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City tow truck team ready for its reality TV close-up

Published on

Troy Shantz

Preferred Towing is often seen on the road, and will soon be seen on screen too.

The Sarnia company is a player in the Discovery Channel’s “Heavy Rescue: 401,” a reality TV show that tells the story of tow operators, rescues, and maintenance crews that keep 400 series highways moving.

The first “sneak peek” episode airs Monday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m.

“For them to come to us and ask us to be a part of this, it’s a pretty amazing feeling,” said Collin Vandenheuvel, a tow operator and son of Preferred owners, Gary and Tammy Vandenheuvel.

“We feel honoured to do this and it was a fun experience.”

Vandenheuvel said Sarnia’s unpredictable weather, which can play havoc on roads, was one reason the company was chosen.

“With the lake effect, it really changes up here really quickly.”

In January, a crew began filming the Sarnia team seven days a week for nearly three months. Vandenheuvel said having the cameras looking over his shoulder was “nerve wracking” at first, but the results were worth it.

“We’ve got our parts, and from what we’ve been seeing so far it’s been amazing. They did a great job putting it all together.“

Vandenheuvel said the company’s crewmembers appear in five of the eight episodes, including the opener Monday on Discovery Channel. The rest of the season is scheduled to run on unspecified dates early in the new year.

Vandenheuvel, his dad and four other employees apparently appear in the show. The scenario is not unlike that of the popular Discovery Channel series Highway Thru Hell, in which Jamie Davis and his son Jason work together in the business.

Starting with a single one-ton 24 years ago, Preferred Towing today has a fleet of 14 trucks.

The largest is powerful enough to clear car wrecks, pull ailing tractor-trailers off the road, and has been used to haul vessels built in Sarnia’s world-class fabricating shops.

Vandenheuvel said the tow companies and maintenance crews on the show are from all over Southern Ontario, and he’d gotten to know some of them through towing operations on 400-series highways.

“We know these guys, they’re really good guys. And they’re going to look just as good as we do on TV,” he said with a laugh.



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