Sonny Subra was heading home after a 12-hour overnight shift on Highway 401 when we met online for an interview.
It wasn’t a particularly busy night for him, he said.
There were just a couple of service calls, and Subra spent the rest of his shift waiting for more.
That was a far cry from his “day job”.
He is in Discovery Canada’s popular reality show Heavy Rescue: 401, featuring truck recovery operations in and around the Greater Toronto Area by 14 towing companies.
The Ontario Provincial Police also participates, with the force’s safety czar, Sgt. Kerry Schmidt, appearing frequently on the show.
The Highway thru Hell spinoff debuted in early 2017.
Subra, 33, has a passion for videography, and he said it was his YouTube posts that ultimately landed him the Heavy Rescue role.
He said a producer from Highway thru Hell in British Columbia contacted him after seeing his videos.
“Somebody told him that I will be good on TV,” Subra recalled.
The producer soon flew in to see his work first-hand.
“He asked me to show him how things work (on Highway 401).”
Subra said the producer watched and taped a truck recovery, which was also his first towing experience since entering the heavy-duty sector in 2015. Until then he had been towing just passenger vehicles.
Subra has an AZ licence, but never worked as a truck driver.
“I don’t drive tractor-trailers. I tow them,” he said, matter-of-factly.
Subra fled civil war in his home country of Sri Lanka 15 years ago. Over the years, he worked as a laborer, helper and a shopping mall janitor before entering the towing business.
“This is a really good opportunity for me to have a better life and a better future in Canada. We don’t want to give up the chance,” he said.
“So, whatever chance we get, we take it and push it.”
Dangerous, but interesting
Subra said he didn’t realize how tough the towing job was until he started doing it, but he enjoyed it, regardless.
“The first thing, it is really very dangerous. The second, it is very interesting. And the third, not everybody can do it.”
The first episode of Heavy Rescue was shot in January 2016, and Subra was on it.
Discovery Canada has since aired 48 episodes in five seasons, many of them featuring rescues by Subra.
Season 5 premiered Jan. 5 with Big, Mean and Heavy. In that debut episode, Subra makes a career move, switching to a new employer.
One of the most difficult recovery was shot in Napanee, Ont., where a fully loaded truck swerved and flipped into a ditch.
“We had to pull it out, but there were a lot of complications because the truck was full and frozen.”
Subra said he had received a lot of job offers because of the show, and he is now with his third employer since its debut.
“I am always looking for new challenges.”
Although Heavy Rescue is not aimed at children, a lot of them are watching it, Subra said.
“I get a lot of fan mail, especially letters from kids. They love the show. I make sure I reply them.”
Subra and his wife Suma live with their one-year-old son Nilan in Innisfil, Ont.
By Abdul Latheef