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Our tough trucker takes on world

TRAVELLING TOUGH: The World’s Toughest Trucker crew, Rodney Johnson is second from left.
TRAVELLING TOUGH: The World’s Toughest Trucker crew, Rodney Johnson is second from left.

RODNEY Johnson has defended his "old grandad" title on World's Toughest Trucker.

He recently finished filming the show for Foxtel's A&E Channel and has made some lifelong friends through the process.

Mr Johnson said he was sitting in the Swagman Road House at Mount Magnet when he saw a flyer calling for people to be involved in the show.

"I applied online," he said.

What qualified him for the job was more than 30 years driving all over Australia carting livestock, general, refrigerated goods and mining equipment.

"We finished filming at the end of October," he said.

Since the show, life hasn't changed too much, when Big Rigs caught up with him he was still working for Regal Transport and was heading to Perth to load a truck onto a trailer.

But he got to see some amazing sights on the show.

"We went to lots of places for driving challenges."

Shows were filmed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mongolia and India.

Mr Johnson remains tight- lipped about who won the series saying he was told not to say.

So far only four episodes have been screened in Australia.

He said the biggest challenge was sitting in the "passenger seat".

"I think two-up is dangerous.

"We were working with other blokes from different countries, and had never worked with them before. None had driven in the Australian conditions."

But he said despite that it was "fun" and an "adventure" travelling all around the world.

During the show he became known as 'the grandad' because he drove slower than the rest.

"I was trying to look after another man's truck. They reckon I'm like the old grandad on the show because I drive too slow," he said.

"I didn't want to be hard on the equipment."

He explained as a truck driver he is paid good money to look after the gear.

The first challenge for the contestants was transporting cattle in central Queensland then an oversized-medical centre to Alice Springs.

Johnson drives three trailer road trains at work so it was great for him to experience the different trucks in each country.

The highlight was coming across a three-toed sloth in the wild in South America.

"It was amazing. We nearly ran over it. Stuart jumped out - for that leg he was my partner."

A tough challenge was carting logs in Canada.

"There's no mountains in WA.

"They were vertical mountains, it was the best challenge for me."

In that challenge the trucks were big Kenworth tri-drives, with three axle jinkers on the back. The trucks were loaded up the mountain and then the 59-tonne truck and trailer had to get down the mountain.

In Mongolia they carted in six- wheel Russian Army Zills.

They were about 40 years old and were V8 petrol.

Mongolia was mostly wild, they ran a lot on the GPS and went over a mountain instead of going around it.

"It was pretty rugged over there, one team broke a truck."

He went back to work straight after filming.

"I don't listen to bad criticism. I think it was great, the wife thinks it was fantastic."

One thing he learnt on the show was that Americans "speak a different language".

He said everyone saw it as a competition, while he was trying to make truck drivers look good.

"No one's done what I've done, but they are all good operators in their own field."

He became good friends with Rookie from Alabama and described him as a "pain in the arse when we were working together".

"I couldn't work with him, but I'd have a beer with him at the end of the day.

"They're all good blokes and we all keep in touch.

"No one killed each other," he joked.

"We only did 100-150 miles in a 12-14 hour day. It's not as easy as what you think. Production is stop-start. When you were in a situation where you needed to concentrate the producer or director would start talking and you would make mistakes. It's not some easy thing. Production gets to you.

"Even the best of us had dramas. I had a couple of walk offs. I got the shits and did one in Mongolia. The other driver wouldn't ease up on the rough road. Life's more important than the freight.

"It's hard with blokes that run like that in their normal life. You shouldn't endanger anyone's lives. It's up to drivers to stay safe."

During the competition the contestants were paid $10,000 and had three months of free travel.

"We all got looked after, swags in Australia and local accommodation in the other countries.

"My wife helped out. She's a videographer and did the video clip that helped sell me. It was hard away from home, but that's just the way it goes."

"I'm a winner just for being picked. I don't think I'll get on again, but if any show came up I'd put my hand up.

"I believe everyone should think they're the best at what they do. Otherwise what are they doing it for?

"Trucking all around the world is the same, no matter where you go. It's making a living and getting from A to B."

And the Australian sense of humour? "It's very hard for them to understand. They couldn't get my sarcasm; I would just shake my head and have a chuckle."

Topics:  truck driver

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