Ice Road Trucking: Risk versus Reward
Except for those in the trucking business, most people have not heard of ice road trucking. The name is pretty self-explanatory. Drivers face treacherous conditions, high levels of danger and brutal temperatures for one hefty paycheck. The question most truck drivers must consider is whether the risk is worth the reward. It’s helpful for drivers to take a realistic look at what ice road truckers face to determine if the pay validates the danger.
Dangers of Ice Road Trucking
Ice road drivers head into the areas where others refuse to go – snowstorms, ice-covered roads and freezing weather. Each of these elements make driving more dangerous; add to that the implicit dangers of driving a big rig. Beyond the sliding and lack of control that comes with driving on icy roads, drivers also face the challenge of mechanical problems as the temperature drops to sometimes -45 F. In addition to the dangerous driving conditions and real threat of truck breakdowns, drivers are at risk for hypothermia.
For some ice road truckers, the idea of driving on a road is a luxury. That’s because some drivers, mostly in the northern portions of Alaska and Canada, are actually traveling across frozen lakes, rivers and ponds. These specialty drivers know the key to survival is keeping the truck moving. The 100,000-pound truck won’t break the ice as long as it keeps moving, but if the rig comes to a stop the ice is likely to cave, as it can only hold about 60,000 pounds.
Regular threats ice road truckers face include:
- Breaks along the ice road
- White outs
- Ice Road Trucking Salary
The risks of ice road trucking are very real, but the payout is rewarding. TruckDriversSalary.com reports ice road truckers are paid between $20,000 and $80,000 for the season. The area’s climate will dictate the length of the season, which typically runs from mid-January to mid-March. So, drivers willing to battle the threats can earn tens of thousands of dollars for six to eight weeks of work.
Ice Road Trucking Jobs
Drivers who land an ice road trucking job usually have years of experience. Leading trucking companies know the dangers associated with the job, so they want to ensure they have drivers who understand the ins and outs of trucking before putting them behind the wheel.
This specific part of the trucking industry is also very tight-knit. Drivers and companies work closely together, making it pretty hard for a newbie to break into the sector. Much like the snow stacked roads, the difficulty of getting a “foot in the door” is a reality in the ice road trucking business.
Ice road trips can take two to two and a half days to travel about 250 miles. Conditions can force drivers to travel under 20mph when delivering loads; they can travel a bit faster when empty. Truckers willing to tackle ice road driving need a survivalist mentality and a high-level skill set to manage an ice road trucking season.