Ice Road Trucker -- Scariest Job in the World

Ice Road TruckerDianne Rowland, wife of Ice Road Trucker Hugh Rowland, was perfectly happy to let her husband disappear into the great white north for a couple of months every year, trucking goods and equipment to and from the mines in the Arctic Circle. Until she saw the first episode of the History Channel's television series that chronicles his journeys. Five minutes into it, she put her foot down and said he wasn't going back. Their three daughters agreed with their mother.

Rowland, a big, burly bear of a man, laughed and reminded her that he'd been doing it safely for the past 30 years. He loves it, and besides, it has provided a good living for them all. In just a few months, he and the other truckers he employs gross about $250,000 -- and that's only in about two months.

During the rest of the year, when he's not battling the elements, Rowland lives in Whitfield, Canada, and has a successful excavation business, for which he also drives heavy equipment. He also spends about a month hunting -- moose, elk, bear and the like; and yes, he does eat what he kills. Just recently he skinned a bear and had a bear barbecue. And there's also the annual family vacation in Aruba -- by the time the thaw begins, usually in March, he is more than ready to exchange white snow and ice for white sand and aquamarine water. Who can blame him?

-- See average salaries for drivers of heavy tractor-trailer trucks, delivery trucks and medium-sized trucks.

Danger, danger Hugh Rowland!

Jobs related to Ice Road Truckers

There are approximately 1.3 workers employed in the U.S. truck transportation industry, according to the BLS and overall job opportunities should be favorable, especially for long-haul drivers.

Related Keywords

Common Job Requirements

  • CDL
  • Minimum age of 22
  • Clean driving record
  • Alcohol and drug testing
  • Ability to sit for long periods


$17.92 -- median hourly wages of heavy truck and tractor-trailer drivers reported by BLS May 2008. Long-haul drivers may be paid by the mile, with bonus opportunities.

The months that he spends on those icy roads are more than just grueling -- they're supremely dangerous. Rowland is accustomed to it, however. He'd been hauling with his dad since he was 15, and then when diamonds were discovered up there, he bought his own rig. As he could manage it, he added to his fleet. "It's not scary for me, even though I'm constantly in big risk situations." he says. "I've seen guys in front of me and behind me fall through the ice."

The hauls begin 1,900 miles from his home, in Yellowknife, Canada -- which is about four hours outside of Vancouver. "I try to pick up a load in Edmonton, Alberta on my way up," he says. Once he loads up in Yellowknife, he drives across hundreds of miles of land and lakes; it takes up to four hours to cross some of the bigger bodies of water.

The deep of winter is the only time the lakes are frozen solid enough to hold the weight of the heavy trucks -- which must keep moving, because the ice will only hold a 100,000 lb. truck when it's in motion. If the truck is still, the ice will only take about 60,000 lbs. of weight. That's why breakdowns can be lethal. Even while you're driving, according to Rowland, you can see and hear the ice cracking in front of you and behind you. It constantly sounds as if you're going down. It constantly sounds terrifying.

"It can be," Rowland says good naturedly. "I've had new guys quit before they make their first stop. They say, 'Get me out of here!' and want to be flown home the second we reach camp." They'll gladly return the $15,000 advance Rowland gives each driver, to take care of their families and financial obligations at home because they'll be on the road for months at a time. "A lot of people want to try when they hear that, but if they say, 'Just let me check with my wife,' I know it's probably not for them."

Nothing flusters him... almost

So Rowland is not afraid to haul heavy loads over thin ice in the worst weather conditions possible, and when he's not doing that, he's taking on bears and other wildlife in the forest. Is there anything that scares this guy?

ice road trucker"I guess I'm afraid of water," he says. "I can't swim, and I sink like a rock. I'll go out in a boat, but I always wear a life jacket." That begs the question: Does he wear a life jacket when he drives his truck over frozen water? After all, there's always the threat of the ice cracking and the truck falling through. "Oh no!" he laughs. "What would be the point? If you go down in a truck you ain't coming back. No one has ever lived through that."

Which brings us right back to a full understanding of why his wife implored him to stop.

Just in case you don't get enough nail-biting tension on the TV series, you can get more information about Rowland from his new book, 'On Thin Ice: Breakdowns, Whiteouts, and Survival on the World's Deadliest Roads,' which he wrote along with Michael Lent.

Next: Dirty Jobs' Mike Rowe: Works Hard and Smart >>

Related Stories from

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:
Indica bob

You'll love it! Take some apex so you don't jackknife the trailer!!!

November 27 2013 at 9:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wholesale Clothing Brands,Outdoor Jackets、Free Jackets、Down Jackets、Boots、The North Face、Canada Goose、Mamort、Mammut、Arcteryx、Columbia、Supras、Nike、Ugg、Asics...

October 11 2011 at 5:23 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am ready,have a class A cdl with tanker and Haz.Mat. member of the million mile club,give me a shot.

June 01 2011 at 4:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chase Bowers


thank you for posting and sharing this information to us about truckers job i know it is not easy to be a trucker but still it will be a nice job that can help you.

thank you also for the blog that give us information why ice trucker are the most scariest job in the world and it take us a lesson.

thank you

July 09 2010 at 7:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brandon Bachman Sr

How do I get a shot at being hired to do this job.Ihave 23yrs driving,over the road and local here in Texas would like to hear from someone on how maybe to get a shot at ice-road trucking. THANK YOU

June 19 2010 at 3:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i was a big bad teamster driver for 31 years and i think rowland is gay ...... not that anything is wrong with that ...

June 14 2010 at 11:35 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I may sound suicidal but, where do I sign for this job?

June 14 2010 at 11:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's something stupid they're doing just to do it, the expense doesn't justify it. Use more and lighter trucks, pay a lot less for decreased risks. If time is an issue use container bed trucks so there's no load/unload time. Even the larger superdutys can be had with all wheel drive, then you're talking class b and a whole lot less money. Sounds to me like it's a GSE with arbitrary specs because apparently money is no object.

June 14 2010 at 10:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was up there the past two summers. Absolutely nothing like it. But---you better be prepared for extreme isolation and many, many potentially deadly situations.

June 14 2010 at 8:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I have read over 100 0f the comments on this site and think it is Stupid, as there are thousands of jobs in this world and these guys and gals are just doing what they want to do.
And yes it pay's good, that is why they take the risk.
I do not know what Obama or Palin have to do with it , or anybody else. As long as there is a job to do, let them take the risk and do the job, and just shut up about it.
It is quite obvious that Obama or Palin or anybody else will not do it. So just let these people do what they do for a living and be thankful for their efforts and appreciate what they do.
I have never drove a big rig and don't care too. But until YOU do and know the risk, please do not condemn what they do. Just appreciate that they make things happen with-in our world today. And I don't care if they make a couple of million dollars off of their show that is a part of life that they deserve if they survive.
Oh! Yes!! our military forces I praise them also as they are doing their Job also. That is what they signed up for and I would not expect any less from them, I love them and their efforts and may God Bless them. Thank You, Mike

June 14 2010 at 8:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

Week of Nov 9 - Nov 16
View All

Featured Writers

Meet the team

Picks From the Web