Ice Road Truckers has been off the air for almost two years now, but it’s still regarded as one of History Channel’s most successful shows of all time. During its heyday, it had a 3.4 million viewer rating, and was the most-watched original show to ever air on the network. The show aired for 10 long years and 11 seasons, and featured some truly interesting and colorful characters. It was a dangerous, exciting job, which is why people loved tuning in.
But there are also some secrets that the producers of the show would rather keep hush-hush. The behind the scenes making of the show wasn’t as glamorous as it was made out to be. Like most reality TV shows, there was a certain measure of “fakeness” that could be attributed to just about every aspect. And many of the stars are coming out and talking about it, now that their contracts are up.
Here are 20 facts that the producers don’t want you to know about Ice Road Truckers.
20 Engine Problems Can Stall Production
Even though the drivers on Ice Road Truckers are “reality stars,” there are very real situations that they often find themselves in. If one of the trucks breaks down on one of these remote roads, they’ll be waiting a long time for backup to arrive—even with a camera crew there. And that means stalled production. For instance, Lisa Kelly made the mistake of turning her engine off when her truck broke down, which froze the inside and it made it harder to start.
19 Stars Injured On And Off The Show
Some of the stuff on Ice Road Truckers is made up, sure, but there are other instances that are truly dangerous. Some of the crew have had mishaps and accidents on the show, and even off the show. Hugh Rowland was a fan-favorite on Ice Road Truckers, and one of the most experienced truckers on the show, but he was injured in an accident while he was a passenger in a truck that was being driven by one of the show’s assistants.
18 A Star Sued The Show
The same trucker, Hugh Rowland, who was endearingly nicknamed Polar Bear, eventually sued the production company of Ice Road Truckers because of the injuries he sustained in the crash. He claimed that they prevented him from having an intimate relationship with his wife, which sounds heartbreaking, and it also prevented him from going back to work as a trucker—his livelihood!
17 The Opening Scene Is Fake
The producers of Ice Road Truckers put a lot into the opening scene, and one thing they definitely don’t want you to know is that many of those scenes are fake and spliced together. The dramatic opening credits feature spectacularly terrifying images of trucks careening out of control, off the roads, into ice ditches, and more. But as you might have guessed, those images were faked to make the show look more exciting.
16 The Camera Crew Takes Huge Risks
Perhaps the people who are in the most danger during shooting of Ice Road Truckers aren’t the truckers themselves, but the camera crew! These men and women go above and beyond the call of duty to get some truly epic shots, such as leaning out of passenger windows, taking shots from the tops of vehicles—anything to get the perfect angle on a scene. These daredevils do it knowing that they’re putting their own safety at risk, and should be commended.
15 The Show Is Criticized By Real Truckers
One group of people that don’t have much love for Ice Road Truckers are, unsurprisingly, real truckers. They’ve criticized the show for making ice roads look exceedingly dangerous, when the fact is that there are far fewer accidents on the ice, per driver, than on normal highways or interstates. But that little tidbit wouldn’t be great for ratings, now would it?
14 Stars Benched By Health Problems
You might find yourself wondering where certain drivers went from one season to the next, and the most frequent reason is that injury or health problems caused them to be kicked off the show. Lisa Kelly took time off for overbearing stress, while Steph Custance was kicked off when she was suffering from pancreatitis. Producers have to follow strict rules when governing the truckers, so this isn’t that outlandish, but it still sucks for those truckers!
13 The Loss Of Darrell Ward
The biggest catastrophe and tragic loss came in 2016, when fan-favorite trucker Darrell Ward was killed in a plane crash. He had been on the show since 2012, and had built quite a following for himself. He was piloting a small plane on his way to filming the new series of the show when he met his tragic end. This was one big reason why Lisa Kelly took time off (for stress) because Ward was her trucking partner.
12 Fans Endangered Themselves
If you see something exciting on reality TV, chances are there’s a superfan out there who has to try it out for themselves. In the case of Ice Road Truckers, this is a stupid idea, more often than not. Fans have injured themselves when they’ve driven on ice roads without proper experience. Another enthusiastic fan of the show was even killed from attempting to do what these truckers do.
11 Most Of The Show Is Scripted
Like most reality TV, producers have to fabricate drama. The fact is, most of these truckers are stuck in their vehicles all day, with no one to talk to, and that doesn’t make for great TV. In order to make the episodes more exciting, many aspects of the show were scripted, such as manipulating drivers into starting arguments with each other, with one trucker even being fired to make for better TV and better ratings.
10 The Burden Of Inexperienced Truckers
One of the downsides of hiring people for Ice Road Truckers is that many of the drivers aren’t actually all that experienced. The cute blonde Steph Custance was brought up to become the new Lisa Kelly, but she didn’t have Kelly’s experience, and being unprepared for the ice roads got pretty hairy at times. Other truckers complained about her lack of experience, but who knows if those complaints were legitimate or scripted.
9 The Stars Earn Less Than Their Contemporaries
One thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense is that the drivers on Ice Road Truckers earn much less than their contemporaries on other reality TV shows, despite doing one of the most dangerous jobs. Thom Beers, the developer of the show, had a practical reason for this: he wanted to keep things authentic and blue collar. He thought that paying his stars huge salaries would change the way they behaved… and he’s probably right. But they still should’ve been paid more.
8 Outside Endorsements Are A No Go
Not only do the stars make less than their peers, to keep things “blue collar and authentic,” but the truckers are also banned from signing any outside endorsement deals! The truckers on the show couldn’t ink sponsorships for the same reason as the pay—to keep things authentic. Now that the show’s been off the air for a while, the stars are finally able to cash in on their reality TV fame. Lisa Kelly is worth $500,000, and Steph Custance goes on trucking/driving shows all the time.
7 The Crew Have Been Kicked Off Roads
Not only do real truckers dislike many aspects of Ice Road Truckers, but the crew of the show have also been kicked off on numerous occasions. Usually, it’s because they’re taking too much space on an actual route that real truckers have to use. When producers wanted to film footage on the Tibbitt to Contwoyto ice road, locals quickly ruled that no commercial filming could take place on the land.
6 Real Drama Between The Stars
Not everything was scripted on Ice Road Truckers, of course. There was real tension between many of the drivers. Rick Yemm, for instance, didn’t have much respect for his co-stars, in particular Lisa Kelly and G.W. Boles. He basically called them fake drivers, or “show-made” drivers. Other cast members got into tiffs with one another, but Yemm was probably the most notable example.
5 The Rigs Aren’t Always In Top Shape
You would think that all of the trucks being used on the show were in tip-top shape, seeing as that they had to travel down slick, icy roads. But you’d be wrong. Even minor flaws could lead to major problems and accidents in sub-zero temperatures. The show suggested that drivers owned their own trucks, but oftentimes the trucks were provided by trucking companies—and they wouldn’t always give the stars their best vehicles to use, probably because they didn’t know what condition they’d get them back in.
4 Controlling And Unfair TV Contracts
In hindsight, the reality stars on Ice Road Truckers were getting stiffed. Low pay and no endorsement or sponsorship deals aside, the contracts were very controlling and restrictive. They didn’t just restrict pay, but they also gave producers total control over how the characters appeared on-screen—even going so far as to script the words they said and how they said them. Quite a bum deal for many of these truckers, and you have to wonder: was it worth it?
3 Real Life Tickets Are Harshly Punished
On top of the accidents, the weak contracts, the real-life tension (you can start to see why Lisa Kelly took time off due to stress!), the real-life speeding citations to truckers was heavily punished. The trucking industry is governed by a strict set of rules. The speed limit on certain stretches can be as low as 10 mph, and anyone caught breaking that limit can receive a ban, even for their first offense.
2 A Former Driver Was Arrested
One dark story that producers definitely want to leave out has to do with former Ice Road Trucker Timothy Zickuhr, who appeared on the second season of Deadliest Roads. He hired an escort named Snow White and proceeded to detain her. Snow White managed to get him caught by an undercover cop, and the reality star was charged with two felonies. He got five to 15 years in prison.
1 The Planned And Scrapped Movie
At one point, before the Deadliest Roads companion show was released, producers were planning on cashing in with a full-length Ice Road Truckers film. At the time, it was the most-watched original show to ever air on History. 20th Century Fox bought the rights to use the premise of the show, which they envisioned as an action movie “tentpole” (a movie that could spawn sequels). John Moore of Max Payne fame was brought on to direct, but the project got stalled in development hell and was never made.
References: truckernews.com, wheels.com, overdriveonline.com, history.com