With roads across the country getting ever busier, an increasing number of grey nomads are looking at UHF radios as a way of increasing safety, as well as sharing information … and just having a bit of fun.
With the technology now readily available and affordable, it basically makes sense for caravanners and motorhomers, who are often travelling in remote areas on unfamiliar roads, to be able to communicate with other motorists.
However, it is also important that they understand the technology and the etiquette of using it. UHF CB is a citizen band two-way radio service using the 476.4250–477.4125MHz radio frequency intended for short-distance communications.
Most travellers choose to have a UHF radio fitted in their vehicle, although there can certainly be uses for hand-held UHF radios, as well.
The way in which UHF radio can be useful for travellers are manifold but, before leaping onto the airwaves, it is critical to understand about the channels that are on offer, and how they are to be used.
There are 80 channels of free UHF CB two-way radio channels set aside for the general public to use. Channels 5 and 35 though are strictly for emergency communications only, and there are others – like channels 22, 23, 61, 62 and 63 – which are restricted.
The big ones for most travellers are Channel 18 which is commonly known as the caravanners’ channel; Channel 10 which is for 4WD drivers, convoys, clubs and national parks; while Channel 40 is the truckies’ channel.
These are public channels, meaning conversations can be heard by any other UHF users within range. For general chats, people will normally arrange to move to another channel to avoid blocking a main channel.
Of course, UHF radios really come into their own when there is a traffic hazard or emergency situation.
Grey nomads may also exchange information about anything from the best place to buy fuel or to camp, to talking about the weather or the pros and cons of dressed termite mounds! The secret is to follow etiquette, show consideration to fellow UHF users … and to make sure you are on the appropriate channel.
UHF radio can obviously be an important way for truckies and grey nomads to communicate, and road safety advocate and professional driver, Rod Hannifey, says it helps if vanners have a ‘UHF radio fitted’ sign to let other drivers know they can be contacted.
He also warns that new users may find the language on the truckies’ channel ‘rough and ready’.
“I’m afraid that many truckies often think it is only us on Ch 40 and this can offend so, rather than turn the set down and then forget, consider using Channel 18, particularly if you are travelling in a group,” he said. “We do not want to know how good your cuppa was, while we try to tell someone of a hazard ahead.”
While UHF radio has been around a while now, there are still ongoing innovations in the space. For example, communication technologies company, Oricom, has developed Dual Receive Technology that allows a user to receive and listen to two different channels simultaneously.
That means, for example, nomads can be chatting to a fellow vanner on Channel 18, while keeping an ear on the truckies’ channel for potential safety updates or traffic warnings … all without having to change channel, or having two radios.