I was doing road repair work deep in Oregon’s Coast Range mountains in the summer of 1977 when I noticed a badly worn hydraulic line controlling the blade on my 450 Case Crawler Dozer. I grabbed the mic on my pickup’s radio, hailed the dispatch and asked for a phone patch to the Case Power and Equipment shop so I could talk to Bruce Smith. Bruce said he had the hose I needed and that he would leave it in the lock box where I could pick it up when I got back into town later that night.
My conversation with Smith took place well before cell phones existed, but I’m guessing that there is still no cell coverage in the remote area from which I called. This is one of the reasons that 2-way radio is still the technology of choice for many contractors. While cell phones can get the job done for many small companies, nothing beats the independence and speed of 2-way, which can operate in areas outside of normal cell coverage.
The latest 2-way radios systems can also take advantage of ever improving digital technology. Digital improves audio clarity and allows data applications such as work order ticket management, text messaging and GPS-based location tracking. Digital also uses less power, which extends battery life up to 40%. Business owners can also benefit from the increased capacity of digital, which can double the number of users for the price of one frequency license.
For contractors who are in business for the long haul, business frequency radios can be an excellent way to go. Although initial costs for equipment can strain the communication budget, ongoing costs are low so it can really pay off in the long run.
One of the best ways to get set up for business frequency 2-way is through a local or regional communications company that specializes in radio communications. These companies offer expert advice, commercial grade equipment, elevated tower and repeater locations, and ongoing support.
An experienced radio expert can suggest the right communication components to fit your company. He will assess the number and types of radio units needed, the area of coverage desired, and types of frequencies that will work best for your use.
A full radio system package for contractors often includes four major components: One or more base radio units for the shop, office and job shacks; mobile units for the trucks and pickups; hand held radios for crew members and a tower mounted antenna with repeater to extend coverage area.
Base radios are permanently mounted indoors. They are powerful and protected from the elements. They can last for years of service.
The powerful pickup-mounted units, called mobile radios, have several advantages over portable or handheld radios. Potables are limited to five watts, but mobile radios usually exceed thirty watts and more power means more range. In general, 2-way radios have a range of one mile per ½ watt.
Pickup mounted radios have bigger antennas and when it comes to antennas, size matters. Bigger is better in terms of sending and receiving signals.
You don’t have to be concerned with batteries and chargers for your in-cab radio because it is connected to your pickup’s 12 volt system. Remembering to charge the battery is out of the equation. That’s something your pickup does for you automatically.
There is also no danger of misplacing a mobile radio, unless you are in the habit of losing your vehicle. You can avoid the frustration of reaching for your radio to realize you left it on the charger in the office or on the blue print table in the job trailer. Because it’s dash mounted, you’ll always have it there ready to go. A vehicle mounted radio cannot be dropped and it’s protected from most rain and at least some dust.
Whether you are instructing crew members on how to complete contracts or ordering parts for equipment, 2-way can be the way to go.