There are REAL ice road truckers. It’s a highly dangerous job and ice road truckers get paid some of the highest salaries in the business.
What makes the job so dangerous?
The drivers have to deal with freezing weather and snowstorms which make driving significantly more dangerous. And, they really do drive over frozen lakes, ponds, rivers and swamps and some drivers report being able to hear the ice cracking as they drive over it. Ice road truckers must always keep moving. The ice can hold the weight of a 100,000 pound truck – when it’s moving. If the truck comes to a standstill, the ice can only hold about 60,000 pounds of weight before it caves in so stopping is not an option.
The trucks themselves are specially outfitted at a cost of around $10,000. Special cab and engine heaters, satellite phones, first aid equipment and fuel additives.
The weather in Northern Canada can be brutal...it’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop to 50 below zero, not counting the wind chill factor which can make it feel twenty degrees or more colder. Drivers can even face hypothermia. Drivers have to carry food, water, supplies and other stuff.
Ice road trucker jobs are scare, mostly because of the high pay. They are paid between $20,000 and $80,000 for the season. The length of the season will vary depending on the climate. Typically, the season starts in the middle of January and will run to the middle of March. Some seasons can be as short as six weeks, while others can last several months.
It requires drivers with years of experience and recent truck driving school graduates need not apply. It also helps if you know someone in the business. Many drivers quit after their first trip and the turnover rate is upwards of 70 percent.
That’s the real skinny on ice road trucking, but what about the reality show Ice Road Truckers?
Since its debut in 2007, Ice Road Truckers has been a ratings machine for the History Channel.
The opening of the show from the first season showed a huge truck breaking through the ice and falling into the water. Question...how did the camera crew happen to be right there when it happened? Easy. They used miniature models.
Of course, the show is scripted as attested to by cast members then further edited to make them look like either heroes and villains.
On the show danger lurks at every turn and over every hill as trucks slide on the ice, risk breaking through the ice and sinking into a lake and nail biting trips through horrible blizzards plus any other drama the producers can think up.
In 2013, the website The Trucker polled truckers about their opinions on the show. One person complained the show perpetuates stereotypes and makes truckers look like buffoons. Others admitted that in spite of the reality of ice road trucking, it wouldn't be interesting enough to keep viewers entertained for an hour.
Of course, driving on the show is not always as dangerous as it appears...film crews are always camera crews in front of and behind the trucks, which requires being extra safe. Also, they don’t want to risk damage to all that equipment.
That doesn't mean there aren't risks involved. They are still dealing with heavy trucks and icy roads. It’s been determined that the best speed to get dramatic shots is 40 mph, which on ice is pretty fast especially with the film crew dangerously close.
Like all reality shows, it's not.