“Victor Kilo 2 X-ray Bravo mobile.”
“Mobile station, go ahead.”
“GerDay Emil, how are you? Victor Kilo 2 X-ray Bravo mobile….I’m actually mobile in VK3.”
Thus, began a two-way radio conversation between Emil, amateur radio station 9A9A in Zagreb, Croatia and Indy Rosser, VK2XB, driving his B-double in Victoria.
The contact only lasted a relatively short period of time as Emil is a much sought after “contact” for Australian (and other) ham radio operators, for numerous reasons, including his impeccable command of many languages as well as the fact that he usually has a strong signal on the various amateur radio bands, so they kept it a short “QSO”.
But Rosser also recorded it using a GoPro and a head camera mount and uploaded it to YouTube. He regularly makes similar radio contacts (has conversations) with other radio amateurs around the corner, around the district, around the country or, as in very many cases, around the world.
Rosser has been a truck driver for about 45 years, mostly on interstate or long-distance and has also been a ham radio licensee for about the same period of time, during which time he has spoken to many thousands of people, all over the world, and even cosmonauts on the international space station, while going about his work.
He says his hobby helps keep his mind active, helps keep him alert, and minimises the impact of fatigue that every long-distance truckie has to deal with.
On occasion, it can actually save lives when in the middle of nowhere with no phone service, or in Rosser’s case, help a broken-down motorist get back on track.
Mostly, however, it allows him to have a yarn with people and be somewhat sociable in what we all know is a pretty solitary existence.
Back in the day when Rosser first studied for and earned his first amateur radio licence it required significant knowledge of electronics. You were required to be able to send and receive Morse code, as well as have sound knowledge of the radio regulations.
He even had to sign off on the Official Secrets Act, and privileges ranged from very limited allowance to allocations and power that rivalled event that of the Australian military forces.
His first licence (known as the ‘Novice’) was extremely restrictive, but he’s now had the highest available class of licence for Australian hams for about 35 years, which allows him to involve himself in a staggering variety of frequencies and modes of operation.
But mostly he just “yabbers”, as he puts it, to people all over the place, which helps him be alert where otherwise boredom would probably set in, due to the fact he’s often on roads a little less travelled.
These days qualifying for an amateur licence is also a whole lot easier.
The entry level licence is known as the Foundation licence where you basically need to thoroughly read and absorb the information in a precis (or manual – available through the WIA), demonstrate that you can assemble a station (whether it be a home station or a mobile/vehicle), that you have a concept of electrical safety and a practical test, to show you understand how to use a radio properly and that you will conduct yourself appropriately.
“In other words, treat people on air properly and with respect,” Rosser says.
“Swearing or cursing is frowned upon, but most of us can control the urge to swear pretty easily.”
If you have some fairly basic knowledge of physics, mathematics and are prepared to put in a little time and effort to understand radio theory a little more, then, perhaps, the Standard licence is another option, says Rosser.
In order to pass, you will need to learn a bit about electronic circuitry; how not to electrocute yourself (or anybody else), know how components such as resistors, capacitors, integrated circuits work with one another to control electrons in a useful manner and, especially, how not to interfere with other Hams and other services.
Of course, if you’re feeling a bit more confident again, you could always study for and sit the examination known as an ‘Advanced’ (previously known as a ‘Full’ call). This does require fairly in-depth electronic knowledge, but is still not ‘rocket science’, Rosser says.
Rosser also stresses that he is a company driver and not all companies are as generous as Riordan’s Grain Services where he works when it comes to the installation of a wide range of transceivers and antennas.
Riordan’s has generously allowed him to install a very comprehensive radio “station” in his Kenworth T909, a courtesy he says he’s extremely grateful for.
“However, if you talk with the management team and show them the benefits in areas such as mitigation of the symptoms of fatigue, as well as safety aspects should you be in a remote area, for example, where the “modern technology” such as mobile phone network fails, you can get help.
“And remember, it is amateur radio, so cannot in any way be used for business purposes, but if you and the better half are both licensed, it is, perhaps, another means of keeping in touch although, be warned, there’s no such thing as privacy in ham radio.”
As for cost, Rosser says you can spend a whole lot of money on expensive, all-singing and all-dancing equipment, ranging up to many thousands of dollars for a single transceiver, right down to a couple of hundred, or less that will do an excellent job.
He knows of at least one ‘ham’ in Melbourne that uses an ancient 27Mhz CB, coupled to what’s known as a “trans-verter” that cost about $50 in total. The same applies to antennas as well.
Amateur radio should not be confused with ‘outback radio’, such as the VKS-747 Club which is limited to communications within Australia using type approved radios where the equipment is registered and not the operator.
In amateur radio the person is licensed, thus requiring a modicum of knowledge if things go pear-shaped.
If you think that the amateur radio hobby might be a fit for you, but are unsure how you might achieve the necessary qualifications, the easiest way to start is by contacting the Wireless Institute of Australia at wia.org.au.
Or flag down Rosser for a yarn – he’s always happy to share his hobby with other drivers.
To view a clip of his truck installation, click play on the video below: