Ice trucking is a subset of truck driving that requires a special skill set to pull off. Driving on ice is no cake walk. You will have to contend with the regulatory, geographic, and weather constraints that accompany working as an Ice-Road Trucker.
Truckers may encounter avalanches or thin ice. The freezing conditions in some places could make ice roads fracture and steel become brittle leading to truck failure. While it is probably the most dangerous job in professional driving, it is also the most lucrative. Over the course of the short winter season, median ice-road truckers payment is higher compared to regular truckers.
Ice Road Trucking – Is that so dangerous?
What exactly do Ice-Road Truckers do on those long dangerous trips during the winter? It’s a lot like what Art Burke and Lisa Kelly (Carlile Transportation) describe on the history channel TV series.
Almost everywhere you can find IRT jobs, they usually entail making deliveries of equipment and supplies to businesses that need those items. These are loads that may be too bulky to fly on an airplane.
The biggest motivation, however, for hiring a trucker in winter is that it saves industries a lot of money. Mining crews are by far the biggest employers of qualified IRT workers in Northern Canada, Wisconsin, and Alaska where equipment, fuel, and food need to be transported at a low cost to oil rigs and gold mines.
These deliveries usually take a long time to arrive at their destinations. That is due, in part, to drivers being restricted to driving a little above fifteen miles per hour.
As we earlier alluded to driving at this speed does not preclude the possibility of encountering avalanches, blizzards, or fractured roads en route to the destination.
Risk of Ice Roads
Those are some of the very real risks that are associated with taking an IRT job. They could endanger the goods being transported and more importantly the driver’s life.
That is the major reason this line of work has a seventy percent turnover rate of new recruits and truckers unable to continue.
Truckers will inevitably, along with the line, encounter temperatures as low as -80 degrees Fahrenheit. They will have to make those trips even as the fuel begins to gel and the vehicle steel gets brittle by the minute.
They will have to make sure the truck is in perfect condition because the trip will not include truck stops much fewer repairs should there be a truck failure.
To make matters worse, there is the very real possibility of being unable to call for help due to the absence of cell reception.
How Much Do Ice Road Truckers Get Paid?
Ice Road Trucker Companies
How much do ice road truckers make? How much a trucker company is willing to pay you for your services is usually specific to that company.
That is not to say market forces do not determine salaries. When you put regular commercial truck drivers and ice-road truckers together in 2018, the median pay is approximately $66,700 per annum. For only two to three months, the average ice road truckers salary is approximately $40,000.
Ice-road trucking companies have contracts with industries for making deliveries of supplies to an oil rig and gold mine workers. If you get hired, driving through Wisconsin, Michigan, Alaska or Northern Canada, could mean an income as much as $120000 in a couple of months.
Canadian companies like Yellowknife-based RLC Robinson and Westcan Bulk Transport Ltd. are good examples of employers that offer high-paying ice road trucking jobs.
Jobs in Alaska
If you choose to work for a trucker company that does business in Alaska, however, you will likely be driving on the 414-mile Dalton Highway. Dubbed the loneliest road in the US for seeing the least amount of motorists yearly, the road, also called State Route 11, is even quieter in the winter season.
The temperatures can get as low as -80 degrees Fahrenheit and blizzards occur quite frequently. Truckers carrying supplies to oil fields in the Arctic may have to brave the resulting visibility challenge.
There is also a 240-mile segment of the road without access to any kind of service. Avalanches and frozen debris lobes are major challenges.
Getting hired for such a delivery is quite a challenge because of the limited number of jobs available. The most encouraging thing from a trucker’s perspective is that the route does not cut across any frozen lakes so thin ice is not a danger they face.
That is unless you are adventurous enough for tundra and Polar Ice Caps on the North slope on the way to Barrow.
IRT pay per episode of delivery typically adds up to around $100k for owner-operators by the end of winter. Whatever you decide, you will need low-pressure tires, adequate heating and supplies for your truck and for yourself.
Why are IRT Truckers Paid More?
Simply put, the generous compensation long-haul truckers driving over ice roads enjoy is because of the risks we have just highlighted. This is not driving on the express. Imagine driving at 10mph over four hundred miles of ice road including sea ice per load.
That is very risky! Companies are willing to pay six figures in the space of 3 months. That happens only if you’re willing to make the trip regularly enough. $250,000 is what some owner-operators make a year. They don’t mind that pay scale since it saves them enormous costs.
How to Become and Ice Road Trucker
To become an ice road trucker, however, there are a number of things that need to be sorted out. You need to be prepared for a competitive application process. This is a high-paying short-term job with only limited slots. First, you ought to make sure you are qualified before you apply.
Hiring will typically be based on whether or not you have the requisite experience, specialized training, and records from previous gigs. You should, for instance, have done over-the-road commercial trucking for at least six months, a certificate from a recognized truck driving school, and, a record of at least three years without accidents. Your application forms should reflect these.
Once you have all of these in the bag along with your CDL Class A license, it is time to submit your resume. It is imperative that you pick ice road trucking company that is professional and attentive to the little details.
That could be the difference between ending up in a life-threatening situation and being a successful trucker. Check out the company’s safety rating and insurance benefits.
Ice Road Truck Driving – Risks and Reward
As you consider a career in ice-road trucking, you are going to have to decide for yourself whether how much you get paid outweighs the risk. So many fledgling ice road truckers careers die – the turnover rate is huge.
To have any chance of success, you have to make sure that you have taken driving lessons that focus on ice-road simulations. You would be even better if you actually have a prior experience of driving on icy roads. If you do so, you will be prepared for most of the difficulties that come with the job.
With adequate preparation in the bag, you have the potential to earn over $100,000 in a couple of months. Many are finding the average ice road truckers pay to be worth the risk because they did what is needed.