‘The World’s Toughest Trucker’ TV show

An Aussie roadtrain driver was amongst the 8 truck drivers competing in ‘The world’s toughest trucker’ TV show. Australia features in the first and second episodes of the 8-show series.  And while a lot of  film crews will venture inland a couple of  hour’s drive from a coastal city and call it ‘the outback’, ‘The World’s Toughest Trucker’ TV show really does feature two very remote locations, which very few Australians (and even fewer tourists) are likely to see in person.

Arranged into 4 pairs, in the first challenge contestants had to cart 50 head of cattle each from Yarraden, a cattle station on Cape York, apparently to Sugarbag Station (south of Mt Garnet).  480 miles in total – with checkpoints at Olive Vale station and Mt Mulligan.  The roadtrains used were owned by the Connolly family’s Oakdare Holdings, a company based in Mossman (north of Port Douglas).  The next episode involved carting demountable buildings 450 miles from Alice Springs to ‘Kiwirrkurra’, an aboriginal community located in the Gibson desert region, over the NT border in Western Australia.  Just as Yarraden can only be accessed via the long stretch of potholes, bulldust and corrugations known as the Peninsula Development Road, Kiwirrkurra is only accessible by a typical central Australian road – red, sandy and also corrugated; through spinifex and semi-desert scrub.  Both these locations are a long way from the nearest bitumen – they really qualify as genuinely remote.  After the stint in Australia, the 6 remaining truck drivers faced challenges over a couple of episodes in Brazil, before moving on to Canada, Mongolia then the two final episodes in India.  The film production company certainly didn’t keep their wallets or imaginations shut when choosing film locations.

More than 60,000 people applied to be part of this 8-series TV show, with an eye on being in the running to win the 100,000 pound first prize.  Apart from one Australian truck driver (Rodney Johnson, from Perth), the other drivers came from Canada, Sri Lanka, Scotland, England plus three from America.  The pom ultimately won this first series of  ‘World Toughest Trucker’.

Typical Australian bush roads and landscapes feature in the Australian leg of the competition, and there’s plenty of ‘interesting’ conversations (very descriptive language, often not polite or calm).  ‘The World’s Toughest Trucker’ TV series was produced by London-based Dragonfly Productions and filmed in 2011, screening in the northern hemisphere a few months ago.  It appears to be very much in the same vein as popular blokey shows such as ‘Ice Road Truckers’, ‘Deadliest Catch’, ‘Swamp People’ and ‘Axemen’.  Entertaining and funny, as long as it is accepted that the show title is just to get viewers tuning in and that over-dramatising and very selective editing is standard practice for ‘reality shows’, in order to keep people watching.

Why do these ‘reality’ television shows matter? Television programmes featuring Australian outback landscapes are very popular with overseas audiences, especially Europeans and the British.  Visitors to my website increase immediately after the screening of a TV show featuring the Australian outback, especially in European countries such as Germany, France, Austria and Scandinavia – plus New Zealand.  A number of these aspiring tourists do end up travelling to Australia, either for a holiday or to work.  And this increased visitation can stretch over a number of years.  For example, just a few weeks ago someone from a cattle station near Cloncurry told me they’d had several backpackers from Germany working on the station this year, and they all came to Australia after seeing Baz Luhrmann’s film ‘Australia’, which screened a few years ago now. It is popular to bag the ‘unrealistic’ image of cattle stations and farms portrayed on film and television, but these films and TV series do result in a direct increase in the number of people applying for jobs in the bush.  There’s a shortage of rural/regional employees in a whole range of fields – including roadtrain drivers – largely due to the mining boom.  So anything that increases the number of people applying for these jobs can only be a good thing.  And a TV show such as ‘The World’s Toughest Trucker’ inspires the kind of people who relish a challenge, rather than those who’d rather sit down on the coast with a predictable 9-to-5 kind of job.  Unfortunately the vast majority of migrants end up in specific areas where they are surrounded by people of similar origins.  These enclaves are primarily found in Sydney and Melbourne, and to a lesser extent, SE Queensland and southern Western Australia.  Australia doesn’t need more new arrivals who only want to settle in already overcrowded areas, it needs migrants (and Australians) prepared to live and work in regional Australia.

‘The Worlds Toughest Trucker’ is now screening on Foxtel/Austar’s A & E channel (607) at 8.30pm on Tuesday nights.  Those of us who don’t have pay TV and who want to check the image of outback Australia being shown to the world via truck drivers, will have to wait until the series eventually appears on free-to-air television. There’s a sneak peek online of a few sections of  the first episode, for example showing the loading of the Peninsula Shorthorns, on Foxtel’s A&E Channel.

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