Ice Road Truckers (IRTs) aren’t much different than traditional truck drivers. Sure, there is an increased level of danger when driving Alaska’s Dalton Highway, but still the same truck driver training, certifications and experience are required whether on ice or on pavement.
Training and certification
Before any future IRT can get behind the wheel, he or she has to put their nose in a book first. A CDL test, the foremost authority on whether you’re cut out for the job, is comprised of knowledge and skill tests, both technically and mechanically. The test typically requires an 80% overall, which is doable, but definitely necessitates some practice.
It is recommended that any and every potential trucker, take an online CDL practice test before sitting down for the real thing. People rarely fail, but many suggest being wary of tricky wording, a commonly reported characteristic of the test. The best way to combat this is by reading each question carefully and studying the CDL manual thoroughly.
- Those who study hard, play hard. Don’t be afraid to become a bit of a bookworm.
- CDL tests aren’t the Bar Exam, but they are to be taken seriously nonetheless.
- Beware of tricky wording on the test. It’s a common threat.
- It’s helpful to know the CDL manual front to back.
Another part of the trucking experience to take into consideration is the experience necessary. The best way to be killed on the ice is to be unfamiliar with the terrain. Driving similar but safer routes with a copilot at first can ease you into the environment while helping you log some miles.
Regardless of the surface, driving a truck long distances is a battle best fought with a partner. Such as skydiving, bungee jumping or any extreme sport, you can’t jump into it on your own at first. Establishing independence is one part resilience and two parts paying your dues.
- Worthwhile experience is a prerequisite on any career path.
- Always become familiar with the terrain you will be driving on.
- Don’t be embarrassed if you need to ask for help, everyone is in this together.
Having an in somewhere always helps quell the stress. You can’t make that fateful connection with the producer of IRT from the safety of your couch, no matter how hard you try. Like any profession, making an effort and getting your name out there can go a long way when it comes to landing a job.
You never know who you will meet on the road, or at the truck stop, or even driving next to you. As a trucker you’re bound to see hundreds of faces a day, it doesn’t hurt to be a little charming. Don’t ever feel like you have to go out of your way, but always be appreciative and respectful to everyone around you.
- You never know who you are going to meet out on the road.
- Getting your name out there and making an effort goes a long way.
- Be respectful, be appreciative and be courteous to everyone around you.
Unfortunately, given the amount of IRT applications floating around, becoming one requires a lot of waiting and a little bit of luck. Don’t feel like you can’t someday make it onto the set with the rest of the gang, but don’t be discouraged if your phone calls and emails go unanswered by the network.
At the end of the day, you only have control over your own decisions and work ethic. IRTs would be around even if the cameras weren’t rolling, people often forget that. Remember that your job is to get from A to B safely with your load intact. Everything else is just glitz and glamour; don’t fall victim to the hype.
- Don’t be discouraged if you don’t hear back for a while, if at all.
- Remember that Hollywood isn’t going to pull your load, that’s your job.
- Even if you’re not on television, you’re still the backbone of this country.
About the guest post author:
Mark Kinsel is the President of Driver Solutions and for the past 19 years has passionately shared his knowledge and experience to help young truckers find their way. When he isn’t showing a trainee the ropes of the road he writes for Great CDL Training, a national leader in commercial truck driver training.
‘The odd one out’ Lisa Kelly – the tough ice road truck driver: