Fans of the popular TV show Highway Thru Hell may notice a familiar face around Langford.
Neill Wakefield, who appeared as one of the tow truck drivers on season five of the Discovery Channel show, recently moved to town with his family. His wife, Tiffany, is originally from the Island, and they moved back to live closer to her four kids.
The couple met through the towing industry on the mainland, and were married four years ago in Vegas.
“I’m still getting used to living on the Island,” chuckled Wakefield. “It’s a really beautiful place, but I am used to the big city, and being able to go anywhere at any time.”
Wakefield, originally from Brandon, Man., has moved numerous times in his life, primarily bouncing between Burnaby and Winnipeg. Throughout all the changes in scenery, his career in towing has been constant, taking his first job as a tow truck driver at 17.
Days in the towing industry are long, tiresome, and at times, gruesome, but Wakefield has stayed with the work for 40 years.
“I’ve been addicted to towing I guess,” said Wakefield. “Hours are long, I’m on call pretty much seven days a week, so it’s more of a lifestyle, but I enjoy it.”
Wakefield was working for Mission Towing while featured on the Highway Thru Hell series, where he did heavy recovery work on Highways 1, 3, 7, 9, and Highway 5, also known as the Coquihalla. The tough job was recognized on the show, where Wakefield had to endure nasty weather conditions and dangerous situations in order to recover vehicles.
“Towing has to be in your blood to be good at it,” said Wakefield. “The pressure is on to get the job done without any problems, and every incident is different. There are quick decisions you have to make, and you have to work fast and efficiently because road closures are a big deal.”
The variety is what kept Wakefield interested in the work, but is also what has been the biggest challenge.
“You never know what you are getting,” said Wakefield. “One rollover could be easy, the next could be super complicated. You could be out in a blizzard, trudging through ditches or over cliffs, and people are relying on you to get it done quickly. I liked that the job was different every day, but it also added a lot of stress in my life.”
One of the episodes was focused around Wakefield and all the work he put in to personalizing his truck.
“I spent over $25,000 of my own money fixing up the company truck and making it nice. I wasn’t just a driver, I lived in my truck basically,” said Wakefield, who didn’t keep the vehicle after leaving his job with Mission Towing. “When I left the company I lost almost all of my money unfortunately. They gave me a little bit, but nothing compared to what I spent on it.”
Wakefield said he left Mission Towing after the company building burned down. He has worked in both the towing and long-hall businesses since leaving Mission Towing and the TV show. Since moving to Langford, he and Tiffany have both been working for West Shore Towing. However, Wakefield is currently taking a break from business, and is considering changing his line of work.
“I’m hoping to get a job with more regularity, something more laid back,” said Wakefield. “It may be time for me to be done with towing for good. It’s hard work, and it’s a younger man’s game.”
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