My Review of “Shipping Wars”

Well folks, I have to preface this by clearly stating that what you’re seeing on the television program “Shipping Wars” is definitely not hotshot trucking in any way, shape or form.

Matter of fact, I’m not sure it’s true trucking in any form.  I’ll go one step farther… it’s definitely not a reflection on how any successful trucking company does business.

From what I could tell, it’s a conglomeration of people who don’t know what they’re doing trying to move freight and not necessarily succeeding very well, aside from one actual trucker who seems to sort of know what’s going on, but who should also know better than to participate in this silly mess of a show.  Then again, he probably needs the extra income…

Having said that, the episode I watched was so filled with blatant ignorance and stupidity it was actually fairly entertaining (but not in a good way) as it did have me yelling at the so-called “shippers” and bumped my blood pressure up several notches.  Which in turn prompted me to do my own little opinionated review of said so-called “reality” TV show.

I have a few problems with the picture this show paints and found it pretty annoying in a lot of ways… but at the same time it was like watching a train wreck.  It was so bad in so many ways that I couldn’t make myself not watch.

My number one issue (and I have a few) with the show is that they’re calling the people who move the freight “shippers.” This threw up the first red flag for me that these people are clueless at best.

In the trucking industry, a shipper is the person or organization who originates the shipment.  The people moving the freight are the carrier, the owner operator, and the trucker (and often all 3 of these are the same person).  The person at the receiving end is, well, the receiver.

These are probably points that the TV loving public doesn’t give a hoot over, but it really annoys me that this misuse of trucking industry terms is being propagated by this show.

My second problem with this show is the way the jobs are bid.  Now, for the actual shipper (remember? the person actually arranging to have the item moved) and the receiver, it’s a great deal since in most of the cases shown, they’re paying next to nothing to have their freight moved.  (In some cases, they’re basically only paying fuel, leaving nothing on the bone as profit.)  The worst part is that the truckers on the show don’t seem to know they’re actually moving the freight for next to nothing and driving their own rates lower, and that they’re not making any money doing it.

One thing that really got my goat was the actual bidding on the episode I watched.  A man with a semi and flatbed was bidding to move a train caboose.  Really.  A big, heavy caboose.  And this goofball “competitor” with a little pickup and enclosed car hauler actually bid on the job “just to bring the rate down” several thousand dollars on the first man.

Can someone tell me how the pickup driver is even allowed to bid on a job he obviously doesn’t have the equipment to take in the first place?  And why would he want to drive the rates down?   He’s not just hurting the guy with the know-how and equipment to actually take the job, but he’s also painfully, obviously, oblivious to the fact that by driving rates down, he’s cutting his own clueless throat.

Another thing that bothers me is that they show a blip at the end of each job that lists what the job grossed and supposedly what it netted less fuel, but there are a multitude of costs that they completely ignore. The result is a number that’s not only misleading, it’s just plain wrong.

Any good business minded owner/operator can tell you to the penny what it costs them to run per mile.  And there is more to figuring that number than just fuel.  Add in licensing, permits, maintenance costs, truck and trailer payments, repairs, taxes, miscellaneous equipment, motels, food, and last, but not least, the salary the owner operator pays to themselves.

Aside from all of that, I also noticed that it seems some of these characters are running outlaw.  Now, if you’re moving freight for money, generally speaking, you have to go by DOT regulations.  As far as I can tell, some of these folks don’t even have a clue that they’re not legal.

My best guess is that several of them don’t seem to have their operating authority, and apparently aren’t leased to anyone who does, since there are no numbers posted on their trucks.  Whether they’re insured for cargo or commercial use is questionable, and for sure, some of them don’t even have a log book in the truck… and probably wouldn’t know what to do with it if they did.

Case in point… the girl who hauls livestock hauled a camel in this particular episode out to New England from Oklahoma.  She drove straight through and never mentioned hours of service or needing to stop, other than breaks for the camel to get watered and rested.  She obviously isn’t aware that there are restrictions on “for hire” drivers hauling freight of any kind, which, by the way, includes livestock haulers…  and before someone tries to argue with me, yes, that big dually and fancy horse trailer setup she has will definitely top the 10,001 lbs. limit, so she does fall under the regulations.

I have to end this post by saying I hope the shipping public doesn’t think all carriers/owner/operators are as incompetent as some of the characters on this show.

And I would hope that people watching take the whole shooting match with a big grain of salt.  It’s nothing more than staged and scripted, so-called “entertainment,” in the not so real “reality” TV realm, and has little if nothing to do with how most trucking operations are actually run… thank goodness!


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