One of the most popular subgenres of reality television is shows about people doing slightly unorthodox jobs. When it’s not a career where people are risking their lives, one of the ways that producers spice it up is by turning it into a competition.
After A&E saw success by making the seemingly mundane world of bidding on foreclosed storage lockers into a watchable competition with the series Storage Wars, the network applied that template to independent shipping trucks with successor Shipping Wars.
Centered around internet shipping broker uShip, Shipping Wars saw representatives from various independent shipping companies bid on high-value shipping jobs, typically of sizes and/or values that traditional shipping companies wouldn’t handle. As with any show of its type, Shipping Wars was as much about the task itself as the colorful personalities involved. Initially, the unofficial star of the show was Roy Garber – and his cute cat.
The other castmembers who rotated in and out of the show during its 100-episode run largely fell into various trucker stereotypes, from dimwitted country bumpkins to women who don’t seem sensibly dressed for their line of work.
Two years after the show’s end, important questions remain: What happened to Roy’s cat? Why did Chris and Robbie leave the show? And was Jarrett really that dumb?
Here are 15 Dark Secrets About Shipping Wars You Had No Idea About.
15. The auction process was basically staged
Didn’t it seem a little odd that the only people ever bidding on a job during an episode of Shipping Wars were existing members of the show’s cast? Obviously, the independent trucking industry consists of more than a half dozen or so companies and a handful of drivers. So there was clearly something a bit fishy about the auctions that took place on the show.
By most accounts, the dollar amounts that the show displayed were authentic, from how much the winning bid was for the load to the various costs that accumulated as the job went on. And it’s very possible that a legitimate auction actually did take place at some point.
14. The heart attack that killed Roy Garber wasn’t his first
Shipping Wars was dealt a major blow when its breakout star, Roy Garber, died following a massive heart attack at age 49. Garber was easily the show’s most popular character. He had already filmed enough footage to be in the first two episodes of season six, but beyond that, the show wound down its final two seasons without him.
What is even more tragic than Garber’s death is the fact that it could have potentially been avoided. A longtime friend of Garber’s admitted after his death that Garber had already suffered a major heart attack a few years prior to the fatal one, at which point his doctor issued him a stern warning that major lifestyle changes were necessary in order to prevent further heart problems.
13. Jarrett Joyce was mostly playing a character
Every ensemble cast, fictional or “real,” needs its token doofus, someone to make careless mistakes and be the butt of jokes all while wearing an aww, shucks! smile. For Shipping Wars, that role was filled by Jarrett Joyce, whose frequent mistakes and seeming ineptitude at his job made for some of the series’ funniest moments. The thing is, most of it was greatly exaggerated.
To hear Joyce talk in interviews and on social media, he is actually quite intelligent. In fact, in an interview to a local Virginia paper from the town his business is based out of, Joyce insisted that he get to discuss politics and current events in addition to just talking about trucking and the show– and in doing so, he displayed a surprising depth of character and intellectual sharpness. Clearly, he is much smarter than the version of himself that he let producers of the show craft for him.
12. Jennifer Brennan was doxxed by a vengeful Facebook group
Anytime a person or group gets famous enough, people are going to make it their mission to take them down– justified or not. Reality TV stars seem especially susceptible to this, with the likes of the Kardashians, Kate Gosselin, and others becoming the target of entire campaigns dedicated to “exposing them” for what they supposedly really are, in a manner that would make one think they are dictators responsible for mass genocide or something.
Shipping Wars and its cast were not exempt from this. There was a certain Facebook page that, for whatever reason, decided that the both the show and the uShip company needed to be absolutely taken down hard. In particular, that group went in on Jennifer Brennan, eventually going as far as to doxx her– which means making private details about someone, such as personal phone numbers, home addresses, and other such information available online.
11. Several of the trucking companies died when the show did
The competition– real or exaggerated– at the heart of Shipping Wars wasn’t just between truckers themselves but their respective companies. To match the interesting personalities of the people were humorously named companies like “Snortn’ Boar” and “He is With Her Transport.”
Eight different trucking companies were represented by the twelve cast members who appeared on the show throughout its seven-season run. Of those eight, only four can be confirmed to still be in business and/or still actively working in the shipping business.
To be fair, one of the shuttered companies– Arbie’s Team Transport– closed due to the death of Roy Garber. Still, a 50% success rate of the companies featured on the show smacks of companies that were fairly new, created specifically to be on the show, or relying on the success of the show to bolster their business– and were in for a rude awakening when the show was only on the air for about three years.
10. What happened to Roy’s cat?
Once the initial shock of Roy Garber’s passing began to wear off, the first thing on many fans’ minds was the fate of his beloved cat, Muffy, who was often seen accompanying him on his cross-country trips as he didn’t like to travel without her.
Within mere days of Garber’s death, media outlets like TMZ were already updating fans on the well-being of Muffy, claiming that she was on her way to the New Hampshire home of Garber’s mother and was going to be in good hands as she had other pets in the home. Such reports made the rounds around January 20th, 2014.
However, Muffy’s supposedly happy ending came into question when the official Arbie’s Team Transport Facebook page told a fan asking about Muffy, “Unfortunately, Muffy was taken without permission by an estranged relative of Roy’s… and not returned to the family that she loves and trusts.” That comment, which remains on the page, was made on August 4th of that same year.
9. Stars had to wear the same outfit for days in a row
There was a reason why so many mishaps and dramatic moments always seemed to happen in a single day on Shipping Wars: the producers fudged the timeline to sometimes make it seem like all the interesting things happened in the same day, rather than stretched out over a multi-day period as they actually tended to happen.
One of the ways that this was accomplished was by having the truckers dress the same over multiple days in order to make it so it could be edited as if it were a single day. In order to do this more easily, as Jarrett Joyce confirmed, A&E provided the participants with several duplicates of the same outfit so that they wouldn’t have to go running to the laundromat between filming sessions to make their clothes look as if they hadn’t already been worn all day.
In addition, Jessica Samko once told an interviewer how carefully she had to maintain her bleached blonde hair so that her dark roots wouldn’t look completely different in scenes that were supposed to take place in a single day but actually didn’t.
8. The women were encouraged to dress and act provocatively
It’s no big secret that a lot of people tuned into Shipping Wars to ogle the various attractive women on the show. Robbie Welsh, Jennifer Brennan, Jessica Samko, and Tamera Sturgis all gained their fair share of fans from the show who were just as interested in seeing how little they were going to be wearing each episode as they were in what their trucks were hauling.
Not surprisingly, the sexiness of the show’s female truckers didn’t go unexploited by the show’s producers, as was evidenced by the hardly practical outfits the ladies would often wear. There might not be anything unusual about short shorts, plunging tank tops, or skin-tight jeans in and of themselves, but those clothing choices don’t make much sense for people who are going to be pushing and lifting heavy things and climbing onto and off of huge trucks.
7. A producer sued over unpaid overtime wages
What’s an A&E reality show without a little legal controversy? While not taken to court over supposed fakeness as sister show Storage Wars was, Shipping Wars was at the center of a legal case revolving around unpaid wages.
In this case, it wasn’t any of the on-camera talent, but a producer on the show– Jocelyn Schutte– who claimed that her work weeks frequently exceeded 40 hours and she was never compensated with the appropriate overtime pay. A&E itself was never named in the suit, only production companies Megalomedia Inc. and Mansfield Films LLC.
It would be the second time that Megalomedia was be accused of unpaid wages, as the company was also sued by four members of the short-lived Discovery Channel series Texas Car Wars for the same reason.
6. Lied to Roswell military veterans about aliens
Any time a series does a “Roswell episode,” there’s generally the assumption that aliens are going to be at the heart of the plot. That is exactly what the local military veterans of the New Mexico town were afraid of when Shipping Wars producers approached them about doing a show centered around the famous town.
The vets say that they only agreed to do the show on the condition that it only be about honoring Roswell veterans and that there would be no mention of aliens, Area 51, or anything of that nature– a request that they said producers agreed to.
Fast forward to the airing of said episode, and lo and behold, aliens and alien paranoia ran all through the show. As reported by a local Roswell news broadcast, the veterans were very upset and said they felt betrayed by the show and embarrassed that they had to share an episode with a bunch of silly bits about alien lore.
5. Suzanne Bawcom’s former “career”?
Known on the show as “The Veterans,” married couple Scott and Suzanne Bawcom were only on Shipping Wars near the beginning of its run– and their trucking company, Dreamtime Transport, is among those that has seemingly closed up shop.
If certain fans of adult cinema are to be believed, the Bawcoms aren’t only veterans in the trucking industry. More than one person has claimed that longtime adult film actress Sammie Sparks and Suzanne Bawcom are one in the same. Moreover, one eagle-eyed adult movie fan also claimed that a man looking a whole lot like Scott appeared in one of Sparks’ movies as her voyeur husband, though he didn’t physically participate in the “activities.”
Ultimately, the Bawcoms haven’t confirmed or denied the rumors– if they’ve even been made aware of them– so the validity of the theory comes down to personal perception. In other words, you be the judge.
4. A&E discouraged cast members from talking politics or religion
Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson caused a stir when he made some anti-gay remarks to GQ magazine, forcing A&E to suspend the show. Because of this, it should probably come as no surprise that the network has tried to avoid similar controversies by dissuading its on-screen talent from making controversial remarks, or from discussing things like politics or religion at all. Phil apparently confirmed this by claiming that the show’s staff told him he wasn’t allowed to say “Jesus” during prayers on the show.
It would seem that the cast of Shipping Wars was also asked to tone down the politics. While the show was on the air, the social media accounts of the cast members were pretty clean and contained almost no mention of political views or biases, or talk of religion. Following their mysterious departure from the show, Chris Hanna and Robbie Welsh’s joint Facebook account began to be dotted with views on things like gun control, the presidential election, and first amendment protection.
3. The truckers are much nicer to each other than the show portrayed
Any show with the word Wars in its title needs to be about the battle between the cast members, and Shipping Wars played up the apparent competitiveness among the truckers. From fighting over bids to taking potshots at each others’ misfortunes on the road, the show painted a picture of a group of truckers who had a tense, unfriendly rivalry with each other.
However, as anyone in the trucking industry knows, there is a general camaraderie between people in the business, and the cast of Shipping Wars was no different. As evidenced by their interactions at public meet-and-greets, pictures of hanging out on social media, and even various friendly interactions on the show itself, most of the cast of Shipping Wars were pretty warm towards each other and saw each other more as a team than a bunch of rivals.
2. uShip is a controversial company with a lot of complaints against it
The glue that held Shipping Wars together was internet company uShip, which is a real-life online marketplace/community that connects independent truckers with clients in need of their services. In fact, the show was something of a giant commercial for uShip, as it drew millions of people to the service who might not have previously been aware of it.
What it also drew was anger, as people who had been burned by the company or didn’t like how it conducted business saw Shipping Wars as a show that was promoting a shady company. uShip’s Better Business Profile currently shows 65 complaints, ranging from damaged goods to complaints that uShip doesn’t do enough to vouch for the validity of the shippers on the service.
More telling is the website Pissed Consumer, that has customers claiming an average monetary loss of $3.4K per shipment, and of the 598 complaints on the site, uShip has only formally replied to one of them and has resolved zero.
1. Chris and Robbie’s reasons for leaving the show remain a mystery
Among the more popular characters on Shipping Wars were couple Chris Hanna and Robbie Welsh– and Robbie in particular, as she went on to model for various trucking magazines and websites. Despite them seeming to be all geared up to return for season six of the show, even sharing a promo for the season to their Facebook page, fans were surprised to see that Chris and Robbie were no longer on the show.
Unlike most reality TV show exits, there was surprisingly little info on the departure of Chris and Robbie, without even a formal announcement of their exit from the network. After Robbie’s various social media accounts got flooded with questions about her and Chris’ exit from the show, she cryptically tweeted: “I know you want an explanation & I would love to give you one but I’m waiting on a few explanations myself so #bepatient.” The couple also shared that tweet on their Facebook page, adding, “…we aren’t sure what we are allowed to say.”
As it stands, that is the last major public announcement that has been made on the subject, and no further clarification has been given by the couple or A&E.
Any Shipping Wars trivia to add? Share it in the comments!
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