Ice road trucking jobs in northern Canada are a specialized 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 a short season!
Before pursuing a career in ice road trucking, there are a number of things you should keep in mind.
- First and foremost, you need to be certain you meet basic qualifications to start an ice road trucking job.
- Secondly, you should make sure you understand the risks, restrictions, regulations and pay. Not everyone is cut out for ice road trucking but if you think you’ve got what it takes then we have some tips for getting started.
ABOUT ICE ROAD TRUCKING JOBS
In mid-winter, in the bleak Canadian north, a group of truckers haul goods and supplies to northern miners in the area on the frozen roads, between Yellowknife, NWT and the mines. The rugged, barren highways composed of frozen tundra and lakes are lonely and dangerous.
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. Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories acts as the distribution point for all goods moving north to the mines. 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.
Trucking their supplies, even considering the cost of maintaining the ice roads, is one-third of the cost of having the supplies flown which is a substantial savings.
The short season, good pay, and limited job openings makes this one of the most competitive trucking careers you can pursue.
QUALIFICATIONS – DO YOU QUALIFY TO BE AN ICE ROAD TRUCKER?
Before getting started on an ice road trucking career, you should consider if you qualify. Each company will have different requirements from their drivers as far as previous experience, specialty training and driving records.
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.
Another reason that Canadian drivers are preferred is because they have experience driving in rough winter conditions. If you are an American hoping to get a job as an ice road trucker then it would benefit you to work in areas with blizzard conditions like Wyoming, Colorado or Montana.
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, fair or not, it’s reality.
- Ice Road Trucking Job Tip: 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. Keep trying and your determination could pay off.
JOB HAZARDS FOR ICE ROAD TRUCKING
Ice road truckers are trained to be prepared for any of the common issues they may encounter daily, without the luxury of truck stops and road-side repair.
However, there are some harsh realities to a career in ice road trucking. The money a driver earns running from an ice road trucking job, is well-deserved. The dangers and thrills of this job are many such as severe weather, avalanches, road hazards, thin ice, truck failure, and more.
Here are some facts to mull over before submitting your resume.
- Statistics show that there is about a 70% turnover of drivers coming and going from the ice road which is 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 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 in this extremely frigid weather.
- There are whiteouts, 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 your truck were to breakdown, it could be deadly. The routes are extremely isolated and you cannot leave your truck idling if there were a break down. The freezing temperatures could turn a simple breakdown into a life-threatening situation.
But It Won’t Happen To Me!
If these facts aren’t enough to give the potential ice road trucker 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 then give ice road trucking a hard look before going head first. If you don’t mind the extremely cold weather and potential dangers, then ice road trucking may be just the driving job you’ve always wanted!
- Ice Road Trucking Job Tip: Pay attention during your specialty training. You will learn emergency protocols as well as potential hazards to watch for. These are life-threatening situations and you need to have your wits about you.
ICE ROAD TRUCKING JOBS – PAY
The first thing that many find attractive about ice road trucking jobs is the pay. Truckers can literally make the equivalent of an annual salary in a couple of months. Pay varies for these ice road trucking jobs, according to the driver’s trucking experience and the ice road trucking company the driver works for.
Weather permitting, the average trip from Yellowknife to the mines takes one day. The average load pays $450 to the truck driver.
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.
When loaded, trucks travel under 20 mph 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. That’s pretty decent money for only a few months of driving.
High dollar earnings combined with a major boost to a trucker’s resume, it’s easy to see why so many truck drivers are attracted to ice road trucking.
- Ice Road Trucking Job Tip: The pay is what attracts many potential ice road truckers but you need to be absolutely certain that you are comfortable with the risks. Get work in an area that gives you valuable experience in blizzard conditions for your own experience and peace of mind.
WHAT DO THE ICE ROAD TRUCKING COMPANIES PROVIDE?
Accommodation is provided by the trucking companies at no charge, as is the food at the camps. This is a nice perk, however, 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.
Another benefit that ice road companies provide is that they will provide 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 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. Drivers are allowed to do split sleeper shifts, which is quite different than when truckers travel in the continental U.S.
These truck drivers must decide for themselves where to sleep for the night, how long to drive for and how hard to push themselves, as there are no authorities in this wilderness to patrol their hours of service.
ICE ROAD TRUCKING JOBS – HIRING COMPANIES
If you’re still determined to get into an ice road trucking career, then the following companies hire drivers to run the ice roads.
However, 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.)
These companies hire drivers for ice road trucking and they run year-round. 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.
- 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)
- 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 XOE OAO 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 use the ice roads to deliver to their customers in winter months, they do not specialize in ice road trucking jobs or service which 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 – IRT
Besides the financial perks, ice road truckers see some awesome sights on their journeys, the raw and wild Canadian tundra scenery and wild animals, up close at times. It really can be the experience of a lifetime. Some love the work and the challenge but many quit early on in their career.
The following is from a truck driver who has experienced the ice roads.
“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.”
Some may be drawn to ice road trucking because of popular television programs like Ice Road Truckers and IRT: Deadliest Roads.
These programs follow these ‘trucking heroes’ on the ice roads of northern Canada. These shows have been a great hit. They combine adventure, survival of the fittest, and danger.
If you want to get a glimpse of the dangers that ice road truckers face then this show, although oriented to be a drama and structured as such, gives you a perspective you may not otherwise see without driving the roads yourself.
READY TO BECOME AN ICE ROAD TRUCKER?
Ice road trucking is one of the toughest and riskiest jobs.
If you are cut from the right cloth then submit your resume and pray because it’s a difficult industry to break into and even when you do get in and you may find that you don’t like the work or that the hazards are too much for you.
It’s a dangerous job, and not one for suited for just ANY truck driver. Many that do try their hand at this kind of trucking, don’t stay with the job for long. No matter what, it will be a life-changing experience for you.
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