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World’s Toughest Trucker contestant: “I’m the modern cowboy”
Jason Johnson • Detroit, Mich. • Driving for 13 years
I got bit by the trucking bug early in life in Natchez, Miss. Trucking is a lifestyle, and once you get bit, you can’t turn back. My father had his CDL, so I grew up in and around the driver’s seat. I’ve hauled pretty much anything and everything under the sun. If you attach it to my tractor, I’ll get it where it needs to go.
When the opportunity to participate in the first season of the Discovery Channel series The World’s Toughest Trucker presented itself, I jumped at the chance. I was at the Mid-America Trucking Show last year and someone asked me to fill out a questionnaire, which led to an interview for the show. The producers told me I didn’t fit the normal trucker stereotype and asked me to join seven other contestants from around the world vying for the title.
For each task, we were paired with another driver and hauled everything from cattle to an oversized clinic module across some of the most hazardous roads in the world. Those who safely delivered their freight to the destination in the fastest time won. The driving conditions definitely made your butt grab the seat, but the most difficult part of the experience was not the task itself. The tough part was dealing with personality clashes between drivers, and trying to communicate with locals despite language barriers. Sometimes the crew would just sit back and laugh as they watched us deal with the mayhem throughout the day.
I’m no small character, either. At 6 feet 10 inches tall, I was like Jethro compared to the other drivers. Sometimes it felt like they were trying to put a whale in a sardine can, trying to find the smallest vehicle I could cram myself into for comedy’s sake. Some nights I slept in two tents put together since they didn’t have a sleeping bag big enough for me.
Participating in The World’s Toughest Trucker was a blast. To have the experience to drive in Mongolia, India, Australia, and Brazil and experience the cultures there, that’s priceless. To find out if I won the title, you’ll have to catch airings of the show on the Discovery Channel.
Truckers are like old hound dogs. We’re beat down, beat up, underappreciated and sometimes underpaid, but we still come back and get the job done, no matter what it takes.
For me, it’s the modern-day version of the cowboy; we’re the last frontier. There isn’t anything on this earth that doesn’t pass through the doors of a truck or trailer in some way to get to its final destination. Plus, truckers get the opportunity to see scenery that many people have forgotten existed and experience the country the way it was before super highways. We get to interact with people, nature and life in general. Those are the moments you can’t take away.