Ontario’s highways thru hell star in Discovery’s Heavy Rescue: 401

Anyone who relies on Ontario’s 400-series highways knows that, at the best of times, you’ll fly along to your destination. But throw in some weather or boneheaded move by a fellow driver and chaos ensues. That’s what’s captured in Heavy Rescue: 401.

Debuting Tuesday, Jan. 3, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery Canada—and from the same folks behind Highway Thru Hell, Heavy Rescue: 401 tracks the tow truck drivers, provincial police and emergency personnel who work long hours in dangerous conditions to keep cars and trucks full of precious cargo—human, animal and product—safe and on to their destinations. Yes, the west coast’s Coquihalla highway has snow and high peaks, but Ontario’s roads have their own challenges.

“I would fly into Toronto for meetings at Discovery and would drive from the airport and see guys smashing into each other in front of me,” executive producer Mark Miller says. “I’d get to Discovery and tell everyone about the hell I had just been through and they’d say, ‘Yeah, we go through that every day.’ We spoke to tow truck drivers that work the roads and quickly realized there was something there. It was different enough that it makes for a really cool series.” Miller likens the 401 to a spine with manufacturing plants and factories attached to it; the sheer number of tractor trailers needed to transport supplies along that route means jam-packed lanes and accidents waiting to happen.

“It’s all about time,” says longtime Abrams Towing driver John Allen (pictured above), one of several drivers featured in Heavy Rescue: 401. “You have auto parts going to Oshawa, auto parts going out to Windsor. If they get tied up, it’s costing GM or Chrysler or whoever is doing the manufacturing millions of dollars because they don’t have the storage capacity. Their storage is the trucks coming in.” Tuesday’s debut episode wastes no time showing what happens when snowy conditions and several lanes of traffic mix: a multi-vehicle accident has shut down part of the 401 and Allen is among the drivers rushing to the scene. Other companies followed in Season 1’s episodes include Herb’s Towing, Preferred Towing, Ross Services, Steve’s Towing, Classic Heavy Towing and Metro Towing.

Allen, with over 25 years in the towing business, has seen it all on Ontario’s roads and isn’t fazed by the fact he’s about to become a TV star. Instead, he’s more interested in educating viewers about the dangers involved in his profession.

“Part of what I want to get out of this show is for drivers to slow down, move over and give us a little space,” Allen says. “One tow truck driver is killed every six days in North America. That’s more than police officers, firefighters and ambulance drivers put together.” Injuries and death, he says, occur when a tow truck operator is crushed between vehicles or in what he refers to as “the 30 feet of kill zone” between his door and the back of the truck working in an active traffic lane and totally unprotected.

“Not even one in 10 drivers will move over and give me room,” Allen says. “I was watching the episode back and was getting scared! Give me some space in my workplace … that’s all I ask.”

Heavy Rescue: 401 airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on Discovery Canada.

Images courtesy of Bell Media.

Greg David
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Greg David

Prior to becoming a television critic and partner at TV, Eh?, Greg David was a critic for TV Guide Canada, the country's most trusted source for TV news. He has interviewed television actors, actresses and behind-the-scenes folks from hundreds of television series from Canada, the U.S. and internationally. He is a podcaster, public speaker, weekly radio guest and educator, and past member of the Television Critics Association.
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