High Power SSB CB Radios, Not Just For Truckers
What Are High Power SSB CB Radios?
Why You Might Want A Long Range, SSB, High Power CB Radio
If you travel the interstate highways or the back roads frequently you may want to add a high power SSB CB radio to your vehicle for added safety. Many people believe CB radios are old fashioned and that a cell phone will work anywhere when you need to call for help. Nothing can be farther from the truth. Even now there are still thousands of square miles of the United States and Canada where cell phones do not work, even on some interstate highways.
If you are stuck on the side of the road in an area with no cell phone coverage you can call for help with a CB radio. Truckers frequently monitor channel 19 on the AM mode and other CB operators often use the SSB channel 16 and channels from 35 to 40 for long range communication. You may be able to talk up to thirty miles or more, even around the world using SSB if the conditions are just right. Note: The FCC considers it breaking the law if you talk to CB stations over 90 miles away. Operators in many other countries do not have this restriction and use the SSB mode on 11 meters specifically for DX or long distance communication.
If you have a high power SSB CB radio in your vehicle you can ask the eighteen wheeler that is coming your way how the road conditions are up ahead. When roads are icy or there is a wreck up ahead on the interstate you might be able to find out exactly what is happening by listening in.
Though not as often as a few years ago, many truckers still monitor channel 19 when they are driving, they just don't talk as much as they used to given the availability of cell phones. Truckers listen for reports of speed traps ahead, road conditions and information about wrecks, etc. Some state troopers still monitor channel 19 and will reply to calls for help.
A high power CB radio with SSB or single sideband mode will reach out much farther when used in the single sideband mode. While channel 19 uses AM, or amplitude modulation, the channels between 34 and 40 are often used for SSB. On upper or lower sideband, (USB or LSB), there are effectively twice the number of channels and you can talk up to thirty miles under the right conditions and when "skip" happens, also known as DX, you may be able to talk around the world. One thing to note is that using AM on these channels does not sit well with users who are using SSB mode. In fact, AM creates a terrible feedback type noise which interferes with communications in SSB.
CB SSB Radio "Skip Call" Saves A Life
While talking long distances or "skip" is classified as illegal by the FCC, it helped save the life of a trucker who was stuck in the massive ice storm that struck in Kentucky in 2007. The driver of the rig was twenty miles off the interstate on an isolated road and he had ran out of diesel and could no longer run the engine to keep warm. After four days of being stuck in his vehicle, his call on a single sideband channel was picked up in Arizona by a base station operator and was relayed to the authorities who sent a crew to rescue him in Kentucky!
I don't advocate tuning up a ten meter ham radio for CB use, although many people still do it. Out of the box, non-modified high power CB radios such as those made by Galaxy and sold at reputable radio shops or truck stops are FCC type accepted and put out the full legal 4 watts. These radios may be considered high power not because of what the wattage is set at, but at the size and rating of the radio's final amplifier circuit, since they are often tuned way down from ultimate capacity for sale in the US. Unlike cheaper radios, their final amplifiers can transmit using the full legal wattage for long periods and not burn out. Note: I do not condone tuning up any radio past the legal limits.
The title of this article "High Power SSB CB Radios" refers to the fact that SSB CB radios transmit using 12 watts of PEP or Peak Envelope Power, 3 times the power of standard AM modulated CB's and have heavy duty final amplifiers.
A high power SSB CB radio needs a good antenna. Most truckers use some type of dual antennas on each mirror. The dual mirror configuration give a good signal pattern for transmitting forward and toward the rear of the vehicle as it travels down the road. For SUV's and trucks the full size K-40 antenna is a good choice for power.
Most high power CB radios, such as the Galaxy and Connex series have built in antenna matching meters, or SWR meters and matching your radio to your antenna is absolutely necessary.
Better Yet, Get A Ham License!
CB radios have been around for decades now and so has ham radio. Amateur radio or "ham" refers to a licensed radio service that, unlike CB radio, is not limited to only one band. Getting your ham radio license is now as easy as passing a written test. Having ham gear in your vehicle is the ultimate survival communications tool and for this reason has been adopted by many so called "preppers" and survivalists as a means of communication when all others fail. Ham radios, depending on type and bands, can even utilize statewide and regional repeater networks that can increase the range of an inexpensive walkie talkie to thousands of miles. For those interested in the hobby the ARRL is a great resource.