When we ask you to think about your typical trucker what picture forms in your mind? A leathery old guy in dirty jeans smoking cigarettes? Maybe with a bit of a “dad bod” and a big scruffy beard? We’re probably on the right track. Let’s be honest, although we know there are female truckers out there – who can do the job just as good as any guy – we tend to associate a certain type of man with this job. That was of course until we met the ladies of Ice Road Truckers, including the drop-dead blonde-bombshell Steph “Hammer Down” Custance.
Ice Road Truckers rolled onto the small screen in 2007 and has slowly gathered a small army of trucking fans. The reality series features a team of drivers who specialize in tackling some of the most dangerous ice routes in Canada and Alaska. The drivers transport massive loads across frozen lakes and rivers to take supplies to remote locations. For the most part, the drivers are men, but there have also been a few females featured on the show. The first was Lisa Kelly, an experienced tough as nails driver, and more recently 22-year-old Steph Custance joined the show. Here’s what you should know about her:
15. How She Landed On Ice Road Truckers
So how exactly did she wind up on Ice Road Truckers? Here’s Steph’s story: “I was with the guys at work; one of my guys at work took me to a boxing match last summer, and we were having some beers, and I had to quit drinking because I was driving…I mentioned I had a Class 1 [driver’s license], and my friend happened to know somebody who knew somebody [who worked for Ice Road Truckers] and he was like ‘No way! You’re a Class 1?’ So I drove for him, and sent him some pictures of me fishing–I didn’t know exactly what they wanted, but I guess I gave it to ’em…these guys started callin’ me, and they were like, ‘You made it on the show!’ And I was like, ‘No way?’”
14. Her Very First Ice Crossing Ended In Tears
Fans of Ice Road Truckers were all on the edge of their seats when Custance made her first ever lake crossing; even though she had veteran driver Todd Dewey by her side to show her the ropes. She freely admitted that she had no idea how to put chains on the tires, but he gave her a quick lesson and she was doing it in no time at all.
The situation was made even more tense by the fact that they were about to cross a frozen lake where another truck had broken through the ice earlier that day, but Custance buckled down and with some encouragement from Todd she made it safely to the other side where she promptly burst into tears. With the sound of ice cracking all the way we don’t blame her for getting a bit emotional!
13. Her Driving Test With Polar
Even though the pay is good, getting drivers to take on the ice roads can be a difficult task. But this worked in Steph’s favor when Polar’s Mark Kohaykewych decided to take her on, despite her very limited trucking experience. He took her out on a two-part driving test, doing uphill starts and off-roading and although he noticed a few problems he decided to give her a chance. “You’re definitely green,” he told her. “I’m not sure you appreciate how difficult this is, and I’m not sure you’re cut out for it.” Then after a long, loaded pause, he added, “Don’t let me down.” And so far, so good – she might be inexperienced but she has a can-do attitude and is willing to learn – and that’s what counts.
12. Why She Chose This Job
What would make any rational thinking person want to take on one of the most dangerous jobs in the world? Especially a single mom? Steph says that she’s doing it all for her 5-year-old son, “It’s my son. Everything I do in my life I do for my kid.” So just how much can these brave drivers make? Well according to those in the know, ice road trucking is one of the best paying jobs that you can land in the industry. On average, these drivers can earn between $20,000 and $80,000 for a season (the length of the season varies depending on climate) and in some cases, they can take home around $250,000 for two months of work. And when you’re a young, single mom that kind of dough can go a long way.
11. She’s Got Less Than A Year’s Trucking Experience
The drivers we typically see on Ice Road Truckers have been doing the job for quite some time, and before they took on the challenge of the deadly ice roads they spent time driving large rigs on regular highways across the country. It’s a tough job to master and their years of knowledge helps them when the going gets tough – which is does quite often when you are covering huge frozen lakes in a massive rig, all by yourself. That’s why fans were surprised when the show took on a 22-year old woman with “less than a year” of driving experience. People were skeptical about whether or not such a young person would be able to deal with the pressures of the job. But so far, so good.
10. She’s Active On Social Media
Steph is very active on social media and loves to keep her followers in the loop with posts about her public appearances, adventures, and everyday life. Her profile on her Instagram account, which is followed by about 3600 people, states that she is a proud mom and a cast member of IRT who loves beer and music. Sound like a dream girl right? Trucking, beer, and music – and she’s gorgeous – what could be better than that? And judging by the comments she gets when she posts, her fans just all seem to agree that she is all that and more. She also has a public page on Facebook with roughly 50k followers, where she gives regular updates about her activities, although she is careful about giving away details of her personal life.
9. She’s Changing The Way We See Truckers
Until Ice Road Truckers began most people had very little idea about the jobs of these specialized drivers but the show has certainly changed that. It’s encouraged more people to get into the business and is helping to revive and rejuvenate the image of modern truck driving. This is the ‘trucker culture’ of the new millennium and it’s slowly changing the way people see the industry. And ladies like Lisa and Steph are instrumental in that image change. These are smart women who’ve chosen to do a tough job, one that requires skill and motivation, and they are inspiring other women to do the same. Not every girl wants to be an ice road trucker of course but these ladies show that women can do anything they put their minds to.
8. She Aced Her First Solo Ice Crossing
Episode 7 of Season 10 of IRT – aptly titled “Into The Fire” – had everyone asking whether or not Steph would be able to complete her very first solo run – or whether the challenge would prove to be too much for the young rookie driver. Up to that point she had been working and driving with other drivers, but in this episode she was to make her first solo journey across the ice. It was make or break time for Steph when Mark sent her on a run with a truck loaded with building materials. She was very nervous when she reached the ice crossing, especially since her rig was close to the maximum weight allowed, but to her fan’s delight, she managed to keep a cool head and made it across safely.
7. Not Everyone Has Been As Lucky As Steph
Steph has been successful in her new job as an ice road trucker, but don’t be fooled – not everyone is as lucky as her. Take the case of Brett Colley for example. Brett was a huge fan of the show and was so inspired by what he saw that he decided to move to Canada to try the job for himself and see the roads made famous by the show. Colley, a former soldier, decided to fulfill his life-long dream of trucking and made it happen – but it all ended in tragedy. Just 18 months after he made his big move and started driving a rig he was killed when his truck came off the infamous Alaska Highway and plunged down an embankment. He was 45 years old.
6. She’s Doing A Dangerous Job
Ice road trucking is not what anyone would ever consider a “boring job” so it makes sense that an adventure loving girl like Steph would be attracted to it. But make no mistake – this is a dangerous job at the best of times. There is so much that can go wrong and the drivers are usually isolated and a long way from help. They run the risk of getting into a wreck due to the conditions they drive in and when they make ice river crossings there is always the chance of going through the ice. If they get stranded or their heaters fail there’s the very real possibility that they could freeze to death, or even become a polar bear’s dinner!
5. Don’t Believe Everything You See On The Show
While much of what the show depicts is real, the producers do change quite a bit to make it as compelling as it is. One of the former drivers on the show, Rick Yemm, who was always depicted as a “bad guy” spoke about the behind scenes editing that goes into the show in an interview in 2009 and revealed that you shouldn’t believe everything that you see on Ice Road Truckers.
He spoke about feeling frustrated about the state of reality TV – especially after seeing it from the inside. He said, “We all get slated in these character roles, and there’s nothing we can do about it. They take small parts of our personality, like, yeah, I’m brash, I’m not always the most politically correct person and all that stuff. But, that’s not ME. That’s a small part of me that they exploit.”
4. She Joined The Show In The Most Bittersweet Season
Steph joined IRT in the show’s tenth season, which turned out to be a bittersweet season for the fans. Everyone was pleased to have a fresh face on the show, but sadly this was also the last time that they would ever see one of the show’s regular drivers, Darrell Ward. Ward was featured on the show during season 6 and quickly became a fan favorite and a regular on the show. In August 2016 he was on his way to film a documentary about the recovery of plane wrecks when the single-engine Cessna 182 he was traveling in crashed while attempting to land at an airstrip in Montana. He was 52 years old. The crash was investigated by the NTSB who concluded that pilot error might have been to blame.
3. She Loves Adventure
Steph may be new to the world of big rigs, frozen rivers, and snow chains, but she certainly has an adventurous spirit. There are not many women who take on the challenge of driving trucks across some of the most dangerous areas in the world, but judging by what Steph gets up to in her free time we shouldn’t be surprised that she chose to take on ice-road trucking. While there isn’t a lot of information about her on the internet yet you can watch a YouTube video of Steph and her buddies trying out the Las Vegas SlotZilla Zoomline – which allows you to fly like Superman over the famous Fremont Street. There’s a lot of screaming, but it looks like she had loads of fun!
2. She’s The Youngest Female Driver On The Show
Steph may be the youngest woman to ever be featured on the show but she wasn’t the first. Lisa Kelly joined Ice Road Truckers in season 3 and until season 5 she was the only female trucker. Before she decided to go into truck driving Lisa worked as a gas station clerk, a motocross rider, and a school bus driver and says that she decided to train as a trucker because it “looked interesting”. She also said that it wasn’t easy being a female in the male-dominated trucking world so making a success of it was a big achievement for her. She said, “I had to work twice as hard. I had to pull my weight and everybody else’s and get the job done as fast, or faster”. Lisa was then joined by rookie driver Maya Siber in season five and Steph “Hammer Down” Custance in season ten.
1. How Steph ‘Hammer Down’ Custance Got Her Nickname
So how did a 22-year-old rookie trucker end up with the nickname “Hammer Down”? Is it because of the way she belted across her very first lake crossing? Well, actually the young driver earned this nickname not because of her driving style, but because of the way she handled a tool. Here’s what happened: Steph and Todd Dewey were sent out to a small fishing village to retrieve two trailers which had been left there at the end of the last season. Dewey managed to hook his trailer, but Steph’s was frozen in place. Todd tried to help her by yanking it with a chain but that didn’t work. Next thing Steph grabbed a large mallet and started pounding away – and it came free. And that’s how she became Steph “Hammer Down” Custance.
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