Friday, 19 February 2016

Ice Road Trucking: Everything You Need to Know About Driving on Thin Ice

Have you caught an episode of the show Ice Road Truckers? A phenomenal bit of television that depicts a group of brave men and women truck drivers traversing the icy roads of Alaska and Canada. Ever since the show aired, I’ve been captivated by it. However, the thought of driving an 80,000-pound vehicle across thin sheets of ice is frightening - but it does make for a great show.

Although a nerve-wracking profession for some, there are men and women doing this every day (yes, we know that it’s a seasonal job). So to really emphasize just how tough this job can be and give these guys some credit, we thought we’d do some research and give you the inside scoop on what your brothers up north do for a living.

What is Ice Road Trucking?

Ice road trucking is what its name suggests. It’s trucking on ice - clever name for the next ice-skating show if I do say so myself. But being an ice road trucker is not for the faint-hearted or the inexperienced. You need to know how to handle your truck and trailer on dangerous roadway conditions. Because after all, the road is solid ice. And let’s just be clear, when I say road, what I am actually referring to is a frozen lake. Yep, these truckers drive across frozen lakes for a living - is that wild or what?

Known in Alaska as the Dalton Highway, this icy road stretches for 414 miles from Livengood to Prudhoe Bay. And truckers travel this route back and forth for about three to four months. Think you could do it?


Why is There a Need for Ice Road Trucking?

A frozen lake made into a road in remote locations in Alaska and Canada - seems a bit nonsensical, right? But as absurd as it sounds, the profession is needed. The places these trucks are stopping at need supplies, like medicine, food, equipment, and building materials.  And the only way to get all of it delivered affordably is with a truck. So for three months out of the year, truckers brave the ice, with its constant crackling sound and the ever-present danger of falling through. But if you can handle the stress, you’ll make your whole year’s salary in just three months time.

How Dangerous is this Job?  

If driving an 80,000 pound truck on thin ice doesn’t sound dangerous, I don’t know what does. But just like the regulations that the lower 48 states adhere to for safety, you can bet the boys in Alaska have plenty of rules to follow. The first being, no one travels alone. Convoys of trucks are assigned time slots with each trucker adhering to the same steady speed and space.

Are you thinking, wouldn’t more trucks on the ice cause it to crack? In theory, that would seem right, but thanks to physics we learn that without precise planning and alignment of trucks on the ice, the weight of the truck can create a swell of water to push ahead and crack the ice. And truckers aren’t out on the ice alone, there are plenty of patrols and maintenance crews working to make sure everyone makes it to the other side of the ice safely.

So what do you think? Want to skate across the ice in your truck? If so, the ice road trucking industry is always looking for brave souls. And if you’re an ice road trucker we’d love to hear more about your experience. Share your story with us in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

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