Wheel Life

By on March 2, 2011
RoadKing Mag

To hear him tell it, Robb Mariani is just your normal, everyday 43-year-old former interior designer with a Ford W Series cabover in his driveway and a lifelong passion for trucks.

He literally wore that passion on his sleeve, sporting big-rig T-shirts when he was a finalist on HGTV’s interior design competition show, Design Star.

Now the host and producer of the new TV series, American Trucker, has found his dream job.

“The concept of the show is that it’s a Pandora’s Box for trucking. I don’t know anything else that I could describe it as,” he says, waiting for filming to begin at a small-town Ohio location. He’s excited about the story.

“They’ve got a 250-foot load with a 21-axle truck, with more than 100 tires that we will be doing an episode with,” he says. “Total load: 600,000 pounds. It’s gonna be wild.”

You might say Mariani began his apprenticeship for a truck-centric show as a kid. During a vacation, the Mariani family pulled their motor home into a Valdosta, Ga., truckstop. The view he had there was better than any sightseeing excursion his family had planned.

“I saw this K100 Kenworth with a single bunk. Blue-and-white for Purina. It was a classic rig. I was out of the motor-home like a wild man,” he recalls. “The driver said ‘Hi!’ and I started asking him about his truck. He was just so blown away that I would ask these questions that he said climb in. So I did, I climbed up in there and we talked while he shaved.”

Mariani had already met a lot of truckers, courtesy of his grandma, who would take the 7-year-old out for breakfast every Saturday at a truckstop near the family’s Milwaukee home.

“I would go to truckers and knock on doors and take pictures,” says Mariani. “I was never turned down.”

Those early experiences dovetailed with a wide-eyed child’s passion for the classic White Line Fever flick. In 2003 he bought a Ford W Series cabover, like the one used in that film, fulfilling a promise he made to himself in 1978.

In American Trucker, he gets to indulge his curiosity and share his enthusiasm with an audience. The show airs on Thursdays, at 9 p.m. ET on the Speed channel.

In the first episode, Mariani helped trucker Paul Sagehorn resurrect the original rig that co-starred in the 1970s TV series B.J. and the Bear.

He’ll similarly pay homage to trucks from Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy and retrace famous movie and real-life trucking adventures by climbing through the Donner Pass in a snowstorm and traveling with the transport team of a country music tour. Noting that truckers are the backbone of the country, Mariani is thrilled to tell their stories on American Trucker.

“We don’t want to cover one subject,” Mariani says. “We are focusing on great stories about great people.”

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