Ice Road Truckers - Season 1

Season 1

The mining companies that owned the road where the first season was filmed felt that the show portrayed the road in a negative fashion. They felt that the show depicted drivers as cowboys making a mad dash for money and taking excessive risks to do so. Also the companies felt that the cameras and filming created distractions for the drivers (Drew walking to the back of the truck to get a coffee cup without stopping on camera). As a result, the owners decided not to participate in future seasons of the show. A new rule for the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Roads was enacted for the 2008 season, prohibiting commercial, media, video or rolling film cameras either inside or attached to the outside of vehicles. The show's producers located an alternate ice road for the second season of the show.

There were several differences in style between Season 1 and Seasons 2 and 3:

  • A main theme of Season 1 was "the dash for the cash", which was rarely mentioned in Season 2, but is a main theme in Season 3.
  • In Season 1, companies' insignia on trucks and men's safety helmets were routinely blurred out. In Season 2 they were left visible.


At the top of the world, there's an outpost like no other... and a job only a few would dare. The mission: To haul critical supplies across 350 miles of frozen lakes to Canada's remote billion-dollar diamond mines. The challenge: to transport 10,000 loads in 60 days—before the road disappears. The rewards are great; the risks even greater. These are the men who make their living on thin ice.

—Thom Beers, opening of the show, season 1

The series premiered on June 17, 2007. Six ice road truckers are introduced, and ice road truckers are described as men driving eighteen wheelers who haul equipment and supplies from Yellowknife, Canada, across a temporary road composed of portages and frozen lakes, the destination being one of three diamond mines northeast of Yellowknife. The final episode in season one premiered on August 19, 2007.

The season turns out to be one of the most successful seasons so far, with 10,922 loads totaling 331,000 tonnes (730 million pounds, or 365,000 U.S. tons) delivered. (Note: The total shown on screen is 662,000,000 pounds, corresponding to 331,000 US tons.)

Ice Road Load Count
The Count Hugh Alex Jay T.J. Rick
Tons 722 648 542 374 369 363
Estimated Cash 58.4K 57.0K 57.5K 37.0K 28.0K 19.0K
Loads 37 36 35 23 19 13


Three additional one-hour specials ran in the weeks following "The Final Run." Then and Now premiered on August 26, 2007 and provided a look into the development and future of Canada's ice roads. Clips from season 1 were featured, as well as further commentary from Hugh, Alex, and road pioneer John Denison. Off the Ice premiered on September 2, 2007, bringing all six truckers together for a chance to express their thoughts about the job and each other. On the Edge premiered on September 9, 2007, continuing the discussion and exploring the truckers' lives during the off season.

A fourth special, The Road to Season 2, aired on June 1, 2008. This hour presented highlights from the first season and gave a preview of things to come in the second one.


Hugh Rowland: A very rough-around-the-edges 20-year veteran of ice-road trucking, Hugh (born 1957) is based in Kelowna in southern British Columbia. He claims to be known by the Ice Road trucking community as "The Polar Bear," which he says is a reference to his strong personality, bearish attitude, stamina and consistently high number of loads delivered per season. Hugh owns four trucks and drives one while the other three are manned by ice road rookies Drew Sherwood and Todd White, as well as friend and year-round employee Rick Yemm. Hugh's trucks all have the emblem R&R Hoe Service on the doors - the company Hugh owns in Kelowna (actually Winfield, BC).

During the course of Season 1, all three of Hugh's hired drivers end up prematurely leaving the ice road for reasons such as banishment for excessive speeding in Todd's case, to heated disagreements as to the working condition of Hugh's trucks in Rick's case. In Drew's case it was several break downs. Hugh's truck is called "The Crow's Nest" and is kept in good condition as was Rick's truck, besides the heater. The trucks driven by Drew Sherwood and Todd White have a multitude of mechanical problems. After Drew's departure, Hugh hires a 4th driver named Danny Reese. In the final episode of the first season, Hugh's luck finally runs out when his truck is sideswiped by another trucker on the ice road, knocking a driving axle off the chassis. He ends up finishing the season in the truck originally driven by Rick.

Rick Yemm: One of Hugh Rowland's employees, this brash, tattooed trucker, also from Kelowna, was in his second year as an Ice Road trucker during Season 1. In 2006, Rick was one of the first truckers onto the Ice Road after it opened when, according to him, the sound of cracking ice was loudest. This stressful experience almost caused him to quit driving the Ice Road right then and there. He decided to continue, however, remarking, "I was too stupid and too stubborn to quit."

During Season 1, the floor heater in his truck was malfunctioning. This was a major source of tension between Hugh, the truck's owner, and Rick, who expected Hugh to take care of the problem so that he could continue hauling loads without risking severe frostbite. Rick ultimately quit and returned home, feeling that his friend was not fulfilling his responsibilities to maintain the trucks.

Rick is known for being hard on the trucks by constantly beating on them. In one episode, Rick is seen bouncing up and down, pumping the fuel pedal up and down, and messing with the steering wheel, all the while facing the camera and saying "yee-haw motha fucker!"

Alex Debogorski: A legend in the Ice Road trucking community, 2007 marked Debogorski's 26th year as an Ice Road trucker. Debogorski is the father of eleven children, has seven grandchildren, and is a year-round resident of Yellowknife. As stated in Season 1, being that he has been a staple driving the ice roads, it is something of a good-luck charm for Alex to pull the first load over the ice roads at the beginning of every season. (Polish Dębogorski means "coming from or living at Oak Mountain".)

In Season 2 he had to leave early because of illness (a pulmonary embolism).

Jay Westgard: Jay is also a year round resident of Yellowknife. Despite his relative youth, Westgard is considered by the Ice Road community as the most talented driver of his generation. Westgard is 25 years old. He began driving trucks at age 16, and owned his first truck by age 18; at the time of his introduction, Westgard had acquired a reputation as a driver who excels in hauling over-sized loads. Because of his experience, he is entrusted with delivering some of the more demanding loads, such as a huge 48-ton ore scrubber. He also agrees to drive in a convoy (led by Mike Kimball) hauling vital jet fuel to remote Deline—a job most veterans would turn down because the trip is very risky.

T.J. Tilcox: A 21-year-old ice road rookie, Tilcox is vocal about how he hates the cold and ice, and explains that he is driving on the ice road for the experience, not the money. Tilcox has been trucking since age 16, and decided to try ice road trucking after seeing an advertisement in the paper. Early on he struggles with an older truck with no heat, but another driver grants Tilcox the use of his brand new Volvo truck leased to Trinity Transport. On his first run in the new truck, Tilcox gets in an accident before ever hitting the ice road due to the brake service line disconnecting from his trailer. Tilcox is ultimately cleared of responsibility and, after a delay, allowed back on the road.

After the accident Tilcox is injured while tying down a load, and several days later experiences severe abdominal pain which becomes so bad that he has to be flown out to receive medical care. Tilcox is able to return to the ice roads after being treated for his injuries. The expense of his treatment is highlighted on the show as a cause of concern for Tilcox. Despite his ordeals, Tilcox gains respect for the job and the people who do it, as well as self-satisfaction for having completed the entire season— a rare feat for a rookie. He leaves with the respect and admiration of his fellow ice road veterans.

Drew Sherwood: Drew is a veteran trucker, but an Ice Road rookie. He joined Hugh Rowland’s team after answering an advertisement in the local newspaper. Early on, Drew expresses a high degree of confidence that he will have no problems adjusting from highway to ice driving. Hugh considers Drew an arrogant rookie and a "one year driver". In the series premiere, Drew states "I have no intention of going into a ditch, bro", which is soon followed by getting stuck in a ditch, giving him a humbling lesson in how much respect the ice road demands.

Drew's hard luck unfortunately did not stop here, and was plagued with a frustrating amount of mechanical problems. For starters, he loses his battery box and batteries (resulting in two days lost while a replacement box is fabricated on the spot), suffers a flat tire, and then experiences problems with his truck’s on-board computer that forces him to abandon a load on the roadside. Drew ends up driving the truck of expelled driver Todd White just to pick up where he left off, yet ends up suffering through problems in that truck as well. Hugh Rowland, the truck's owner, and Lee Parkenson, Hugh's mechanic, blamed many of these mechanical problems squarely on Drew himself. Drew ultimately decides enough is enough and leaves the ice roads to return home.

Support personnel

Tom Tweed: Tom is a dispatcher for Tli Cho Landtran in Yellowknife.

Rick Fitch: Rick is a projects manager for Tli Cho Landtran, and is responsible for scheduling client loads. He is seen responding to several accidents in the series. Rick has been working on the ice road for over 20 years.

Ken Murray: Ken is an officer for Secure Check, the organization responsible for security and rules enforcement on the ice road. A first-time speeding ticket can result in a five-day suspension, while severe infractions (including excessive speed) can lead to a driver being banned for the rest of the season. Truck weights are also checked to make sure they will not over-stress the ice; a driver with an overweight truck can be fined several hundred dollars.

Lee Parkinson: Lee operates a garage in Yellowknife. He is the busiest mechanic in the north and works with his apprentice Mark Chang.

Todd White: Todd (aka Chains) worked for Hugh Rowland, comes from the eastern coast Canada and is a self-proclaimed trucker and singer. He responded to an ad that Hugh placed, and was hired as part of his crew after a seven year absence from ice road trucking. One of the main reasons Todd returned to ice road trucking was the need for $20,000 to repair his own truck. Todd was banned from ice road trucking after a speeding violation where he was clocked at 63 km/h (39 mph) in a 40 km/h (25 mph) zone. Todd appealed, claiming that he missed a speed limit sign, but his appeal was denied. After Todd left, Drew drove his truck.

Danny Reese: Shortly after Drew's departure, Hugh hired Danny to take over the truck vacated by Drew after it had finally received a new ECM. Danny quickly noticed that the truck "had its quirks," which included problems with the truck's turbo similar to those experienced with this truck by Drew.

Neil McDougall: Safety and Compliance Supervisor with Tli Cho Landtran. His job is to set up and hire all the drivers and trucks for the winter road and also to monitor and police the drivers on the road so that rules are not violated so that the truckers are not kicked off the road.

Route and destinations

Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road: The first portion of the road is on pavement, following the Ingraham Trail for roughly 60 kilometres (37 mi) until it reaches the shore of Tibbitt Lake.

  • Yellowknife, Northwest Territories - Loads are assigned here.
  • Dome Lake Camp - A maintenance camp, 22 miles (35 km) past the start of the ice portion of the road. T.J. is forced to stop here when his injury flares up; he is then airlifted back to Yellowknife for treatment.
  • Lockhart Lake Rest Stop - Provides catering and other services for truckers.
  • De Beers Snap Lake Diamond Mine ~200 km Northeast of Yellowknife.
  • Diavik Diamond Mine ~200 miles (300 km) North of Yellowknife.
  • BHP Ekati Diamond Mine ~200 miles (300 km) Northeast of Yellowknife - The northernmost stop seen on camera during this season. The road continues roughly 125 miles (200 km) past here, serving two additional mines and stopping at the north end of Contwoyto Lake.
  • Colomac Mine - A closed gold mine that was recently cleaned up due to the risk the mine’s toxic materials presented to the environment. Now that the cleanup is finished, truckers (including Alex) are being called in to haul away equipment.
  • Tundra Mine - A gold mine that stopped production in 1968 and is now undergoing environmental cleanup. Equipment from the Colomac Mine is being transferred here to assist workers with the cleanup.
  • Deline, Northwest Territories - A small village, on the shore of the Great Bear Lake, that depends on jet fuel shipments over the ice road to keep its airport operating.

Read more about this topic:  Ice Road Truckers

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