The other night I was watching TV and while switching the channels, I saw a TV-show called Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel. It’s a reality TV-show about truckers who drive in the risky conditions of ice-covered roads and paths of the Northern Canada and Alaska.
Watching the show made me think about people who do jobs on the brink of hazardousness. Driving trucks in such a pitiless environment (unlike some roads we featured here) definitely is one of the most daring and audacious jobs you have ever seen. Not only that they have to fight the outer unpredicted situations, but they also need to win all the little struggles they have in their own minds.
Truckers: Road Astronauts
Having decided to start working as an ice road trucker, you commenced a journey whose final result is extremely uncertain. Trucking itself is a challenging and demanding profession. While there are certain advantages of such an occupation, like traveling thousands of miles, visiting areas you would otherwise never see, meeting new people and the overall freedom of movement, trucking can be really tiring. Some truckers say that sometimes they feel as if they were astronauts.
The similarities are striking. They roam through unknown spaces, not knowing what might collide with them around the corner (ok, the term “corner” when talking about astronauts and the space is a little bit physically inappropriate), they spend months in isolated cabins and still there are people who couldn’t do anything else in the world except for trucking and flying to the space. There is one major difference between truckers and astronauts: the way they move. Whereas astronauts’ range of movement is quite narrowed, truckers’ movement scope is probably the key feature of this job. There’s something almost extraterrestrial in the fact that you can sit in your truck and drive for days in all possible weather and climate conditions, hanging out on the way with your fellow truckers, deliver the load you are carrying and get paid for that. Sounds like a dream job, ain’t it? Well, some folks just don’t find it thrilling enough.
In Cold Truck
Truckers who don’t find the regular trucking and ordinary driving tours adrenaline-boosting as they wish them to be turn more extreme. You have many hardly accessible parts of the world and goods have to be delivered there, as well. This is the slot where all those daredevils whose adrenal glands need a stronger “shot in the arm” aim to fit in.
So the aforementioned show Ice Road Truckers really authentically depicts the challenges and troubles that extreme truckers are facing with. And those truckers’ drives are followed by the TV-crew. You can only imagine how dangerous trucking in completely uncontrolled conditions can be. The greatest fear the aurora borealis truckers are coping with is the fear of getting frozen. Since the weather is mostly snowy, temperatures way below 32 F and roads are icy and slippery, there is an immense number of examples how things can go wrong.
If you don’t adjust your speed to the current conditions, you can easily turn over, slide from the road and end up beside it, in the heart of bitter nowhere. Moreover, there are some ordinary breakdowns that can also make your driving in the north a real horror. A flat tire is one of them. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to change a tire when there are snow-vomiting dragons of cold around you. And if you decide not to change the tire, you have to drive real slow, which causes delaying the delivery.
Dalton Highway Revisited
One of the most demanding and dangerous roads in the subpolar region is the Dalton Highway, also known as the North Slope Haul Road. It stretches from Fairbanks, Alaska to Deadhorse, also Alaska, with the total length of about 400 miles. The final northern point of this road is situated at the mouth of Prudhoe Bay, a part of the Beaufort Sea. The Dalton Road was built in 1974, as a path parallel with the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline. The load that is mostly carried along this route is oil, since there are many oil fields in around Deadhorse, in Prudhoe Bay.
Canadian Diamonds and Extreme Trucking
When it comes to most extreme Canadian roads, they are mainly in connection with diamond mining. The most prominent region is Luc de Gras, with two most important mines: Ekati Diamond Mine and Diavik Diamond Mine. Diamonds were found in this region for the first time in 1991 and since then the demand for truckers has grown in this region.
What makes this trucking job extremely perilous is the nonexistence of real roads, that is to say the gravel roads cease to exist some 40 miles to the northeast from the town of Yelloknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Your roads are actually paths on frozen lakes. You have your GPRS system, your maps and your wit to beat the nature, survive the journey(s) and deliver the load you are supposed to.
Over the Iced-Lake Roads
The 40-inch thick layer of ice is a guarantee that you won’t get dipped into the water and driven over. However, if that happens, the truck driver has only a couple of seconds to jump out of the cabin. While having saved yourself from drowning in the truck cabin, the next issue is how to get yourself out of the bitter cold water and swim out on the ice. Truckers shouldn’t be compared only to astronauts, but they can also be put side by side with divers, as well. Now just imagine working as a trucker and transporting fuel, steel, explosives and other goods needed for the mines across these lakes. It is true that everyone who applies for such a job know all the perils and joys that kind of work brings. Nevertheless, it sounds both hazardous and fascinating.
Hot Trucking in the Middle East
However difficult and exciting trucking on the western brink of the Northern Hemisphere might sound, there are also roads in other parts of the world that will make you cry, swear, tumble and crumble, but you will still crave for driving on these exact roads. While there are many immigrant truckers in the US and Canada, we have a growing trend of the Americans going to drive trucks in the Middle East.
Due to conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the participation of European and American peace troops, there is a need for food products and other brands from the USA and Europe, as well as fuel and ammunition. The climate in this part of the world is arid and temperatures are very high. The main problems when trucking through this area are different climate conditions (e.g. if you come from Edmonton or Salt Lake City, you will have certain inconveniences before you get accustomed to the climate).
Please, Don’t You Rob My Truck
If you’re driving your truck through Afghanistan and some ex-USSR republics, you have to be aware that you can get attacked by different paramilitary groups which then rob you and ransack your truck, especially outside the larger cities. Afghanistan is particularly a problematic country for trucking on account of its mountainous terrain and underdeveloped highway system.
Arabian Peninsula – Trucking mecca
Nevertheless, if you move a little bit to the south-west, the situation is much better. The first and foremost is the fact that this region has a way much friendlier terrain for trucking. The countries in the Arabian Peninsula, like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, together with Jordan, have made a net of modern highways which lessen the risk of potentially dangerous areas since truckers don’t have to drive through inhabited parts. The transportation process is now smoother and it looks like it is going to continue improving.
Sandy Road Take Me Home
There are, though, still some problems here, but less life-threatening than those up in Afghanistan and other neighboring countries. One of the problems when driving along across-desert highways is sand storms and the resulting layers of sand on the roads.
Apart from being hazardous for the balance of trucks, sand can cause a lot of damage to the transmission system, leaving you alone and unable to move in the middle of the desert. The only difference between that and being in the same situation somewhere around the town of Wiseman along the Dalton Highway in Alaska is the fact that when in Saudi Arabia, you have no one who you could ask for help.
As we have already pointed out, weather conditions in deserts are completely extreme, so don’t be surprised if at day you drive your truck only in your shorts and at night you have to put on a jumper and a jacket, even if the heating in the cabin is on. Some truckers claim that at night they have to light fires close to their tanks so that the diesel fuel doesn’t freeze.
Trucking in extreme conditions definitely brings more challenge and makes drivers more proficient at their profession, not to mention the money it brings. Driving in extreme conditions is worth more, so that is another motif to take up that kind of job. However, always gather all the information about your employers, the areas they want to send you to and always find out about other people’s experiences in terms of trucking conditions (you can find many helpful tips on this forum).