Truckers: Life on the Road

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Truckers are the life blood of Britain. Without them our shops, shelves, construction sites, fuel tanks and kitchen cupboards would be empty. In this story of real-life kings and queens of the road, we're riding shotgun with the team at Owens - one of the oldest and biggest haulage companies in Wales.

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S1E1 - Episode 1

Truckers are the life blood of Britain. Without them our shops, shelves, construction sites, fuel tanks and kitchen cupboards would be empty.

In this story of real-life kings and queens of the road, we're riding shotgun with the team at Owens - one of the oldest and biggest haulage companies in Wales. Proudly Welsh, from their base in Llanelli the Owens family run a haulage network that spans the UK, providing hundreds of vital jobs, as well as pride in the local community - and turning over £170 million a year.

2022 saw the trucking industry under pressure like never before, with the combined effects of Brexit, the Ukraine war and massive driver shortages as well as rocketing fuel and energy prices. From the boss to the warehouse ops, truckers and their families, we follow the company and its employees at a uniquely challenging time for both the haulage industry and ordinary Welsh people.

Veteran truck driver Phil, aka The Donk, has been with the company for 23 years. He's practically part of the furniture and is the go-to man for any problem, big or small. But this week, he's got more than just trucking on his mind. With his four-year anniversary to wife Debs coming up, he's planning to pull out all the stops to make it extra special. First, they both have an anxious wait for the results of her latest cancer check-up.

One of the newest recruits to the world of trucking is Laura – one of 10 new apprentices recently brought in to combat the driver shortages. So far she's loving the life of a trucker. After a lesson from The Donk in how to park a 55-foot truck in a tight space, she's ready to hit the road on the day shift. Top of today's tasks is delivering 52 pallets of toilet roll. Between deliveries, she manages to squeeze in a quick catch-up with fiancée and fellow apprentice driver, Ben.

For managing director Ian Owen, the pressure's on to keep the whole show on the road. Having worked for the company since leaving school, he took over the top job from his dad,company founder Huw, just over a year ago. Now the trucking industry is facing unprecedented challenges. His latest headache is rocketing energy prices. An increase of 6p per litre on fuel, across the 400 trucks in the fleet, could add an extra £1 million onto the company's fuel bill.

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)

S1E2 - Episode 2

It's the start of another busy week for the 1,000 plus staff at the company, 650 of whom are drivers. But while most truckers do a 12-hour shift, there are some who are away on the road all week - known as ‘trampers', because they camp out at night in their cabs. One of them is a 5ft 2 bundle of energy known as Tigger. She's one of a small number of female long-distance HGV drivers. Today, she's due to be taking a delivery from Newport up to Manchester. But a catalogue of disasters mean Tigger's struggling to get out of the starting blocks.

The pandemic saw an explosion in the home delivery market. The company decided to get in on the act, with its own local parcel delivery service, using electric vans. Van driver Gary has been in the job a year, after facing some hard times which left him temporarily homeless. With 120 parcels to deliver, he's got no time to waste as he navigates his way round the streets of Llanelli. And there's one special parcel that needs to reach a particularly pampered pooch.

Receptionist Jess is another recent recruit, who joined the company after the global shutdown put paid to her job tracking down lost bags for airline passengers. Lucky for Jess, veteran driver The Donk is on hand to give her a crash course in all things trucking – quite literally – with a day out to the Pembrey Truck Races.

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)

S1E3 - Episode 3

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)

S1E4 - Episode 4

Unlike many big haulage firms, Owens has remained 100% family-run and owned. From its founding in 1972 by Huw Owen with just one van, the company has grown to 1000+ employees. To mark 50 years in business, Huw's son Ian, the new MD, has decided to hold a fun day for the entire workforce and their families. With expectations sky high, Vicky in marketing has been put in charge of making sure everything goes smoothly on the day. But for Ian, there's still the matter of that all-important speech to write.

Before they can get the party started, it's business as usual for the 650 drivers powering up and down Britain's motorways. Trucker Matt's got a 500-mile round trip ahead of him. He's heading to a Scottish forest where he'll be collecting felled logs to be turned into garden fencing. Matt is one of only three drivers in the company trained to do this forest run. With tricky terrain to navigate, one wrong move could send his truck careering over the edge.

DJ Jagger is back in the driving seat with instructor Will, preparing to retake his HGV test. Will it be second time lucky?

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)

S1E5 - Episode 5

With 260 drivers out on roads clogged by train strikes, there's a lot of logistical juggling needed at the planning office. They're in charge of keeping drivers and deliveries on time and on track.

One of those drivers is long-haul trucker Tigger. She's a ‘tramper', meaning she's away all week, camping out in her cab. At the tail end of her working week, she's looking forward to heading home for ‘foot-down Friday'. But first, she's got an important delivery to drop in Derby. A particularly tricky yard is about to test her reversing skills to the absolute limit.

Operations director Doug's also navigating testing times. A national HGV driver shortage has left gaping holes in professional driver ranks. A year ago, the company was 163 drivers short, leaving trucks parked up and not earning money. A major recruitment drive has reduced the shortfall by 90%. But Doug's always on the lookout for new recruits, and it looks like today might be receptionist Jess's lucky day. She might be new to the company, but she's been dying to get a go behind the wheel. So Doug's offered to give her a first lesson.

Long-time trucker Andy has been in the lorry game for three decades. He's a specialist driver, trained to transport extra heavy loads of steel. After a 3am start, he's picking up from a titan of the Welsh economy - Tata Steel in Port Talbot. Today he's hauling a particularly hefty load. Work environments don't come much more hazardous than this, as massive furnaces burn throughout the day and night, breathing sparks, steam and fire. Andy needs to watch his step.

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)

S1E6 - Episode 6

The trucking industry has seen huge changes, as those who've been in it for the long haul can testify. One of the company's longest-serving drivers is Jason Bennett, aka Block, who's from a long line of truckers. His nickname came from ‘chip off the old block', after he followed his father into the industry, and his grandad, who drove trucks across the middle east in the 1970s.
Today he's on a special mission, meeting up with best mate and veteran ex-trucker Duncan. They've got a busy day ahead, getting Duncan's collection of vintage trucks in tip-top condition ready for one of the highlights of the trucking calendar - the Builth Wells Truck Show. But when it comes to old mates, there's always time for a bit of banter.

Keeping the modern fleet of over 400 trucks on the road is a constant battle. So the company recently set up its own in-house repair centre, staffed by 14 mechanics. One of them is Mark Murphy, aka Murph. Today Murphy's on the hunt for a faulty valve. But it's the other mechanics who are giving him the biggest headache. They're convinced he bears a striking resemblance to a certain Tiger King.

Night driver Dai is another veteran trucker who followed his dad into the industry. After a 40+ year career, he's now content to follow the same regular nightly route to Burton-on-Trent. The solitude and peace of the night is time to reflect on the happy memories of his time as a trucker, as well as some really difficult times. But there are also the recent recruits to the industry, like newly-qualified driver Laura. She's loving the life of a trucker, whatever the weather.

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)

S1E7 - Episode 7

Keeping the wheels moving on an operation that delivers 4,000 loads a week means working every hour of the day and night. For long-haul ‘trampers' like Gareth, that also means being away all week, sleeping in the truck cab. Gareth swapped the life of a plasterer for that of a trucker a year ago when he joined the company's apprentice scheme. So far, he's enjoying his career change. But one of the biggest challenges has been the lifestyle, especially adjusting to time away from fiancé Chloe. Today he's got the added challenge of battling with the dreaded M25 at rush hour. If he doesn't hit his delivery on time, he could run late for his whole week away..

Back in Llanelli, courier Gary is also up against the clock. Today, he's delivering high nutrition ready meals to athletes, including a couple of well-known rugby stars. But his day doesn't get off to the best of starts either when he's given the wrong address.

Long- time trucker The Donk has taken charge of a very special cargo: a supersized birthday card for company founder Huw, who turns 70 in a few days' time. There's a surprise party planned for him at HQ - but the surprise might just be on MD Ian when his dad turns up early for the first time ever.

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)

S1E8 - Episode 8

As the sun rises, the fleet of over 400 trucks are already clocking up the miles. The company's heart might be in South Wales, but nearly 300 miles away, truck driver Tigger is battling her way through the medieval streets of York. As a tramper, she's away all week living in her cab. Today she's headed to a chocolate factory to load up her trailer and she's in for an unexpected treat.

While most of the company's trucks are delivering goods up and down the country, they also have a local waste and recycling division processing up to 20,000 tonnes of waste every year. Veteran trucker Jason is out on the recycling run around Llanelli with his partner-in-grime, his 17-year-old son Kieran. After 20 years of driving HGVs long haul, he's decided to change lanes. And his new job also comes with perks, whether it's a perfectly good gazebo someone has thrown away or a bit of bonus cake from a favourite customer. Jason treats his bins like children - he even gives them names!

Back at HQ, MD Ian's stress levels are up. He's ordered 40 brand new greener trucks that can run on hydrogenated vegetable oil. But there's been a hold up on the parts needed to build them due to the Ukraine war - added to which, they're £30,000 more expensive – for each truck!

When the first of the trucks eventually arrives, company stalwart and long-time trucker The Donk pops into see what all the fuss is about. The new hi-tech trucks are fitted with cameras in place of mirrors to increase visibility – but The Donk is not convinced.

Air Date: 03 Mar 2023 06:00 (CDT)