a few miles
- Poor quality speaker makes it difficult to hear transmissions
CB Radio Buying Guide
Now that we’ve shared the five best CB radios for truckers let’s help you make sense of the different features and characteristics that separate CB radio models.
A Note About Range
All CB radios, regardless of which brand you choose or how much you spend, operate on 4 watts of power. Every CB radio has the same transmission range. If you’re looking for a radio with an extended range, you’ll need one that offers a single sideband, as these radios operate at 12 watts.
SBB radios have three times the transmission range of a standard CB radio, but you’ll only hear these out of range transmissions if the operator is also using an SBB radio.
The Importance of Your Antenna
Many rookie truck drivers make the mistake of splurging for a top of the line radio only to skimp out on their antenna. Since CB radios operate at such a low wattage, a quality antenna is crucial so you can get every extra bit of signal range possible, while also ensuring clear transmissions from other drivers on the road.
A top of the line antenna can provide even the most inexpensive CB radios with crystal clear signal quality and broadcasting.
Types of CB Radios
All CB radios fall into one of three categories: mobile, all-in-one, or handheld.
Mobile CB Radios
Mobile CB radios are the original, and they’re made up of two components. A receiver box contains all of the radio’s necessary components and provides access to all of the controls and features. A corded handset attaches to the receiver box and allows you to communicate and listen to transmissions.
In the old days, a mobile CB radio took up tons of real estate on a truck’s dash. Today, most mobile CB radios are smaller than a box of tissues.
All-In-One CB Radios
All-in-one CB radios are a wise choice if you don’t have a lot of space to work with inside your truck’s cabin. These units combine the receiver and the handset, and all the necessary controls are integrated into the handset. The downside of these units is that it’s sometimes easy to switch channels or inadvertently change settings since all the controls are close together.
Handheld CB Radios
Handheld CB radios are similar to all-in-one models, as all of the controls are housed in the handset. Unlike all-in-one units, handhelds can also be removed from your truck and used in another vehicle or on foot. These radios require battery power, although some may also offer a power cable that plugs into the truck’s cigarette lighter.
Features to Look for in a CB Radio
Before you can decide which of the best CB radios for truckers is a good fit for you, let’s take a closer look at the key features that will be important to you when evaluating different models. You’ll come across all sorts of terms, like RF Gain, PA, SBB, ANL, and a whole bunch of other word salad. We’ll make sense of it below.
This feature is found on virtually all quality CB radios. Squelch control sets a decibel threshold for the speaker, and anything below that threshold doesn’t transmit through the speaker. Instead of hearing constant static through the radio when there isn’t a transmission, the radio is silent until an operator speaks into their radio.
RF gain allows you to set the transmissions you receive through the radio based on how strong their signal is. Without RF gain, weak transmissions from incredibly far away operators can be filtered out of the signal, so you only receive strong transmissions from other operators within range.
RF gain can also be used to amplify very weak transmissions so you can hear what that operator is saying.
Some CB radios have a PA feature that allows them to function as a microphone. When this feature is engaged, what you say into the radio will be amplified through a loudspeaker mounted in your truck, or under the hood. To make use of this feature, you’ll have to purchase and install a loudspeaker.
Automatic Noise Limiter (ANL)
An automatic noise limiter can greatly improve your CB radio performance by filtering out unwanted noise, making transmissions clearer. This feature removes engine noise, static, and other ambient noise that makes it difficult to understand a radio broadcast.
A channel scanner is a useful feature that works just like the scanner on a car radio. When the scanner detects a signal, it stops on that channel to listen in on the discussion. Truckers who are used to having to manually flip through channels are sure to appreciate this handy feature.
For night drivers, a backlit display is a practical necessity. Display lighting makes it easy to see the various settings of the radio so you can make adjustments without losing your focus on the road.
Some CB radios are equipped with additional channels that provide local weather and traffic reporting. This is a handy feature if your truck doesn’t have a working radio.
Instant Channel Switching
Some CB radios have a feature that allows users to instantly switch between the two most popular channels on a CB radio, which are 9 and 19. Channel 9 is for emergency communications, while channel 19 is intended for truckers.
For truck drivers, a quality CB radio is an indispensable piece of equipment that can help keep you informed on what’s happening on the road. Each of the five models we profiled above is an excellent choice for the average trucker, and depending on your needs and budget, you’re sure to find a model that’s ideal for your needs.
While each of these radios is in the running for the best CB radio for truckers, only one radio rises above the competition as the best option on the market. The 29LTD from Cobra is our choice as the best CB radio for truckers, as it blends high-end features with a compact design and quality components for an affordable price that’s difficult to beat.