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‘Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Wheel?’

By Bill Hudgins
columnist

 

A few years ago, my friend and ace gearjammer Rufus Sideswipe tried to take Hollywood by storm with an idea for a trucking reality show. That never pulled away from the dock, but it hasn’t kept him from dreaming up more get-rich-quick TV show ideas.

Rufus told me that he was going to be working this year’s Mid-America Trucking Show really hard, asking drivers what they think about some of his ideas and, more important, trying to line up real truckers to take part.

Since nothing succeeds in show business like a sequel or a spin-off, Rufus isn’t straying too far over the white line with his ideas. Here are a few of them. Drivers, what do you think? And how would you like to be in one of them?

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth-Wheel? Sirius XM’s Land Line Now host Mark Reddig emcees this hilarious test of non-trucker’s knowledge about the industry. Each week, contestants drawn from supposedly “intellectual” pursuits such as law, business and education will try to answer questions and cope with situations every trucker easily masters on a daily basis. These include filling out logbooks, driving for six hours straight (in a simulator), mapping routes for hazardous or oversize loads, and loading and unloading cargo. If they fail, they have to blow train horns while hollering, “I’m not as smart as a fifth-wheel!”

Dancing With the Gears: This will be tricky to cast, but Rufus thinks it will fly because it will feature gorgeously restored, twin-transmission rigs. Old-time truckers with decades of experience will attempt to teach total newbies who are used to “put it in D and drive” gear systems how to smoothly work twin sticks, double-clutch and float through the gears. Each episode will take place on crowded urban streets for maximum pressure on the rookies. Expect maximum flop sweat.

The Real Trucking Wives of I-80: Go behind the glitz and glamour of the stay-at-home spouses of owner-operators and the exotic lifestyle of on-the-road spouses to see these exceptional women as they really are: bookkeeper, dispatcher, plumber, electrician, child-care expert, co-driver, caregiver and chief motivator. Follow them through C-stores as they pick and choose among the many glittering options available as accessories for their busy-busy lives.

CSI: Iowa 80: A crack team of way-cool, quirky investigators will sally forth every week onto the broad parking lots of “The World’s Largest Truck Stop” to solve baffling mysteries. Working out of a moodily lit lab sandwiched next to the Walcott, IA, truck stop’s barbershop, the “Commercial Semi Investigations” team will unravel such puzzles as four-day-behind logbooks, why 42 cents per mile is not a living wage, vanishing professional courtesy and, of course, disappearing socks.

Truck Whisperer: In this haunting drama, a pretty young woman possesses the uncanny ability to speak to and understand big rigs. The tell-all tractors reveal their operators’ deepest secrets – as well as the vehicles’ own woes. She helps guide the befuddled drivers back on the right path, as well as coaxing another .2 mpg out of even the wheeziest rig.

South Parking Lot (animated: mature audiences only): A raunchy, rollicking band of CB Rambos and motormouths cut up, cut in and cut across every standard of professionalism and decorum. The herky-jerky animation is a key part of the fun – for example, when brawler Derek Cartageman jumps straight-legged off the back of a flatbed and cusses up a blue streak from the pain. Spoiler alert: The same driver gets put out of service every week in some cruelly bizarre fashion.

60/70: High-intensity episodes follow a hot-load trucker attempting to reach almost-impossible destinations within the HOS time limits. You’ll be clinging to the edge of your bunk as our unshaved and sweaty hero relies on dispatch to download alternate routes to his Qualcomm as he maneuvers through exotic locales like Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Wrecks and the City Kitty: In the 400th spinoff of Wildest Police Chases, cruise the untamed freeways of L.A. and see bad driving behavior taped up close and personal from LAPD dash-cams. Be forewarned – this pulls no punches. Truckers are as likely to be tagged as teenagers’ low-riders. But you’ll nod in satisfaction as each “professional” identifies the “driving school” where he or she spent a few days before being turned loose.

Big Truck Love: Our hero John Thomas started out wanting just one beautiful rig he could call his own. Things got complicated fast: Soon he had two, and then a third was calling out to him. Now John is kept on the bounce as he tries to get enough business to support all three while keeping them looking sweet.

So You Think You Can Do Without Trucks: Each week, Rufus selects a truck-unfriendly town and cordons it off to truck traffic, in or out. We follow the residents over the next week in their increasingly desperate search for milk, bread, gasoline and diapers formerly delivered by truck, but now unavailable. The resumption of truck traffic brings forth genuine tears of relief and a deeper appreciation of what trucks do for America. LL

 

billhudgins@earthlink.net.

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