Whatever you do for a living, it has to be more pleasant than the job chosen by the people in Ice Road Truckers, a reality series premiering on The History Channel on June 17 (10PM Eastern, 9PM Central). The show's title says it all: to bring heavy equipment and supplies to diamond mines in Canada's Northwest Territories, truck drivers have to guide their massive machines hundreds of miles over roads made of snow and ice. The ice roads are only usable in the winter, obviously, so the truckers work in temperatures that can reach -50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even in the Canadian north, where the ice can freeze several feet thick on some lakes, the ice roads can only support so much weight. When your cargo is several tons, you have to be extremely careful – not just because of the risk of sinking through the ice, but because of "blowouts" caused when truckers drive too quickly, creating waves of pressure that can burst through the ice and render the road impassable. Even when you're not driving over frozen water, the roads can be treacherous, and it's not uncommon for jackknifed vehicles to block the road and bring the traffic, such as it is, to a complete standstill for hours at a time.
So why would anyone do this? Money, of course – a skilled driver can make around $70,000.00 for a couple of months' work. (Even if that's Canadian money, it's still pretty impressive, especially at today's exchange rates.) But the work is lonely, tiresome and often very dull, and it's not uncommon for would-be drivers to drop out after a few days.
The first two episodes of Ice Road Truckers are quite fascinating, with brief segments on maintenance of the roads, salvage divers, a computer-generated "blowout" and, of course, lots of big rigs. (Anyone who grew up on Smokey and the Bandit movies and their fathers' old Red Sovine records will appreciate this show.) We don't learn too much about the drivers themselves, though, and Ice Road Truckers will only work as a regular series if we grow attached to them individually. Time will tell.