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In the dead of winter, as temperatures plunge to well below zero in the frozen wastes of Canada’s Northwest Territories, semi-trailer trucks roll across the icebound surfaces of Arctic lakes, hauling heavy equipment to and from diamond mines located about 200 miles north of the territorial capital of Yellowknife. Driving these ice road trucks is tedious and dangerous, but the compensation is generous, making this one of the best-paid commercial transportation jobs in the world.
Ice road trucking in Canada is limited to a short season of about two months, during which jobs are available to professional truckers through several dozen trucking companies located in Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik and other communities. The season runs from February until April, or until warm temperatures prevent the use of the ice roads in northern Canada. Drivers negotiate contracts for individual runs through companies that agree to hire them; generally, the more contracts a driver has signed, the better his compensation will be.
Average Pay Per Run
TheTruckersPlace.com offers an extensive section on ice road trucking, estimating average pay at $2,000 per round trip run. A single run averages more than 20 hours of continuous driving, during which the trucker is unable to stop or rest. Adverse weather and ice conditions can also slow your progress; at certain points speed limits are drastically reduced to prevent vibrations that would crack the lake ice and send your big rig into the freezing waters below.
Pay also depends on several variables, including the company that hires the driver. Larger companies pay more; the hauling firms will also pay more for experienced drivers who have been trained for ice road hauling and who understand the special hazards of the job. The cargo that you're hauling also determines the pay. Heavy equipment such as tires, cranes, and construction vehicles are more hazardous and thus drivers for these loads are better compensated. Lighter cargo, such as medical supplies or food, will earn an ice road trucker less. Considering all of these variables, the website TruckingCrossing.com gives a salary range of $20,000 to $90,000 per season.
Drivers may also negotiate their own contracts with mining companies in need of their services. Although it is possible to work independently as an ice road trucker, the owner/operator risks losing more on costs and repairs than he earns for his routes. Additional expenses include food, fuel and lodging, as well as insurance. For this reason, very few truckers work on their own in this region.