While the name of the show Ice Road Truckers is fairly enticing, you’ve got to admit that the idea of watching people drive trucks around doesn’t really seem that exciting. Even if they are doing so in dangerous conditions. You might think this until you actually sit down and watch the show for yourself. Once you do, you’ll quickly understand why the show has been so successful. Not only are there colorful characters with interesting backstories and hidden industry politics to enjoy, but there is also the threat of danger woven into each and every episode. And of course, this is what keeps us coming back.
The show keeps us hooked by telling us how dangerous the job is and how a trucker is always seconds from disaster when crossing the ice. Although no such accident has ever been documented by the film crew for the show, it keeps us in suspense and that’s what we’ve come to enjoy.
But as we all know when it comes to so-called “reality shows”, there is plenty that goes on behind the scenes that the executives of the show don’t want us to know. Here are 15 secrets that the Ice Road Truckers execs would prefer we not talk about…
15. Cast Members Are Among The Lowest Paid Reality TV Stars
The brains behind Ice Road Truckers is a man called Thom Beers, who is also responsible for a few other reality shows including Deadliest Catch, Storage Wars, and Ax Men. His shows often focus on blue-collar workers and it seems to be exactly what people want to see; working people like themselves. But in order to keep them relatable, Beers needs to ensure that they aren’t paid too much and that’s why he has a policy of paying his cast members much less than other people in the field. Beers says he controls salary demands by signing participants to multi-year contracts. This means that even if the show becomes a hit, he doesn’t need to pay them more. What do you think of this? Do you think he’s genuinely trying to “preserve that working-class authenticity” or is it just a ploy to further line his own stuffed pockets?
14. Why Lisa Kelly Was The Hero Of IRT: Deadliest Roads
If there’s one person whose changing the way we see truckers, it’s got to be Lisa Kelly. Time and time again this feisty female driver has proven that she’s got the brains and the guts, and we admire her for that. But in the spin-off series IRT: Deadliest Roads (which premiered immediately following the season 4 finale) Kelly was the undisputed star of the show. For this series, Rick Yemm, Alex Debogorski, and Lisa Kelly traveled to India, where they used their experience to drive on the narrow mountain roads between Delhi to Shimla. Alex quit in the very first episode and had to be replaced with Dave Redmon. During the season finale, the truckers were tasked with delivering a load of jet fuel for rescue helicopter crews, but Dave and Rick decided it was too dangerous and turned back. The next day Lisa delivered the entire shipment herself and became the only North American trucker to complete the entire season.
13. Timothy Zickuhr Was Convicted Of A Serious Crime
Do you remember Timothy Zickuhr from season 2 of IRT: Deadliest Roads? Well, he made headlines again in 2015, but they had nothing to do with his trucking career. He landed in hot water when he allegedly kidnapped and held a prostitute named Snow White hostage, with the intention of selling her services and keeping the money for himself. The woman was rescued after she tricked Zickuhr into calling a police officer that she knew. He was also accused of robbing an 80-year-old lady and severely assaulting her – a crime police linked him to after he left his shoes at the crime scene. The former ice road trucker stood trial in 2015 for two felony charges of kidnapping and extortion and was sentenced to a five-to-15-year prison term.
12. Steph Custance Had Less Than A Year’s Driving Experience When She Was Hired
Most of the drivers we see on the show have been driving heavy loads for years, often starting their careers in regular long-haul jobs and gaining experience before deciding to take on the ice roads. It’s not an easy job to master and when the going gets tough, they often only have themselves to depend on so having experience can be the difference between life and death. However, this was not the case with the show’s youngest female driver Steph Custance. Fans were both surprised, and skeptical when Steph was hired, especially considering she had less than a years’ worth of driving experience. Less than a year probably means only a few months, but so far she is holding her own on the ice roads.
11. Rick Yemm Warned Viewers Not To Believe Everything They See
Let’s be brutally honest for a moment; the purpose of a TV show is to make money and the only way to do that is by getting good ratings. That means that there’s a lot of editing (and quite possibly scripting) that goes on behind the scenes. So what you might be watching may not be as real as it seems.
According to ice road trucker Rick Yemm (season 1,2,5 and 6), this is especially true when it comes to portraying the drivers themselves. In a 2012 interview, he explained, “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. This is all their thing, that they push these stories to the point that we have to go along with it or we’re not involved.”
10. The Show Inspired One Fan To Follow His Dreams…With Tragic Consequences
Brett Colley, a former military veteran, was a huge fan of Ice Road Truckers and after watching the show he decided to switch careers and become a trucker himself. Now we all know that what we see on the show isn’t all that real, so maybe Brett didn’t understand just how deadly the job could be. And his decision ultimately killed him. He moved to Canada to try the job for himself and see the treacherous roads made famous by the show. He managed to make his dream come true, but just 18 months after he made his big move, the 45-year old was killed when his truck slid out of control on the infamous Alaska Highway and plunged down a steep embankment. So even being a fan of the show can be deadly, it seems.
9. Why Hugh “Polar Bear” Rowland Left The Show
The show features new drivers each season, which helps keep it fresh, but fans were shocked when Hugh “Polar Bear” Rowland, a mainstay on the IRT, didn’t return for the 9th season in 2015. Everyone was asking the same question: why? Well, it all had to do with a lawsuit he filed in 2014 where he alleged that an IRT producer’s reckless driving had been responsible for injuries he suffered in an accident. According to TMZ, Roland claimed “severe and permanent injuries” as a result of the accident. The network was left with few options other than to fire him from the show, even though he was one of the most popular personalities with the fans and had been with them since the beginning of the series.
8. The Truck Seen Going Through The Ice Was A Miniature Model
The show is full of dramatic effects, all intended to heighten the drama, but while real fatal accidents are mentioned, you have never (and probably will never) see them on IRT. Among the most shocking footage was from the opening credits of the first season where a massive rig is pictured breaking through the ice and plunging into the freezing water underneath. And it appears that the cameraman was right there to capture it all. Not long after the show aired a rumor circulated that the executives of the show had created the shot using explosives and a real truck, but no one could prove this. According to the studio, the sequence was created for the show, but not using a real truck. Instead, they filmed the shot using a miniature model inside a studio.
7. How Steph Custance Got Her Nickname
Ever wondered how Steph “Hammer Down” Custance got her nickname? It seems pretty unusual for a 22-year old rookie trucker to end up with a name like this, doesn’t it? Contrary to what you might think, she didn’t get this nickname because of her driving style, it came about because of the way she handled a mallet. Here’s what happened: Steph and Todd were sent out to retrieve two trailers from a small fishing village (which had been left there in the previous season) but when they arrived, they found that the one trailer was completely frozen and they were unable to hook it up. Todd attempted to free it using a large chain, but when that didn’t work Steph stepped in with a mallet and began pounding away, eventually freeing the trailer hitch. And that’s how she became Steph “Hammer Down” Custance.
Here’s what happened: Steph and Todd were sent out to retrieve two trailers from a small fishing village (which had been left there in the previous season) but when they arrived, they found that the one trailer was completely frozen and they were unable to hook it up. Todd attempted to free it using a large chain, but when that didn’t work Steph stepped in with a mallet and began pounding away, eventually freeing the trailer hitch. And that’s how she became Steph “Hammer Down” Custance.
6. Why Alex Left Season 2 Early
Alex Debogorski has been with Ice Road Truckers since the very first season and fans can’t seem to get enough of him. He’s a legend in the ice road trucking community with more than 36 years of trucking experience, and it’s considered to be a sign of good luck when he pulls the first load over the ice at the start of each season. Alex is a devoted family man with 11 children and 9 grand-children and definitely one of the coolest grandpas around! He’s also a devout Catholic, hence “The Preacher Man” signage on his rig. But do you know why he had to leave the second season of the show so early? He actually had a severe medical condition known as a pulmonary embolism but managed to recover enough to return to the job he loves.
5. Darrel Ward Was Filming For Another Show When He Passed On
In 2012, Ice Road Truckers lost one of their most popular drivers, Darrell Ward, but not due to a trucking accident. The 52-year-old was killed when the small plane he was traveling in crashed just as it came in to land. His co-pilot also died on impact. What you may not know is that Ward was on his way to film a pilot episode for a documentary-style show involving the recovery of plane wrecks when the accident occurred. What a cruel twist of fate.
During the most recent season of the show, Darrell’s son Reno made his much-anticipated debut as a driver and even got to drive his father’s old rig. He made his appearance to help Polar Enterprises deliver one of the largest loads in the show’s history and we know his dad would be proud.
4. Movie Rights For IRT Were Optioned But There’s Still No Sign Of A Film
Back in 2008, Fox optioned the movie rights for an Ice Road Truckers film and in 2010 the studio hired director John Moore to head up the project. But seven years later we still haven’t seen a movie, and there’s been no news about it since. Moore, who also directed Max Payne, Behind Enemy Lines, and A Good Day to Die Hard, described his vision of an IRT film as an action thriller with a tough guy. “Here’s a bunch of characters who tackle problems by getting in there and getting things done,” he said. “We’ll turn it into a mission movie that hearkens back to Towering Inferno, Jaws, or The Guns of Navarone. You got a problem, go solve it.” Maybe it’s a good thing that nothing has come from this yet.
3. Dave Redmon Was Fired For Not Being A “Team Player”
After Dave Redmon was fired from the show, he went on the record saying the production crew of the show often completely fabricates scenes in the series and alleged that they went out of their way to make him look like the bad guy. “They really, really spent a lot of effort making me look terrible in Alaska,” he said. “The stuff you see on TV is totally so far from the truth it’s just unreal.” He also said that the episode where he got fired was part of the script, “I know it doesn’t look that way on TV, obviously. They had scripted me to be the bad guy on the show, and it just scripted me to get fired.” According to Redmon, the executives cited his perceived inability to be a “team player” as their reason for letting him go.
2. It’s Not As Dangerous As The Show Suggests
Any job that entails driving, particularly in heavy weather conditions, carries with it a certain amount of danger, but is ice-road trucking really as dangerous as the show leads us to believe? According to Rick Yemm, the answer is no. Rick says that the producers intentionally paint the truckers to be more reckless than they really are and insists that the driving itself is nowhere near as deadly as it seems. He added that there are always film crews behind and in front of the trucks, which requires them to be extra safe. “We don’t take risks for anybody’s safety. We know when it’s clear to do stupid stuff, like drift around a corner. All that stuff that we do, it’s all done safely. But they never put it in the show that way.”
1. The Local Mining Companies Were Not Impressed With The First Season
During the very first season of IRT, the drivers were filmed taking their trucks across a route known as the Tibbett to Contwoyto Road. The road was built by a group of local mining companies in the area and seemed like a perfect setting for the show, but sadly by the time season 2 rolled around they had to find a new location, as the mining company refused to let them use it again. Why? Well, apparently they felt that the film crew was creating too much of a distraction for other drivers and that the show portrayed truckers as money-hungry and reckless, something they did not want to be associated with. In 2008, a rule was passed for the road which forbids commercial filming on the route completely.
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