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Top Gear USA: Off Road Big Rigs

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Trucking Topics:  Top Gear
Opinions expressed by Bill Crittenden are not official policies or positions of The Crittenden Automotive Library. You can read more about the Library's goals, mission, policies, and operations on the About Us page.

Top Gear USA: Off Road Big Rigs

Bill Crittenden
July 10, 2014

Season 5, Episode 5
Episode aired July 1, 2014

Combining two of the most dangerous occupations in America, logging and trucking, into one ridiculously difficult driving occupation probably was better left to the professionals.

But that wouldn't be entertaining, now would it be?

Given a short amount of time and a few challenges to refresh their big rig skills, the guys shortly set to work hauling over 100,000 pounds of wood each from a logging field to a processor.

Vehicle didn't seem to matter much, I know at least one was a Peterbilt and maybe there was a Kenworth.  I'm not a big-truck kinda guy, so no commentary this week about best vehicle, I'll leave those opinions up to the people who can actually tell the difference between the trucks.

One thing I did notice was the metal grates behind the cabs.  Now, folks, that might stop a couple of logs at low speed from slicing through the sheet metal and glass and driver inside, but by "low speed" I mean the speed of the log swinging on the crane, gone cabward due to a loading error.  If that truck comes to a sudden stop at highway speed that grate looks like it'd be another layer of tinfoil to rip through for those logs.

I've seen crash tests of nuclear casks on trucks, casks designed to be unbreakable in a crash, and let's just say that driver safety is completely sacrificed to the safety of the community they're driving through.  I knew our guys made it through this episode okay because otherwise we'd have heard about any major accident when it happened via the nightly news (as anyone familiar with Richard Hammond's jet-car crash will know), but the image of that test's obliterated truck caught between two solid objects did cross my mind when they got on the highway.

So, yeah, there's real danger involved in doing these challenges.

There's not much else to say about the vehicles, so I'll throw out the spoiler alert now and make a few comments about the program.

I think that Buick driver overreacted a bit.  Great for TV drama, but it looks like he could've crashed himself for no good reason.  Hey, one time I had a car come into my lane and although my voice raised a bit when I squeezed between the car and the guardrail I didn't slow down...or break from the middle of a sentence about penis size.  I don't remember what got me on that subject with my wife, but I'm really glad my last two words on this earth weren't "John Holmes."

Anyway, overreacting can cause crashes.  Great lesson.  Moving on...

My wife and I both agree that Rutledge's problem hitting the RV and the boat were completely Tanner's fault, as he led them through the neighborhood.  Between the crash and the bad directions, that leaves Adam, who took those ridiculous directions and didn't hit anything, as the clear winner.

At least what wasn't safe for vehicles parked on the streets meant safe speeds for the novice truckers.

I thought Tanner's comments about the skill required to drive those trucks, and how it required more than driving a race car.  Very interesting considering he just added a World Rallycross win to his resume.  Now, I completely believe that driving a truck takes more skill than driving a race car.  But I would (and I think he was trying to as well), compare just getting a race car around a track to getting that truck down the highway.  It's hard to judge driving a truck against the skill required to compete and win at a high level, because nobody's judging truck drivers by hundredths of a second, and nobody's going to run bumpers or push a logging truck out of their way on the highway.

By the way, congratulations to Tanner for winning the World RX of Finland in June!  Hopefully that'll bring a little more attention to the series.  Do they get American Top Gear in Finland?

Speaking of attracting viewers...

Because of the worldwide popularity of the original British Top Gear, it might help the program regain some viewers who gave up too early to have a few of the Brits pop in every now and then.  I thought it was kinda cool that I could recognize all of the logging equipment thanks to Richard Hammond's Crash Course, and it would have been a perfect opportunity for a cameo if he were the guy loading the trucks.  It's a much different and better show now (not that I wasn't a fan since season 1 anyway), and getting people who gave up on it to give it a serious second try could do wonders for ratings.

Episode rating:
Best Driver: Adam.
Episode Rating: 7/10.  There was a lot of tension and nervousness coming from my wife's side of the couch.  I'm not sure if she was worried about the guys or worried they'd run over a house, but it was entertaining, and that's what counts.

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