Few jobs are more demanding than being a logging and ice road trucker, says Todd Dewey. For the latest installment in our #ruggedstories series the star of History Channel’s Ice Road Truckers tells us how being a heavy weightlifter and extreme driver is all part of the job spec.
Job title: Hardcore truck driver
Working Locations: Washington State and northern Canada.
Hazards of the job: Rolling off narrow mountain roads, falling through ice.
Favourite app: Email
How long have you been trucking?
I have been driving trucks for 25 years. When I was 12 my dad showed me how to release the brakes and slide into gear and I started learning as soon as I could, when I was 18. It’s so much more than just driving. You got to know how to fix your truck in any situation – it consists of so many skill sets.
What kind of work are you doing?
In the summer time I’m a logging truck driver – it’s heavy duty work, and it doesn’t just consist of hauling logs at 5,000ft of elevation in the mountains on slushy snow and ice. It’s also hauling 250+lb of equipment into the mountains. It’s pretty tough work.
“I was convinced we were going to go over.”
It’s some of the toughest driving in the world. When you’re trucking a low bed along a road that’s as wide as your truck and there’s a 3,000ft cliff on one side and you got to cut that corner where the tires are just dragging over the edge and you got an incline of anywhere from 12-20%…. It’s not the easiest job. Sometimes it consists of hooking up to a dozer and having someone else tow you because the incline is so steep. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Any close calls?
I’ve had enough! There’s been lots of occasions where I’ve just pulled the breaks and jumped out the truck because I was convinced we were going to go over.
Any serious incidents?
Personally I’ve flipped at least two trucks in my lifetime. It’s quite the experience but you’ve got to get yourself back together and get back on the road.
Physically it must be pretty demanding?
Being in physical shape is a big part of it. When you’re out in the mountains by yourself and you have to lift these great big chains that weigh 100- 150lb a piece, you’ve got to be able to sling them over the tracks and get the torq on with the torq bar – and have the strength to do that.
“I’m always worried about the elements breaking my phone.”
What’s it like to drive the winter ice roads?
It started out for the money, but when you love to truck and you love tough experiences it starts to grow on you; you start to thrive in that environment. You want that adrenaline rush of rolling onto a frozen lake. It’s a big challenge and I look forward to it every year. How big a load can I take? How many loads am I going to get to these people? It’s not just about the trucking but about supplying these remote villages with what they need after the ice melts [when they become cutoff]. It’s a feeling of joy that I can’t explain. It’s an awesome experience.
Summer vs Winter, what would you chose?
Honestly I love both. I love trucking deep in the mountains and I love trucking ice roads. I’d hate to have to choose and give up one of them.
And you drive a Cat® yourself?
I actually drive a 2013 CT660 back home. It’s a tough truck.
How important is a cell phone for you?
On the ice roads there’s no cell coverage. But in summer I have to have a cellphone. It’s very important if I have a breakdown, to get ahold of someone as fast as possible. What’s hard about being up there is that it rains all the time and I’m always worried about the elements breaking my phone.
Use any apps?
I do all my emailing and parts ordering on the phone. But there’s no App for the winter roads and there’s no App for the weather conditions for the roads that I go on!
We’re confident the Cat® S60 is the phone for Todd. Surviving the cold and wet will prove no problem while its thermal imaging properties could come in very useful for truck maintenance on the ice.
Join in the conversation online with your own #RuggedStories at @Catruggedphones.