This post was last updated on April 10th, 2017
Until the famous Ice Road Truckers TV series, most people had never heard of ice road trucking – unless they were in the trucking business themselves. A highly dangerous job, ice road truckers get paid some of the highest salaries in the business. With great risk comes great reward, but how much can you really expect to earn? First, let’s discuss what makes this job so dangerous, and then talk salary numbers.
Why is Ice Road Trucking So Dangerous?
The job title says it all. Ice road truckers have to deal with freezing weather and snowstorms – both of which make road travel significantly more dangerous. Some drivers report being able to hear the ice cracking as they drive over it.
The weather in Northern Canada can be brutal during the winter. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop to -50 C (-45 F) without wind-chill. With wind-chill factored in, temperatures can feel closer to -70 C (-95F).
When temperatures drop this low, mechanical issues are a major threat, and road conditions can be especially dangerous. On top of all that, the drivers themselves face the very real threat of hypothermia.
Did we forget to mention that ice roads really aren’t roads at all? These truckers actually drive over frozen lakes, ponds, rivers and swamps to reach the Northern corners of Alaska and Canada.
To get out alive, ice road truckers must always be on the move. 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. Stopping is not an option and can spell disaster for everyone and everything in the truck.
- White outs
- Ice road fractures
Ice road trucking is not for everyone. The pay is fantastic, but it’s in line with the risk you’re taking each season.
How Much Do Ice Road Truckers Get Paid?
Ice road trucking is one of the best paying jobs in the industry.
The length of the season will vary depending on the climate.
Northern climates can be temperamental, so the season is usually in line with whatever Mother Nature has planned. 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.
Keep in mind that the salary listed above is for just six weeks – two months of work. Needless to say, ice road truckers are paid very well.
Ice road trucking jobs aren’t as readily available as your typical over-the-road trucking job. You won’t find these opportunities through conventional companies, like Western Express Trucking.
You’ll need to travel to Canada or Alaska to find these opportunities, and they’re scarce. Why? Because the pay is so high.
Some of the companies that offer ice road trucking opportunities include:
Ice Road Trucking Companies
- Big Bear Trucking (CA)
- Buyers Transport
- Heron’s Trucking (CA)
- Grimshaw Trukcing (CA)
- Dickson’s Trucking (CA)
- Island Valley Oil Ltd (CA)
- H & R Transport
- Expedite North (CA)
- Liard Valley Trucking (CA)
- Land Trans
- K and D Contracting (CA)
- Moore Trucking (CA)
- Northwest Transport
- TLI CHO Landtra Transport (CA)
- Northern Transportation
It’s not easy to land a job as an ice road trucker. The top trucking companies are looking for drivers with years of experience. Recent graduates from truck driving schools won’t even be considered. To succeed at such a dangerous job, you need to know the ins and outs of trucking, and rookies just don’t have the experience needed for a risky job like this.
The ice road trucking community is tight-knight, which can make it hard for newcomers to break into the business. If you don’t know someone in the industry or aren’t referred by someone, your application will probably be tossed aside. It’s an unfair practice, but very much a reality in this dangerous business.
Why Are Ice Road Truckers Paid More?
Ice road truckers are paid more for one simple reason: the job requires more skill and conditions are dangerous. It also costs considerably more to outfit a truck for driving in such extreme weather conditions.
It takes about $10,000 to outfit a truck for ice road conditions. Special cab and engine heaters will be required to handle the freezing temperatures. Satellite phones and first aid equipment add to expenses as well as fuel additives that prevent freezing.
When temperatures get as cold as they do in the North, nearly every part of the truck is subject to failure from the rims to truck frame itself.
Ice roads are long and lonely with few opportunities to make stops. Drivers must bring extra food, water, supplies and other parts to get through each trip. Even something as simple as changing fuel filters or adding fuel gels can be dangerous to drivers as the frigid temperatures are life-threatening.
While the pay is great, most truckers don’t return to the job the next season. Ice road trucking has a 70% turnover rate because conditions are so dangerous, and the job can be very stressful at times. Many drivers quit after their first trip.
Dangers aside, most truckers will never travel at speeds greater than 15 mph, which can make for long and dreary days. With no cell reception in the area, drivers are very isolated.
The Reward is Worth the Risk
If you haven’t been scared off by the dangers and risks of the job, the reward is worth the risk in this field. Ice road truckers can earn an entire year’s salary for just two months of driving. The high salary is certainly an attractive factor, but it’s important to seriously consider the risks associated with this job.
You need to have a survivalist attitude, experience and exceptional skill to get through the season alive. And with every trip you take, you put your life on the line. But if you have the skills and guts, ice road trucking may be the right choice for you.