CB Radio Code & Lingo: What's Your 20?, 10 Codes, Trucker Talk

CB Radio Code & Lingo

If you want to get anywhere on CB, you have to be prepared to talk trucker talk, and that can mean learning a lot of rules of conduct. Learning CB lingo and radio code is a critical first step to effective communication.

The most important rule of conduct when using a CB radio is don’t take up more airtime than you have to on a crowded channel. CB 10-codes and Q-codes give you the power to say a lot in the limited space available. Use them wisely, and you'll not only communicate effectively but you'll also gain the respect of your peers.

Learning a few simple rules will help you figure out how to get your codes in edgewise so you’re making friends and not enemies over the airwaves.

Before we dive in, let’s have a little fun with CB lingo!

Cledus Maggard's Rundown of CB Lingo

Jay Huguely, the man behind Cledus Maggard & the Citizen's Band, was an interesting man. Outside of dabbling in recording and songwriting, he was an stage actor, advertising and television executive who built his reputation in the 1970s. In this video, he brings humor to commonly used CB Radio Lingo.



Get a Grip on 10 Codes Used in CB Lingo & Radio Code

The Most Commonly Used 10 Codes

When getting started, remember at least the following 10 codes:

  • 10-1 Receiving Poorly
  • 10-4 Ok, Message Received
  • 10-7 Out of Service, Leaving Air (you're going off the air)
  • 10-8 In Service, subject to call (you're back on the air)
  • 10-9 Repeat Message
  • 10-10 Transmission Completed, Standing By (you'll be listening)
  • 10-20 "What's your location?" or "My location is..." Commonly asked as "What's your 20?"

And maybe also this code... 10-100 Need to go to Bathroom. Also, remember that the code 10-4 only means "message received". If you want to say "yes", use "affirmative". For "no", use "negative" or “negatory”.

CB Radio 10 Codes

The Complete List of CB 10 codes

  • 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, Leaving Air
  • 10-8 In Service, subject to call
  • 10-9 Repeat Message
  • 10-10 Transmission Completed, Standing By
  • 10-11 Talking too Rapidly
  • 10-12 Visitors Present
  • 10-13 Advise weather/road conditions
  • 10-16 Make Pickup at...
  • 10-17 Urgent Business
  • 10-18 Anything for us?
  • 10-19 Nothing for you, return to base
  • 10-20 My Location is ......... or What's your Location?
  • 10-21 Call by Telephone
  • 10-22 Report in Person to _____
  • 10-23 Stand by
  • 10-24 Completed last assignment
  • 10-25 Can you Contact ______
  • 10-26 Disregard Last Information/Cancel Last Message/Ignore
  • 10-27 I am moving to Channel ___
  • 10-28 Identify your station
  • 10-29 Time is up for contact
  • 10-30 Does not conform to FCC Rules
  • 10-32 I will give you a radio check
  • 10-33 Emergency Traffic at this station
  • 10-34 Trouble at this station, help needed
  • 10-35 Confidential Information
  • 10-36 Correct Time is _____
  • 10-38 Ambulance needed at _____
  • 10-39 Your message delivered
  • 10-41 Please tune to channel ___
  • 10-42 Traffic Accident at _____
  • 10-43 Traffic tie-up at _____
  • 10-44 I have a message for you (or ____)
  • 10-45 All units within range please report
  • 10-50 Break Channel
  • 10-62 Unable to copy, use phone
  • 10-62sl unable to copy on AM, use Sideband Lower (not an official code)
  • 10-62su unable to copy on AM, use Sideband Upper (not an official code)
  • 10-65 Awaiting your next message/assignment
  • 10-67 All units comply
  • 10-70 Fire at _____
  • 10-73 Speed Trap at _____
  • 10-75 You are causing interference
  • 10-77 Negative Contact
  • 10-84 My telephone number is ____
  • 10-85 My address is _____
  • 10-91 Talk closer to the Mike
  • 10-92 Your transmitter is out of adjustment
  • 10-93 Check my frequency on this channel
  • 10-94 Please give me a long count
  • 10-95 Transmit dead carrier for 5 sec.
  • 10-99 Mission completed, all units secure
  • 10-100 Need to go to Bathroom
  • 10-200 Police needed at _____

10 codes originated in the USA and are CB radio lingo mostly used in English-speaking countries. However, no matter which codes are used in your country, be aware that there are local dialects in every urban area and region. You have to listen to others to learn the phrases and codes in your area. And not everyone knows or uses 10-codes, so be prepared for some people to not understand you.

Be aware that the use of codes specifically to obscure the meaning of a transmission is probably illegal in most countries. The difference is this codes which are well known and make communications shorter or more efficient are normally allowed.

Familiarize Yourself with Q codes Used in CB Radio Code & Lingo

Some of the More Common Q Codes

Q codes are used in many kinds of radio communications, including CB sideband but not typically on CB AM. (If your radio doesn't have sideband, don't worry about Q codes.) Q codes originated with amateur radio but their use in CB radio lingo varies even more than 10-codes.

The following is an abbreviated list of Q codes borrowed from amateur radio:

  • QRM man made noise, adjacent channel interference
  • QRN static noise
  • QRO increase power
  • QRP reduce power
  • QRT shut down, clear
  • QSL confirmation, often refers to confirmation cards exchanged by hams
  • QSO conversation
  • QSX standing by on the side
  • QSY move to another frequency
  • QTH address, location

CB Radio Q Codes

The following is from a list of Q codes used by the X-Ray Club (a sideband-users club headquartered in Paradise, California):

  • QRL Busy, Stand By
  • QRM Man Made Interference
  • QRT Stop Transmit or Shutting Down (same as 10-7 on AM)
  • QRX Stop Transmit or Standing By
  • QRZ Who Is Calling?
  • QS Receiving Well
  • QSB Receiving Poorly
  • QSK I have something to Say or Station breaking QSM Repeat Message
  • QSO Radio Contact
  • QSP Relay Message
  • QSX Standing By (same as 10-10 on AM)
  • QSY Changing Frequency
  • QTH My Location is _____ or What's your location? QTR Correct Time

Q codes may be used to ask questions (QTH?) or to answer them (QTH is 5th and Ivy Streets.)

The ARRL Handbook and the ARRL operating guides have more complete listings of those used for amateur radio. (ARRL is an amateur radio organization.) Historically, the Q signals were instituted at the 'World Administrative Radio Conference' (WARC) in 1912. Because of their international origin, Q codes may be more accepted outside English-speaking countries than 10-codes are.

Some Tips for Communicating with Others on a CB Radio

CB Radio Lingo Tips

The following is a list that is generally considered proper procedure or polite when using a CB radio. It can also be considered a beginner's survival guide. This list was compiled from common problems that have plagued beginners since CB radios first became popular.

Conduct on the radio is guided by two principles: respect for users and respect for the CB channel.

Other users are people trying to use the CB channel just like you, and the only reason any of us is able to do so is because we all respect one another. The CB channel is a shared limited resource. When it’s not being used, you have more leeway to use more. When the CB channel’s in demand, you have to yield it to others.

When two people are talking, essentially they temporarily "own" the CB channel.

US FCC regulations say that they have to give other people opportunities to use the CB channel if they're going to use it more than several minutes. But it is not up to an outsider to "take" the CB channel from them.

Take care not to "step on" other units (i.e. transmitting at the same time as they are, thereby making both your transmissions unreadable.)

This usually means that you should adjust your break squelch level so that you can hear the other unit and then only begin to transmit when you can't hear anyone else.

NEVER deliberately key over someone else.

Nobody likes that.

If you hear one unit break for another unit, give some time for the unit to respond before you say anything yourself.

Keep in mind that they may have to fumble for a CB microphone in a moving car or dodge furniture en route to a base station. Remember, the calling unit has the CB channel.

If you want to talk on a CB channel that is in use, it is very likely that your initial transmissions will accidentally "walk over" someone else's.

So you must keep them short. The word "break" is generally accepted as both a request for the CB channel and an apology for stepping on others. Try to time it in a pause in the conversation.

Even when your "break" has been recognized, keep your next transmission short.

For example, "Break one-seven for Godzilla" if you're on Channel 17 and looking for someone whose handle is Godzilla. If Godzilla doesn't answer in a reasonably short amount of time, it doesn't hurt to say "thanks for the break" to the units that stopped their conversation for you and give them permission to resume their conversation.

If you break on an open (unused) CB channel, you don't have to be as brief.

For example, "Break 17 for Godzilla. Are you out there Godzilla?" However, the short form is perfectly acceptable, too. Use what fits your style.

If someone speaking to you gets "walked over" so that you can't understand the message, you basically have two options.

You can tell the person you were listening to, "10-9, you were stepped on", or you can find out what the breaker wants, "Go ahead break", before returning to your original conversation. You should eventually recognize the breaker and find out what they want. If two people are talking and you would like to interject a response, you will probably just walk over someone. Use the procedure above to properly break into the conversation.

What should you do if someone doesn't answer your breaks after two or three attempts?

Stop and wait for several minutes or, in mobile units, for several highway miles or city blocks. Others may have their radios on and don't want to listen to the same break more than three times in succession.

In unforseen circumstances, improvise.

Take into account other people's points of view. Give people proper access to the CB channel and try not to do anything to annoy other units.

If you make a mistake in any of the procedures above, don't waste air time on a busy CB channel by apologizing.

If the CB channel isn't busy, it's your choice.) Just try to do it right in the future. Everyone takes a little time to learn.

CB Radio Code & Lingo in Review

These codes and basic rules will give you a good head start on using the radio properly, but there are many subtleties that can’t be explained here. CB is a vibrant community with more than a century of rich history. The only way to learn about it is to participate, so get out there and do it. You’ll find that you’re an old hand at this after just a little while.

And once you’ve become an old hand, if you hear a novice on the CB channel making mistakes, don’t try to enforce any rules. You don’t have any authority, and trying to pretend that you do just takes up precious air time. Be patient, and remember when you were a novice and what that felt like. Be helpful and welcome them to the party, because that’s what CB is: a giant party that anyone and everyone can join. And everyone has a better time when we all follow the rules.