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Tow Truck Radios


Tow411
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Palmettostatewrecker asked this question in July of 2017:

Does anybody use 2 way or fixed radios in their rigs. I am looking at adding a few to ease dispatching. I don't need a cb to talk to other states, but also need something decent to communicate with drivers throughout the area.

 

Jefftow said:

No we don't anymore, not for several years.This will be an interesting topic to watch, I hope.
I sure miss the days of talking into a mic, either in the cab or in the office.
I just don't feel like I'm talking on a radio if I'm using an two-way app on a smart phone.
When radios went by the wayside, I kept several. They're mostly good for nothing but bookends anymore, but one day they may make a comeback. 
I also still have a programmable 16 channel mobile for the 100 something mhg range and a a couple of hand helds that operated on a repeater but had talk-around. I tried selling them a number of years ago, but they don't even have salvage value. One day I'll be glad I kept them.
Thanks for the Topic.

 

Roach901 said:

In 2013 the FCC mandated the change in business radio equipment that required most users to purchase new radios.  The "old faithful" radios that had been in many trucks over the years were worthless and illegal to use.  This caused many operations to re-evaluate using cell phones.  Phones were already being used and most businesses just switched to using the phones rather than paying for a whole new radio system.  In SC most law enforcement looked at moving to the existing SCE&G trunking system that was already in place.  Great coverage over all of South Carolina for a low monthly cost. Many businesses followed the same move.  Anyway, two-way radio is still alive and well.  Look at the cost per unit and the monthly service charges for repeater system usage.  Might be surprised at the deals that are out there.  Good Luck !!

 

MrsHook said:

We do. Most recent upgrade almost created the need for us to put up a tower and set up our own system, but a local company stepped up. New radios were expensive, but crystal clear. Coupled with towbook, we have great coverage now.

 

Palmettostatewrecker said:

Thanks for the replies..... I was just curious on the topic. I figured grabbing a radio and keying the Mic would be 10x faster at relaying messages verses text message or an actual phone call.

 

TowZone said:

Two way radios went to the wayside when Nextel became popular. The Groups feature on Nextel was a very good alternative. I my opinion nothing has been as efficient since, some will agree and some will not. I prefer the team to be on the same page, otherwise half the dispatchers out there waste time, money and fuel running trucks around in circles. Even the best software will not assist a dispatcher just trying to get rid of the runs. I find this to be a major reason Motor Clubs want access to the company GPS within the software.

 

In Memory of NationalAutow who said:

I will be following this for sure and I am curious of those that are currently using systems, what are you using?

Does anyone own their own repeater and or tower?

Will there ever be another Nextel equivalent?

 

MrsHook said:

We have a local communications company with a series of towers and repeaters....new technology, looks just like old school, sounds incredible, range is amazing. As a plan b, in case their grand plans didn't materialize, we priced towers with repeaters at our locations. I can't remember specifics now....just recall that prices didn't completely scare us off (we were having to upgrade all radios anyway, so anything was going to be expensive). It was nice to think of communications costs with an end in sight ... But knowing there's never really an end, i wasn't looking forward to learning and tracking another set of rules, regulations, and mandatory updates.

We use smart phones and text and dispatch software including software chat....but I'm very glad to have radios for quick check-ins and especially for coordinating several units getting to and from large incidents.

 

Ed Johnson said:

I figured grabbing a radio and keying the Mic would be 10x faster at relaying messages verses text message or an actual phone call.

Palmettostatewre: You were right when you said "I figured grabbing a radio and keying the Mic would be 10x faster at relaying messages verses text message or an actual phone call".

We have used tow-way radios since we first started business over 36 years ago. We currently use Motorola radios that operate on a repeater system on the 460 megahertz range. Our primary repeater gives us coverage with a radius of approximately 20 - 25 miles (1,200 square mile area) and the second repeater slightly doubles the range. Modern two-way radios use a scan feature that allows them to receive any message that is transmitted through either of the two repeater towers.

Two-way business radio allowed all our drivers to hear all dispatches and in many cases a driver who was closer to a call could hear a dispatch and offer to take it which resulted in faster response. Due to changes in radio regulations, we were originally on the 450 megahertz frequencies, then 800 megahertz, and then 460 frequency range. We were not forced to make these changes, so we could plan for them. When changes were made, we received better radios and the prices of them were lower. Originally, we paid for a service contract on our radios and the radios usually needed adjustments about every six months. The quality of radios became much better and our system provider told us that service contracts were not worth the cost. We went onto a new trunked radio system in January 1999 and the price of new radios was very low and the coverage range was greater. Trunked radio meant that our communications were private and competition could not hear us. It also meant instant communication, faster than a cell phone. Since we bought into the new system, we have replaced one radio and have had only two serviced. Service is also instant; the technician plugs the radio into his computer which has our settings memorized. The computer instantly deletes all settings on the radio and reprograms it immediately. Total time to reset a radio is less than one minute.

A few years ago, I stopped hiring drivers (I was tired of killing them and then finding a place to dump their bodies) and decided to cut back to more normal hours. My wife receives calls by landline telephone and dispatches on a desktop base station radio. The truck uses a mounted mobile radio. Although very low watt radios would cover the same range, we use 40 radios because they are able to cut through areas were obstacles could interfere with radio signals. We also have two portable 4 watt portables.

While I have a cell phone with me at all times, the two-way radios make communication faster. When I forget a detail or want more information, a simple press of the mike button makes it possible to make contact. When I talked about going to cell phone use a number of years ago, my wife did not like to idea and I could see many reasons why to keep the radio system.

Radios that use a repeater have tremendous range and clarity (clarity that is better than cell phone). A number of years ago when hurricane Isabel hit our area, cell phone use was spotty for about three days but our radios kept going. A new mobile radio, programmed and installed would cost up to $600. A base station would cost about $100-$150 extra for the base pack. A portable radio would cost about the same thing but effective range is usually much reduced. In almost all situations I would suggest mobile radios for each truck and a mounted base unit. Portables are good most of the time when you are away from the truck. Monthly fees for use of a radio repeater tower vary considerably from one area to another but I think you could get service for each radio for about $20 - $25 per month.

For about $300, you can add an uninterruptible power supply that would keep the base station powered for several hours during a power failure.

I hope this long discourse is a help to you.
 

dperone said:

We used radios from the time we opened in '48 til around the early 2000's. The Nextels cut down on our radio usage, and then our 100' tower got struck by lightning twice and blew out our phone, internet, and a couple computers each time. That was the end of our radio era, as we cut the tower down. I miss the radios, especially as mentioned above during a town wide power outage where the cell towers sometime go down.

 

DodgeTowGuy134 said:

We own and operate our own radio system that includes base, mobile and portables. Our radio system in a tri-band system that operates on 3 different bands and allows users to talk to any user on the system (cross-band operation).

We even added wireless WiFi to our repeater towers, so we have pretty good coverage for Wifi around the city in our trucks.

We have found that owning our own system, including the radios, the repeaters and tower site was a worthwhile investment to allow our business to expand, while keeping everyone in touch at the push of the mic.

While it may be some decent $$$ upfront, we feel that it has benefited our operation. Our coverage of the radio system allows us to communicate with any of our truck mobile radios in all of our surrounding counties. The portable/handheld radio coverage is great in our county, and then somewhat gets spotty in surrounding counties, due to the terrain/area.

Our radio system includes both "repeated" and also "direct/simplex" channels. We can also "page" our drivers/trucks utilizing the same method as the volunteer fire departments do...our drivers all seem to really like that feature.
 
CandDtowing said:
We used to use two way radios before cell phones were even a cost effective option.

When nextel direct connect became popular we decided to switch. Those radios were great, but nextels phone service was horrible!

We currently use Zello for radio communications. They work very well, but are tied to cell towers. For the most part the service works without any problems.

We supply cell service for our drivers, but they pay for their phone if choice. I just can't justify paying for cell service & radio service when our current setup works so well.
 
rlc4523 said:
We use radios daily makes it easy to get calls and to let dispatch what we are doing w/o having to call in every time to the office on our phones. also makes it very easy to communicate when we are going to a multi vehicle accident or if we are taking more than one truck on a recovery to coordinate on the way.
 
ProTower said:
Does anyone remember the old AM two way radios we had in our trucks in the 50's and 60's. They were huge boxes with vacuum tubes in them mounted to the dash. My dad would talk to people hundreds of miles away on a clear summer night around 3 am.
 
yoBdaBenO said in 2018:
Is anyone putting radios back in their trucks?
 

 

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