Jamie Davis rose to prominence through the popularity of the Canadian documentary/reality television series “Highway Thru Hell,” aired on Discovery Channel. The series was launched in 2012, and featured Jamie with his rescue and towing crew as they aided in the extraction of thousands of wrecked cargo or semi-trailer trucks for more than a decade on one of the most dangerous roads in British Columbia. This 2023, he was reported to have been involved in a multi-vehicle accident on the very highway he was known to have helped clear up after a wreck.
- 1 Get to know Jamie Davis and how he started in this business
- 2 The background to “Highway Thru Hell,” the TV series
- 2.1 Where did the idea of “Highway Thru Hell” as a reality TV show come from?
- 2.2 It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of truck accidents
- 2.3 The elite team of Jamie Davis Heavy Rescue
- 2.4 A fleet of 14 powerful custom-built heavy rescue trucks
- 2.5 A typical day for Jamie Davis Motor Truck
- 2.6 TV premiere and viewership ratings
- 3 Some of Jamie Davis’s unforgettable moments in “Highway Thru Hell”
- 4 An update on Jamie Davis’s whereabouts in 2023
Get to know Jamie Davis and how he started in this business
‘I don’t think there’s any wrecking company in the world that can do what we do.’ These words were proudly uttered by Jamie Davis, owner of the company Jamie Davis Motor Truck and Auto Ltd, and the main star of the TV series, “Highway Thru Hell.” He was a second-generation heavy rescue guy, who grew up in the rescue and towing industry. Initially, his father worked solely on tugboats, but later on also went into the scrap car and truck towing business. Jamie would ride with his father in their old tow truck when he was a kid living in Aldergrove, Langley in British Columbia. He found it cool to see his old man towing cars, and taking car parts in the scrap yard.
He fell in love with big rig trucks
Jamie realized that he would be involved in the same heavy machine towing industry when he saw a ‘67 big rig truck drive past his schoolyard when he was about 10 years old, and was impressed by it. He learned that it belonged to the Davidson Tow Truck company, and later on became friends with the owner, Don Davidson; Don would give him and his brother jobs at his towing company where he learned more about the business.
Convinced his father to invest in new equipment
At the time he and his brother were teenagers, they convinced their father to buy newer wreckers for their towing business, and the company became more successful. His father could have made the business bigger and taken on bigger trucks, but decided that it was better to keep everything small and simple with just three towing trucks. It was a smart move, as their company was steady with job orders without the headaches that came with a bigger company.
The reason why he wasn’t with his dad’s company
While he admired his parent’s decision to keep everything simple, he and his brother had a different dream. They wanted to be bigger and better than any other rescue and towing companies in British Columbia, such as the Quiring Towing in Aldergrove, their major competitor since the 1960s. They eventually succeeded, but they also realized that being bigger wasn’t always better. By 2020, he had 10 guys dealing with wrecks on the road and was satisfied with what he achieved. Jamie admitted, however, that looking back on when he was still a kid, and with the things he experienced as a business owner, he finally understood why his father kept his business small – it was easier to keep things under his control.
The background to “Highway Thru Hell,” the TV series
‘An unforgiving, white-knuckled ride, carved in one of the steepest terrains in North America’ – This was how the writers of “Highway Thru Hell” described the backdrop of the TV show. It promised excitement and drama amidst the perils associated with the infamous road that was frequently used by cargo trucks.
Where did the idea of “Highway Thru Hell” as a reality TV show come from?
Jamie Davis’s world-class towing services had helped in clearing the infamous Coquihalla Highway whenever there were vehicular accidents, especially during the winter season. More often than not, highway authorities needed the assistance of heavy equipment rescue trucks. However, he never thought that there would come a time that his adventures would be chronicled by Discovery Channel through a reality-TV show. TV producer, director and writer Neil Thomas needed Jamie’s services in 2010, as his truck broke down on the Coquihalla Highway. During that time, Jamie’s company had record-setting numbers with the job orders that they received, and by the winter of 2011, a plan was hatched by Neil along with executive producer Mark A. Miller and senior editor Kevin Mills about a TV show. They reached out to Jamie to discuss it and he was amenable, since he wanted to transform everyone’s perception of the towing industry.
It’s like the Bermuda Triangle of truck accidents
Thousands of truckers passed along the Coquihalla (Coq) Highway every single day, a part of the British Columbia 5 route in Canada – iIt was christened with that name because it was situated near the Coquihalla River. It had been said that when the weather was good, the highway was called an engineering marvel, but when the weather turned bad, it was a highway through hell, hence the title of the show. During spring, summer and fall, driving would be easy, but during winter, at least about 500 accidents usually occurred on the highway, with numerous fatalities. This long road also known as Highway 5, consisted of four to six lanes and was about 186 kilometers, about 120 miles long, running from Hope North to Kamloops through Merritt. It generally has a speed limit of 120 kilometers, about 85 miles per hour for most of its length.
— Highway Thru Hell (@HWYThruHell) August 22, 2015
The elite team of Jamie Davis Heavy Rescue
Six years before the filming of the TV show, Jamie started his own company, and it had been thriving ever since, his company dealing with accidents involving semi-trailer trucks and other vehicles on the highway. Aside from Jamie, the original cast members were James Jr., Kevin Ritchie, Adam Gazzola, Brandon Kodallas, Narayan Samy and Ken Monkhouse. Over the years, viewers witnessed some of his crew members being replaced, as they left for greener pastures or were fired for one reason or another.
A fleet of 14 powerful custom-built heavy rescue trucks
To be more competitive, Jamie gambled millions of dollars in investing in powerful gear that would make his work a lot faster, such new heavy rescue trucks, which cost about $130,000 each. It was quite a risk, but he said that it was worth it especially since he was confident that his crew could open the highway faster than anyone, after a wreck blockage. He proudly declared that his team had the best equipment in town, all of which could be found at his headquarters, which was strategically situated at the entrance to the Coq Highway Pass just outside the town of Hope in British Columbia, a two-hour drive from the coast. With the winter season coming and the expected heavy snowfall, he was betting that he could easily recoup his investments with all the possible trouble that truckers could encounter on the dangerous highway.
A typical day for Jamie Davis Motor Truck
Having men doing dangerous work in a reality-TV series wasn’t anything new, but “Highway Thru Hell” captured viewers’ imagination because it featured the expertise of a team willing to take on any disaster that Mother Nature threw at them on the Coq Highway. Jamie said that if the roads were not cleared after an accident, everything would be in chaos. A typical day would start with a call that they were needed in removing obstacles on the road – overnight freight trucks were backing up and nothing could get through. The highway authorities said that with the slush and ice, a driver lost control of his semi-trailer, which jackknifed and with pressure ripped the truck apart. Another semi-truck swerved to avoid the wreckage and ran into a deep pile of snow. By the time they arrived at the wreckage, the Coq had been shut down for nearly an hour.
With the help of his heavy equipment, Jamie’s crew cleared enough room to have a working lane. It was great news for truckers, but bad news for his crew as they needed to slowly do a juggling act of work on the side while making sure they wouldn’t block the remaining open lane. They seemed to make the viewers believe that it was quite an easy task, but it was difficult to navigate within small spaces, especially when dealing with huge vehicles. Jamie’s crew would only leave the scene and head home when the job was finished.
TV premiere and viewership ratings
“Highway Thru Hell” made its TV debut on 4 September 2012, on Discover Channel Canada. It easily became the most-watched premiere on the cable channel, and eventually generated so much interest that it became one of the top TV shows in Canada. As its popularity grew, it was made accessible through cable channels including National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Weather Channel, and other local channels in many countries. It had an average of over three million viewers each week for its debut season.
Some of Jamie Davis’s unforgettable moments in “Highway Thru Hell”
‘When the highway shuts down, the world shuts down.’ – Jamie couldn’t have said it any better. It was the prime reason why his company was successful. When massive trucks kissed the pavement or crash into the snow bank, it would automatically clog the highway. His crew would then be needed to remedy the situation. Here are some of the most interesting moments Jamie had in his 11 seasons with the TV show:
A driver trapped under the wheel after a collision
Just as his father did to him when he was growing up, Jamie hired his 16-year-old stepson, Brandon, in 2012. During the first season of the TV show, Brandon was the newly-hired Yard Helper, and would sometimes accompany his stepfather to his jobs. There was one time Jamie received a call at seven in the morning after a semi-trailer truck jackknifed on the highway, skidding on the slippery road. Apparently, there was a build-up of a thin sheet of ice in some parts of the Coq Highway known as black ice, and the truck driver lost control of the vehicle.
Jamie took a risk by driving in the wrong lane just to reach the area. The moment the alarm on the truck’s ice meter went off, they had their tires chained up as the road could turn into a giant skating rink. Most of the truck drivers involved in the accident had already abandoned their vehicles, and with only Jamie’s stepson to assist him, he extracted two trucks. However, before they could do more, they discovered one of the missing drivers already dead underneath one of the tires. It was the first time Brandon witnessed such a tragic event, and was affected by it. Whenever there was any fatality on the scene, the priority was to have the police investigate the accident before the towing operation could resume. To open up a lane, Jamie’s crew removed the heavy lane dividers in the middle of the highway for traffic, while the police did their job.
“Highway Thru Hell” expanded as the Coq became more competitive
By the third season of the TV show, the competition for towing services on Coq Highway had increased, and Jamie moved to another territory to expand his business. While they never shut down their operations in Coq, most of his fleet focused on another road, Alberta Highway 63. He said that the volume of traffic there was quite unbelievable, and much more than they had in Coq. Jamie felt that his business had outgrown the town of Hope with only around 6,000 residents in 2014, and with the electricity flickering in and out at his headquarters, he knew it was time to find more opportunities in other places. At that time, his company had around five heavy rescue trucks dealing with wrecks at Fort McMurray, four in Edmonton, and eight in Lac La Biche County. Their only problem was getting used to the Prairie winter – Alberta experienced lighter snowfall compared to Hope but it was accompanied by a colder temperature that could reach -46C. However, by the end of the season, he’d closed up shop in Alberta, sold some of his trucks, and opened up another yard in Golden, British Columbia.
Tough guys in tough conditions
There was one season-ender episode in which Jamie’s crew was called in, when an SVU went over a cliff and landed in a river; by some miracle, the driver and passenger were alive. The drop was quite high, and the damaged vehicle wouldn’t be given that much priority if not for the gas that was seen leaking out, which was hazardous to the environment so it was given top priority. The job turned out to be one of the most frustrating that he’d accepted in his life. Not only did he lose money on it as they had the most difficult time retrieving the SVU, but he also had to deal with his stepson, Brandon, walking away from his job. Apparently, he wasn’t that keen on making a career in the towing industry. However, the word ‘quit’ wasn’t in his vocabulary and he and his crew continued to try different ways to get the vehicle up. If Jamie accepted a job, he wouldn’t stop until it was finished.
An unexpected snowstorm paralyzed Coq Highway
Days before Halloween in the eighth season opener, an unexpected snowstorm dropped heavy snow on the highway. There were no tow trucks on duty near the summit, but help was coming as the police called up Jamie Davis’s crew. This time, Jamie went to check the Coq with his wife and business partner, Sherry. When they arrived on the scene at the summit, they saw a 70-foot-long fuel tanker blocking one lane, as it had spun out of control on one of the steepest sections of the highway; the great thing though was that the truck driver told him that the tanker was empty. Jamie had only brought his 22-ton wrecker called The Python, which could easily be outmatched by a heavy tanker, but with his years of experience, he lifted the tanker out of the ditch and successfully moved it back onto the road with no other incidents. Jamie admitted that if the tanker was loaded, he wouldn’t have touched it in any way.
An update on Jamie Davis’s whereabouts in 2023
Jamie Davis’s business still thrived even if he was having issues when it came to taking care of his personnel. He would sometimes need to leave the management to senior drivers while he took care of another of his yards, and it could create trouble among his employees. Even during the pandemic with all the regulations that were imposed by the government, he survived by teaming up with other towing companies, including that of his brother’s called Aggressive Towing and Mission Towing, which was also a family-owned business.
On the morning of 8 January 2023 near Avola, B.C., he narrowly escaped a multi-vehicle collision that could have ended tragically. At the time of the accident, he was involved in a towing operation. No one was hurt, and in a press statement, he thanked all the emergency responders for taking care of him, and the fans for showing support. Due to the accident, the highway was closed for about four hours, but re-opened by noon on the same day. The details would probably be shown in the 12th season of “Highway Thru Hell,” which is scheduled to air this September 2023.