Are trucking ‘reality’ shows good or bad for the industry’s image?

by Mark Lee

This monthly column is all about opinions. Well actually one opinion, to be more specific, mine. Every now and then I’ll throw a few facts in to the mix, but mostly it is my take from behind the wheel on things that are happening in our industry.

Other people have opinions that may or not agree with mine and I respect that; after all, freedom of speech is very important. I have often learned things and changed my own opinions from listening to the opinions of others.

Members of the public also have opinions about our industry. Often they are misinformed opinions because they don’t have to deal with the stuff we have to deal with on a daily basis, but they still have their opinions nevertheless.

It would be nice if we could educate them and change their opinions to more positive ones, but often we have to do the things that made them form the negative opinion in the first place, so it is difficult. All it takes are two trucks having a progressive shifting drag race through a stretch of road with stoplights and the people in the following vehicles will form an opinion based on that one experience.

As will those who witness any of the many other forms of bad behaviour by truck drivers. People who work in offices and factories can also have a negative opinion from late deliveries/pick-ups or goods that get damaged in transit as they can have an effect on their working day.

Then we have people who may have never been inconvenienced by a big truck, their jobs have nothing to do with trucks, but they have watched some of the ‘reality’ shows on TV, and have formed an opinion about us from that. From what I’ve seen, it won’t be a very good one.

I have met a few ‘stars’ from theses shows and having had a good chat with them I’m almost shocked when I see them doing something silly on TV. Take Ice Road Truckers as an example. You have Hugh and Rick clowning around smashing into things and wrecking equipment in every other scene. We all know that it is just Hollywood dramatization, but what does the public think when they see them acting the fool?

As we work in the industry, we know this is not the usual way of doing things, especially out in the bush. Any driver with half a brain cell will know that the truck is the only thing that will keep him or her alive when the weather comes in, so they look after that truck as if their lives depend on it, which they do.

The same applies to the freight they are carrying, your job and the contract between your employer and their customers depends on getting the goods there, on time and in good condition, yet time and time again on this show we see freight getting smashed to smithereens and a don’t care attitude from the drivers.

In the latest season they also have the rivalry between Hugh Roland and his previous employer. I shudder when I see this. It makes it look as though the experienced winter road haulers are a bunch of amateurs that need to be shown how to do it properly by some yahoo from out of town. They have even brought in the ‘stars’ from the Alaskan episodes to show the local drivers how it is done.

Some of the scenes are so obviously set up is isn’t funny, yet Mr. and Mrs. 2.4 Children do not realize this; they are convinced that an experienced heavy-haul driver can get himself stuck at the bottom of a hill and close the road to everyone, at least until Barbie Doll turns up and joins together a couple hundred feet of straps and chains and drags the stricken truck to safety.

The newest show Highway through Hell doesn’t appear to use such tactics, although the narrator does make a mountain out of a molehill at times, if you’ll pardon the pun. Even so, it is an entertaining show. But seeing as the though the theme is the recovery of trucks that have fallen off the road, it doesn’t present the best image for our industry either.

But you know what, I watch every episode. I even PVR them so I don’t miss them when I’m out on the road. Ice road Truckers may one day cause me to blow a gasket. As soon as the introduction comes on, my living room empties. Even the dog retreats to its basket. They know I will be getting bent out of shape at some of the Hollywood madness that I will see on my TV and so do I, but I’m still pleased to see the industry that I am a part of being recognized.

I also realize that they have to Hollywood-ize it. A TV show about a bunch of dedicated professionals going about their business without wrecking things and having confrontations would be about as interesting as watching paint dry, so it was always going to evolve into the farce that we see, but as they say in politics, there is no such thing as bad publicity, at least we’re getting some attention.

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  • Merry Christmas Mark:
    From your comments about “Barbie Doll” trucker you sound like some of the old time “Truckers” that used to make remarks to me about being on the road instead of in the kitchen, but after 30+ years they seemed to lose interest, lol.
    I watched that episode too and I didn’t see anything but one driver helping out another, Lisa was the first on the scene what would you have her do? Wring her hands and act like a fool or do what most other drivers would do……help.

    Happy New Year to All
    Stay safe

    Bev Plummer
    Professional Driver Ret.

  • For once I agree with this Euro loving imported driver. Because Mark is constantly trying to convince us North American drivers how wonderful our lives would be if we just adopted the big government, big bureaucracy, more rules, less freedom & independence, nonsense from Europe that our forefathers escaped from, I struggle to admit that on this subject we’d agree.

    Hollywood & it’s supporters have done their very best to denigrate the trucking industry for 40 years starting all the way back with the movie “Duel”, portraying a ominous looking truck operated by a psycho. Ever noticed every Speilberg movie portrays trucks and drivers as evil…, or at least negative in some way… So these reality TV goofballs constantly trotted out now as “truck drivers” are just the latest insulting and absolutely embarrassing portrayal. On the other hand, perhaps its no surprise that the trucking industry is portrayed this way. After all an industry that pays peanuts and is unwilling to stand up for and defend its frontline workers, shouldn’t be surprised that it only attracts monkeys.

    Long haul trucking can offer interesting experiences every day, some small, some large, but more often certainly more so than jobs that trap a person behind a desk surrounded by endless piles of paper, it is disappointing to see it portrayed in the light it is.

    Now if Mark could just stop telling us how electronic monitoring is a panacea for all that ails us, and also how wonderful all these bland Euro style trucks are, I could maybe spare a minute to read his articles once in awhile…