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Published on January 12th, 2012 | by Ernie Estrella


‘Shipping Wars’ Premiere Review: A&E Whips Up Another Addictive Dose of Reality

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Shipping Wars Marc

Ep. 101 “Shipping Wars”
Ep. 102 “Double Down and Bean Town”

Welcome to the world of independent shippers. If you drive the roads and turnpikes of this great country you’ll probably cursing them for hogging the road or at times driving recklessly trying to meet a deadline. Often times their importance and role goes unnoticed but it’s how unusual items and oversized loads travel the country. In the latest trade reality show, Shipping Wars, A&E hopes to offer another potentially habit-forming taste, this time of the blue-collar workers roaming the freeways while shedding a different light on a trade most people don’t know anything about.

Each episode begins with auctions that are run by uShip, the biggest shipping marketplace auction site where transporters bid against each other to give the client the most affordable bottom line cost to ship their odd parcel.

In the first half of the two-episode premiere, the two big auctions were for bid: A giant, 4000 lb., 10-foot “Denver Bronco” horse made of chrome car bumpers that needed to be moved from Times Square in New York to Florida, and giant theater props for the play Little Shop of Horrors that needed to go from the east coast to San Diego. The second episode featured two auctions for jobs starting in Boston, Massachusetts. A massive sailboat needed to be taken to Seattle, Washington and and the final destination for an extremely heavy, red cast-iron phone booth was Chicago, Illinois.

The show pits five independent shippers, all of varying degree of experience and hardware and each lives in a different part of the country, so everyone’s starting point is factored into the bidding as well. Let’s meet our players:

MARC SPRINGER (Seattle, WA) – is the “Big Rig” guy with the largest truck and for Storage Wars fans, he’s like the Dave of Shipping Wars meaning that he’s got the experience and money to have a limit as to how low he’d go to do a job. Marc has the resources, the moustache and the 18-wheel tractor trailer rig to do any job, but not at a loss. He’s looking for the big jobs that will bring in the big money.

shipping wars roy

ROY GARBER (Contoocook, NH) – Fleet of 2 Trucks plus trailers, he believes with the smaller truck, he can access places that Marc’s big rig can’t go. Roy appears to be the antagonist on the show. He’s a shipping veteran with long and flowing platinum hair, and he is not personable when it comes to talking about or to the client. What gets Roy in trouble is that he plays around with the rookies by bidding them down, knowing he doesn’t want the job and that gets him in trouble when he’s stuck with a job he “wins” with a bid so low he is guaranteed not to make money.

SCOTT & SUSIE BAWCOM (Nashville, TN) – Scott is a former bomb diffuser for the Marines and Susie is his wife. Their shipping business is a family affair as their children run the administrative side. They have a hefty sized truck and rig available to them. They seem experienced enough but Scott has no hesitation to put on the macho act and belittle his wife and act like an ape.

JENNIFER BRENNAN (Austin, TX) – The “Cowgirl” is relatively new in the business but comes from a cattle ranch background. Her shipping experience stems from transporting cattle and exotic livestock. Jennifer does not win any of the auctions in the first two episodes but she does place some big drops in two of the auctions, which make the veterans shake their heads. Nothing devalues a trade than the desperate and inexperienced. Speaking of which, that brings us to…

shipping wars jennifer

JARRETT JOYCE (Winston-Salem, NC) – Lives in his van and uses a long trailer. This former landscaper is the truest “Rookie” of the group (a few months experience) and believes he can do every job, not knowing what all is entailed. Constantly finds himself way over his head and learning along the way. Jarrett’s a great perspective to learn the trade, but he’s also gives the trade a bad name by taking jobs on the cheap and giving bad service. He also has an ultimate plan to play on the PGA. So while charting out jobs, Jarrett is also making sure they coincide with the map and calendar of PGA-qualifying events.

Some of the things that Jarrett and Jennifer fail to factor into their bids are fuel and travel costs, insurance, rig rentals. Other obstacles along the way that bite into the bottom line include incorrect weight listings leading to eye-opening check-ins at the weigh station. There’s DOT (Dept. of Transportation) fines, weather, height clearances on overpasses and tunnels. But the biggest penalty any of the drivers can incur are late fees. If they are a minute late, their trip can be a complete loss.

So that’s why drivers need to “build” a trip. These cross-country trips can bring a host of problems along the way, so to help cancel out these costs, drivers try to find other shipments in between their main trip. This helps balance out any trouble that is sure to come but can also multiply the headaches too.

One final hit each driver can take is a bad rating on his or her uShip feedback. If the 0 star ratings mount, they can be kicked off the uShip network. So as surly as Roy may want to be when he’s talking to the camera, he has to suck it up when he’s in front of the customer.

The first part of the show has its own kind of fun. Watching Roy play with Jennifer and Jarrett to see how desperate they are is mean-spirited, but you can understand his perspective as an experienced driver. There is satisfaction though when he is stuck “winning” a job that he’s sure to take a loss on trying to sucker the rookies into a bad bid. It’s karma unleashed. The rest of the shows is seeing each hauler find themselves in trouble and figuring out to get out of it. Some can handle it better than others. Desperation can lead to insane decisions like when Scott and Susie run out of gas hauling two large sailboats across the country, Scott fails miserably at siphoning diesel fuel. Like I said, he acts like an ape at times and camera or no camera, I believe he would go to that length given the pressure these men and women are under. Future episodes tease rare and expensive cars, giant outdoor gnome statues, and camels.

It remains to be seen how good or bad Jennifer or Marc are yet but Roy’s first two shipments on the show display how experience can help you prepare for the problems, but not necessarily escape them. I’m not quite sure what being on TV will help build these shippers, given that most of their business is based on delivering on the lowest winning bids but then again Storage Wars has made minor celebrities out of a handful of consignment and second-hand store owners and dealers of the antiquities, making Storage Wars one of the best guilty pleasures on television today. Why can’t independent shippers share the stage? It’s a concept that’s just as easy to grasp and is as fascinating as its bigger and more established sibling. The people are as interesting as the parcel and I predict another hit for A&E. Something I did gather from the show and is a fair warning to those who choose to ship through these haulers­–you get what you pay for.

shipping wars jarrett

Shipping Wars is wisely structured much like A&E’s flagship show, Storage Wars with elements from shows like Deadliest Catch or Ice Road Truckers mixed in too. There is no big prize or chance for some major endorsement deal waiting for these people. There are no catchphrases like “Yuuuup!” or “This is the wow factor!” yet, but give it time. It’s just real life caught on camera and for these individuals, the “war” their waging is their livelihood. Their field is special enough that this will not inspire everyone to go buy a tractor rig; it takes a special individual to excel in this field and the occupational hazards are not cheap. However, being that far removed means that Shipping Wars is a voyeur’s delight and one that could be easily digested in the occasional watch and at the same time be so addictive to another that a marathon could wipe out an afternoon. Make some room on that DVR…

Shipping Wars airs on A&E on Tuesday nights 9pm ET.

8.5 / 10

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