Ice road trucking jobs in northern Canada….. a different type of trucking which only a small segment of the truck driver population will ever get to experience.
Due to the dangerous conditions and the many unique challenges, these risky positions, pay more than the average professional driving job in the allotted time.
In spite of the many hardships of these jobs, many truckers from all over the world, attempt to pursue a driving career on the ice roads….the goal? Make the big bucks during the short season!
Ice road trucking is seasonal, as one might expect. The ice roads are only viable for two to three months of the year, depending entirely on the weather. Through these few months, the ice roads are well maintained and patrolled by both maintenance crews and enforcement personnel.
Gold mines in the north require everything from fuel for the equipment to food for their crews. The most cost effective way for these mines to receive their necessary supplies, is by truck. Trucking their supplies even with the cost of maintaining the ice roads, is one third of the cost of having the supplies flown in… quite a cost savings.
Some equipment needed for the gold mining operations are simply too big and heavy to be flown in. They must be brought in by truck.
Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories acts as the distribution point for all goods moving north to the mines.
Ice Road Trucking Jobs – Pay
Weather permitting, the average trip from Yellowknife to the mines, takes one day. The average load pays $450 to the truck driver. Although there’s good money to be made for one load, a one way trip to the mine… $450 CDN, keep in mind that’s one entire day.
Work commences near the beginning of January each year and runs for a few months. The rigs on the ice roads deliver supplies needed in the diamond mines.
The trips on the ice roads to the mines range from 225 miles to 250 miles, and take from 2 to 2 1/2 days to complete.
Trucks travel under 20 mph when loaded going to the mines and are able to travel a little faster, when unloaded, coming from the mines.
So, two days driving would bring in about $900, one round trip, when working with the hours of service restrictions.
This translates to a company truck driver earnings of between $30,000 to $40,000 CDN in about 3 months, with very little out of pocket expenses other than some snack foods to help pass the time….pretty decent money for a few months of driving.
Combine the high dollar earnings with the challenge and the addition to a trucker’s resume, that they have successfully driven the ice roads of Canada, it’s easy to see why so many truck drivers are attracted to ice road trucking.
What Do the Ice Road Companies Provide?
Accommodation is provided by the trucking companies at no charge, as is the food at the camps. But the trucking companies strive to maximize the hours the truckers are on the move, as the season is so short. Consequently, if a driver is in camp, it won’t be for very long.
The trucking companies take care of all the specialty training if a truck driver is new to the ice roads.
Hundreds of seasonal ice road trucking jobs are available each year for those drivers who wish to apply. After the ice road trucking season is over each year, there are full time positions available when the ice roads are closed for the season.
Canadian Hours of Service & The Effects on Ice Road Drivers
Canadian Hours of Service allow for 15 hours driving time per day. The speed limit on the ice roads is 20 mph. Another thing to keep in mind is due to the earth’s rotational pattern during the peak ice road season, most of the day’s driving will be done in the dark. So, drivers often feel like they’ve been driving all night!
Stopping spots are few and far between. Rest breaks are still included for on duty time for the hours of service.
For the most part, unless drivers are able to plan their reset of hours in a camp, they’ll be resetting in the bunk of their truck.
Canadian hours of service mandate only an 8 hour sleeper break between shifts and drivers are allowed to do split sleeper shifts, which is quite different than when truckers travel in the continental U.S.
Qualifications – Ice Road Truckers
Most, but not all ice road trucking companies prefer Canadian citizens, due to the fact that it’s much easier to hire a Canadian. However, it’s possible to obtain seasonal or permanent work permits to be employed.
Only a small number of truckers that chase after ice road trucking jobs, actually secure a job. In fact, it’s understood that it’s a pretty tight little community, so unless you’ve been ‘referred’ or know someone in the business, the ice road companies will toss your application aside…. not a fair practice, but it’s reality.
On the bright side, don’t be too discouraged…..there’s an incredibly high turn over rate, which gives lots of opportunity to try for one of these great ice road job opportunities.
Job Hazards for Ice Road Trucking
However, like anything that seems to good to be true, there are some realities drivers who decide to pursue such an adventure, ought to be aware of.
- Statistics show that there is about a 70% turnover of drivers coming and going from the ice roads…. a very high turnover rate.
- Many truckers quit the job after the first trip. There’s no denying the challenges of this type of driving job. Our advice to drivers….. Go into this type of driving with your eyes open!
- Average daily temperatures in this region in the winter months hover around -37F.
- -50- to -60F temperature days are not uncommon. Severe cold temperatures can cause steel to become brittle and can cause steel to snap. Everything from truck rims to truck frames are subject to failure. Fuel gels at these temperatures and even swapping out fuel filters on the side of the road can be a very dangerous experience is extremely frigid weather.
- There are white outs, fractures in the ice roads and accidents which can also affect the number of trips a driver is able to complete during the ice road season.
- The average trip speed is about 15 mph…. this ultra slow speed can make for a very long dreary day. Forget about making the day pass more quickly by chatting to your buddy on your cell phone… there’s no cell phone reception in the area!
If these facts aren’t enough to give the potential trucker looking to hit the ice roads cause for concern, consider this… Marvin Robinson, CEO of Robinson Trucking, the largest operation of trucks on the ice roads comments on the dangers of trucks going through the ice……. ‘it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when‘. Trucks DO break through the ice and drivers MAY go for a swim!
If you’re looking for a challenge or a chance to go for something completely different in your truck driving career,… something you can brag about to your friends, and you don’t mind the extremely cold weather, ice road trucking may be just the driving job you’ve always wanted!
Ice Road Trucking Jobs – Hiring Companies
The following companies hire drivers to run the ice roads, but only RLC Robinson is a true ice road company. They are the largest trucking company in the Northwest Territories. They own, build and maintain the ice roads.
You can try contacting any of these companies directly. Some of the websites provide more detailed information. (You’ll find information difficult to track down on this type of work.)
- RLC Robinson (Now managed by TriWest Capital Partners) Mailing Address: 350 Old Airport Road, Yellowknife, NWT X1A 3T4 867-873-6271 Fax 867-920-2661( Several hundred ice road trucking jobs)
These companies hire drivers for ice road trucking and they run year round. Most for most truckers who have in mind the big bucks ice road runs, these aren’t the lucrative deals most drivers are looking for. However, they do have year round work.
- Westcan Bulk Transport (sister company of RLC Robinson)
- Big Bear Trucking Hay River, NorthWT. Canada
- Buyers Transport
- Dickson’s Trucking Yellowknife, NorthWT. Canada 867-873-1754
- Expedite North Yellowknife, NorthWT Canada 867-873-3157
- Grimshaw Trucking Yellowknife, NorthWT. Canada. 867-873-4548
- Heron’s Trucking Fort Smith, NWT 867-872-2582
- H & R Transport
- Island Valley Oil Ltd (Esso) Norman Wells, NWT 867-587-2587
- K and D Contracting NWT Canada X0E 0A0 Phone# 867-978-2792
- Land Trans
- Liard Valley Trucking Fort Liard, NWT Canada 867-770-4432
- Moore Trucking Yellowknife, NWT. Canada 867-444-6327
- Northwest Transport
- Northern Transportation
- TLI CHO Landtra Transport Yellowknife, NWT. Canada
Note: Landro emphasizes on their website to submit an application for an ice road trucking job for October 1st, and not before.
While each of these trucking companies may utilize ice roads to deliver to their customers in winter months, they do not specialize in ice road trucking jobs or service. This means their drivers are paid by the mile and don’t receive additional pay when they do travel the ice roads.
However, if you desire the true ice road trucking experience, your best bet is to contact RTL Robinson Enterprises in Yellowknife and send in an application online. They are THE REAL ice road trucking company, contrary to what any of the expensive online ebooks you see, which state they’ll tell you all of the companies which have ice road trucking jobs.
Real Life Experience on the Ice Roads
By Barry, BC, Canada
Jescon Transport, 100 Mile House, BC
I am getting a little tired of hearing about the ice roads out of Yellowknife, and how wonderful it is.
I hauled those roads in the winter of 2004 into 2005. Snap Lake, Diavik, Lupin,and Jericho mines were some of my destinations. I worked for the main trucking company on those roads at that time.
During that season, one truck and driver went thru the ice and the driver died. It was a very low paying job at 24 cents a km. and doing 15 to 30 km an hour. Well, you do the math.
Any tying down loads, fueling, repairs, stuck in blizzards or anything else outside of driving, I did not get paid for.
The food was pretty much non-existent and when you found something, usually sandwiches at checkpoints like Lockhart or Lac de Gras, you had to load up as there would not be much more.
Trucks were 20 years old and you drove wrapped in your sleeping bag to keep the cold out.
I eventually quit with about 20 other guys. I then flew from Yellowknife to Edmonton and hired on with a company driving a hay shaker moving oil rigs.
The pay was $35/hour and time and a half after 10 hours on that job, and there was no shortage of hours. I was able to make some money there to make up for my terrible ice road experience.
- Quick link for Information for Immigration
More Job Articles: