Shipping Wars was a reality TV program which was screened on the A&E channel for seven seasons between 2012 and 2015. Over 100 episodes of the popular show were made, which centered on several independent shipping and trucking companies, who specialize in transporting unusual and often very large items.
The basic premise of the show was that the owners of the various shipping firms would bid for the right to transport items. The auctions, which were managed by uShip, one of the largest online auction house for independent trucking companies, didn’t work like most auctions. In Shipping Wars, it was often the lowest bid which won the job – although sometimes clients would choose a higher bid if the company had a better reputation.
As with all reality TV shows, Shipping Wars had its breakout stars, including Roy Garber and his beloved cat Muffy, Jarret Joyce, who was nicknamed “The Rookie,” and Christopher Hanna and Robbie Welsh, the attractive young couple who owned their own Loaded Transport company.
Of course, many of the jobs featured on Shipping Wars didn’t go according to plan, and there were also several heated exchanges in the show, particularly after the “shippers” lost out on a lucrative job.
Even if you were a big fan of Shipping Wars, chances are that you don’t know everything that went on behind the scenes, as the list below illustrates.
While the companies involved in the show were real businesses, with owners who really made a living from shipping weird and wonderful items all over the US, the makers of the show did interfere a little in the auction process. The bids themselves were genuine enough, with companies bidding what they thought the job was worth, but the producers of Shipping Wars did engage in a little creative editing, in order to increase the tension for TV audiences.
After all, viewers were only interested in the auctions if it looked like two or three companies were really pushing each other to go lower and lower on the price.
Nicknamed “The Rookie”, Jarret Joyce was one of the youngest shippers on the show, managing his own Southern Shipping trucking company. On the show, Joyce was often the butt of the other shippers’ jokes, and came across as a bit slow; however, this was clearly just an act for the cameras.
You need to be smart to run your own successful business, after all, and in interviews since the show ended, it has become clear that Joyce is actually a lot more intelligent than many people gave him credit for, with opinions on everything from pop culture to poetry – a far cry from his “Rookie” character on Shipping Wars.
Although there were a few couples who operated their own shipping companies on the show, there weren’t many women who operated one of the businesses all on their own. Jennifer Brennan, whose nickname on Shipping Wars was “The Cowgirl,” operated her company, Tie ‘Em Down Transport throughout all seven series of the popular reality TV show, and more than held her own against the men.
However, she later revealed that she had been the victim of online trolls, finding herself “doxed” by a Facebook group; a form of cyberbullying in which the personal details of an individual are posted online.
Shipping Wars had a successful run on the A&E channel, but the show was eventually canceled after the end of the seventh season in 2015. While many of the shipping companies who had featured on the program seemed to be making a good living while the cameras were rolling, the truth was that without the publicity generated by the reality TV show, many of the shipping firms struggled to make ends meet.
In fact, most of the trucking companies who had featured in Shipping Wars ended up going out of business when the show finally came to an end after 100 episodes.
Roy Garber wasn’t the only breakout star of Shipping Wars; the owner of Arbie’s Team Transport was famous for his relationship with his beloved cat, Muffy. When news broke in 2014 of his tragic passing, fans were immediately concerned for Muffy’s welfare, worried as to who was going to take care of her now that Roy was gone.
Oddly enough, it seems that members of Roy’s family were fighting over who got “custody” of Muffy. Initially, it was reported that the beloved pet was on her way to live with Roy’s mother in New Hampshire, though there were rumors that another member of the Garber family had stolen Muffy while the cat was en route to her new home.
As anyone who has ever appeared on a reality TV show will tell you, the so-called stars are actually at the beck and call of the programme’s producers. In the case of Shipping Wars, this meant that the Shippers would have to wear the same outfit for days on end, as each episode was often filmed over the course of a week, but was designed to give the impression that it was all in a day’s work.
That would be bad enough if they were filming in an office, but the shipping business can be tough work, so wearing the same clothes for a few days wasn’t always the most pleasant experience.
And perhaps a worse crime, especially in the current climate of political correctness and gender equality, is that the women on Shipping Wars were all told to dress in a certain way, with approved outfits including shorts, low-cut tops, and tight-fitting outfits – not practical clothing for someone who owns and operates a shipping firm, but according to the makers of Shipping Wars, it was good for the ratings.
Certainly, some of the female stars on the show earned themselves a mass amount of male fans for their good looks and outfits, so perhaps the producers knew what they were doing?
Not all of those involved with Shipping Wars left the show with good memories, however. One of the producers on the programme, Jocelyn Shutte, filed a lawsuit against Megalomedia Inc, the production company behind Shipping Wars, alleging that she hadn’t received any payment for the overtime hours which she had worked when she was employed on the series in 2013.
This wasn’t the only time that Megalomedia Inc was sued by former employees; in 2014, four stars of the short-lived Texas Car Wars also filed a lawsuit, claiming that they hadn’t been paid at all for their work on the show.
One of the most controversial incidents on Shipping Wars, at least after it was screened, was the episode that was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, famous as the supposed site of Area 51, where some people believe the extra-terrestrial life exists.
The companies were bidding to deliver a new monument to the veterans’ cemetery, and producers had promised the vets that the show would be tasteful, and not mention aliens at all. However, the episode also featured the team delivering a tombstone dedicated to aliens, a development which upset local veterans and the County Veterans’ Cemetery Board.
While the producers of Shipping Wars were always keen to generate arguments and rivalries which related to the businesses in the show, the last thing they wanted was for any of the participants to get into really heated rows. So what is the best way to ensure that your cast gets along so that you can make your programme? Ban them from talking about controversial subjects.
All the Shippers were told to avoid talking about religion, or anything else that could offend their co-stars, and to keep the disagreements related to who had beaten who in a lucrative auction!
Despite their on-screen rows, some of which were genuine heat-of-the-moment squabbles, and some of which were fights which were encouraged to make the show more interesting, it turns out that the Shippers themselves all actually got on very well – at least when the cameras stopped rolling!
As well as making the show, the stars of Shipping Wars were often invited to appear at motoring shows around the US, where fans got to see that the Shippers actually got along a lot better than viewers of the programme might imagine…
uShip was the business that made Shipping Wars possible in the first place, by creating an online auction site that allows independent trucking firms to bid low and beat their competitors to lucrative jobs transporting weird and wonderful items all over the world.
However, the company, which has global headquarters in Austin, Texas, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, has had more than its fair share of complaints from consumers unhappy with the way their shipping needs were handled, and there is even an online campaign to have the company closed down, because some of the people who bid for jobs are not licensed truckers.
Chris Hanna and Robbie Welsh were two of the most popular Shippers – mainly thanks to their youthful good looks! Nicknamed “The Hotshot Couple,” the pair made their first Shipping Wars appearance in Season Two, before disappearing without a trace – or an explanation – at the end of Season Six.
Robbie, who has gone on to secure modeling work, particularly in the automotive industry, appeared to suggest that the couple had been given the boot from the show, with cryptic social media posts about waiting for an explanation from A&E and not being allowed to say too much about what had happened on the show.
While Shipping Wars never quite reached the heights of some of the similar reality TV shows, it did manage to pull in a steady one million viewers per episode – and the fact that all seven series are still online means that new fans are discovering the show all the time.
However, even one million viewers turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for A&E, considering three million viewers tuned in for the premiere of Shipping Wars back in January 2012. As viewer numbers started to tail off in Season Seven, it was inevitable that the writing was on the wall for the show.
As with many successful US shows, other countries started to take an interest, and some even made their own version of the programme for their domestic audience. Shipping Wars UK was first shown on the country’s Channel 4 network in January 2014, though unlike its US cousin, it only survived for two series.
The premise of the show was very similar, with larger than life characters from the UK shipping and trucking industries competing with each other for jobs which could take them across Europe. Shipping Wars UK even featured a former wrestler, “Flying” Phil Powers, who had fought in the ring during the 1990s.
Because all seven series of Shipping Wars are still available on the internet, years after it was canceled by the network, the show is continuing to gather new fans. Unfortunately, many of those fans start watching the show, not realizing the tragic fate that befalls Shipper favorite, Roy Garber.
When Garber sadly passed away in 2014, fans left messages of support in the comments section of an online obituary, which became a sort-of unofficial book of condolence for the popular star, with some messages being added as late 2018. In fact, by 2018, over 1,500 messages of condolences had been left on the Legacy.com website.
Despite having a successful run of seven series on the A&E network, it turns out that not all the stars who were involved in Shipping Wars were confident that the show was going to be a success.
Even the bosses at uShip, the company which was at the heart of the show, were surprised when local production company Megalomedia Inc. started to take an interest in the business, and the interesting characters which it attracted. Despite their surprise that a TV show could be made from the shipping industry, Shipping Wars was nevertheless a hit with viewers of reality TV shows.
While the Shippers were undoubtedly the people who made the Shipping Wars series so popular with fans, they actually had very little say about what went on in each episode – especially when it came to editing material to make certain scenarios seem more intense than they were.
Many were even surprised to see the end result when an episode was broadcast, as it could be very different from how things panned out at the time. Every reality TV show plays with editing to make their shows more intense and interesting, and Shipping Wars was obviously no exception to that rule.
One of the most tragic things which happened during the filming of Shipping Wars was the unexpected and untimely passing of Roy Garber, arguably the most popular character on the show when he passed following a serious heart attack at the age of just 49.
It is well known that truckers live unhealthy lives, sitting in their cabs for hours on end while only eating junk food, and Garber’s heart attack was not his first. However, he didn’t learn from his previous scare, and carried on with his trucking career, despite the impact it was clearly having on his health.
Sources - TV Series Finale, Fashion Beans, Variety, MNN, Fox News