FreightViking is reader-supported. We may earn commissions if you buy through our links. Also, as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.

Do Semi Trucks Drive Over Frozen Lakes? (15 Chilling Facts)

In the most remote regions of the world, semi truck drivers provide people with supplies to survive off of during harsh winters. 

These truck drivers traverse very dangerous terrain, including snow-covered cliffs, ice roads, and frozen lakes.

Here’s a quick answer to Whether Semi Trucks Drive Over Frozen Lakes:

There are semi trucks in the most northern regions of the world that travel over frozen tundra and lakes such as Waite Lake and Lac de Gras to bring supplies to outposts. These semi trucks travel on roadways that are literally carved from extremely thick ice which is covering frozen lakes. 

Do Semi Trucks drive over Frozen Lakes?

Semi trucks do travel on ice and over frozen lakes quite often.

In the northern reaches of the globe, such as remote regions of Alaska and Canada, are isolated from much of the world. Settlements out there rely on semi truck drivers to get food, fuel, and other supplies. 

Sturdy roadways are dug out from layers and layers of ice to provide lanes through the region. These lanes are very wide and are meant to accommodate semi trucks as best as possible. 

Because it is ice, however, the ice roads must have strict speed limits which prevent fractures from forming and breaking the ice integrity.

These roadways are designed to accommodate even class 8 semi trucks carrying massive loads, however, such trucks may only be allowed to travel at 15 miles per hour. 

Are Trucks Driving over Frozen Lakes considered as Ice Road Trucking?

Ice roads are roadways that are carved from large stretches of ice, including lakes. In fact, most ice roads are over bodies of water, and that’s what makes it such a risky job to do. 

Ice road trucking is any type of trucking which involves traveling on roadways that are made of ice.

Some ice roads are built over expanses of completely solid ice sheets. Others are made over large expanses of water. 

Both are considered ice road trucking, however. As long as the fundamental definition is present, which is that there are roadways not made of tar or other materials, but rather carved from ice in some manner, it is ice road trucking. 

Is it Safe to Drive on Frozen lakes?

The simple answer is a yes and a no. It is not a safe task to drive over frozen lakes.

However, great efforts are taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those who traverse the large expanses of the frozen waters, but this does not mean that there are no risks. 

Ice roads are built on lakes (and other frozen spaces) that are at least 40 inches of frozen ice in temperatures of below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When the ice gets thinner there are crews of workers who actually pump water from beneath the ice up to the surface to have it freeze and create thicker surface ice. 

Even though these precautions are taken, there are some risks if the rules aren’t followed closely.

For example, the speed limit is very important, and for reasons beyond just slipping or losing control. The speed coupled with the weight of the truck can cause fractures in the ice, and thus cracks. 

Do Ice Road Truckers ever Fall through the Ice?

A lot of people remember the History Channel’s Ice Trucker reality TV show. But, the truth is, the show tended to play up the risks associated with falling through the ice.

In reality, the likelihood of falling through the ice is extremely unlikely. The biggest risk associated with ice trucking is related to the weather.

The snow is very harsh and extremely difficult to navigate.  

Especially in regions in the mountains, the snow makes for very dangerous roadways. Trucks run the risk of slipping off the mountain and crashing below. 

This is not to say it is an unjustified fear, but it is not the main fear or concern of most ice road truckers. 

An informative article regarding trucker fatalities (not explicitly about ice road trucking) can be found at this link.

This article from the Department of Labor Statistics helps to illustrate the many risks associated with the trucking industry, even on regular highways. 

Why do Semi Trucks Drive over a Frozen Lake?

The reason many ice road truckers traverse frozen lakes is to bring much-needed supplies to workers located in remote regions of the north. T

hese people are there for different reasons, but usually, they are either miners, army workers, or woodcutters. 

Truck drivers serve a vital function of transporting goods and supplies to these regions so the workers can still work there. They bring food, but also fuel to power their homes and tools. 

Additionally, truck drivers also transport the goods from these regions, whether it is timber or minerals, back to the places where they can be sold and used. 

Which Frozen Lakes do Semi Trucks Drive Over?

In northwest Canada, ice truckers traverse hundreds of miles over frozen terrain to get to the various mines located just south of the arctic.

These mines include the Tahera diamond mines, Echo Bay gold mines, and Snap Lake diamond mines. 

The truck drivers need to traverse several lakes, including Waite Lake and Lac de Gras. These are very long and massive.

The roadways leading over these lakes can fit up to 8 semi trucks traveling at the same time (not that they should, but they’re wide enough!). 

These are some of the most popular roadways where truck drivers travel. There are also lakes in Alaska where truck drivers must travel, as well.

But, the most popular route is near Anchorage, where ice road truckers must traverse bays and inlets along the shore of the Beaufort Sea. 

How do you Prepare your Semi to drive over a Frozen Lake?

First and foremost, you want to be sure all of your maintenance for your truck is up to date. The last thing you want to happen is to have your truck break down on the lonely highway. 

You will want the oil changed of course, but also be sure to grease your fifth wheel very well to prevent it from getting dried up in the cold. If this happens it can make turning and maneuvering more difficult.

Check to ensure all of the OEM specifications have been met, the brakes do not have any cracks and be sure to keep your fuel well filled. If your fuel gets too low it can freeze which can be bad. 

You will also have to equip your truck with snow tires for traction on the icy roads ahead.

How Thick does Ice need to be to Drive a Semi on it?

In most places, the ice must be a minimum of 40 inches deep, or more than 3 feet. The temperatures should be below zero degrees Fahrenheit. Somewhere between -50 to -70 is best. 

The freezing temperatures are essential for rebuilding and strengthening the ice as the trucks travel over it. Teams of workmen work hard to remove snow and layer thicker ice to ensure the driver’s safety. 

How can you tell how Thick the Ice is?

Crews usually gauge the ice thickness with an ice gauger.

This drills into certain spaces of the ice, testing its strength and guaging its depths. This is the primary way the ice is initially tested, but this is really only good for small spaces of the ice.

Radar is also used to penetrate the depths of the ice overall.

This can help workers judge the thickness of the ice throughout the expanse of the lake.

The thickness can vary dramatically throughout the lake’s expanse and it is important to find any weak places.

How Fast can Semi Trucks drive over Frozen Lakes?

The ideal speed for traveling over long distances over the frozen lakes is between 15-35 miles per hour. The speeds differ based on the weight of your load.

A semi truck traveling with a full load should keep to 15 miles per hour to prevent fractures from forming in the ice.

If a truck going south encounters a truck traveling north, both should slow down and travel around 15 miles per hour to prevent fractures as well. 

If you are not hauling any loads over the ice you can travel closer to 35 miles per hour safely. 

How much Weight can a Semi Truck Carry Over Frozen Lakes?

The amount of weight a semi truck can carry depends upon the ice road they are traveling over.

Many ice roads permit semi trucks to carry loads of 27,600 pounds as long as an adequate distance is kept. 

This means keeping a safe distance of around 1,600 feet to be safe. Too much weight in one place at a time is what you want to avoid in order to prevent the ice from cracking through. 

How Much is an Ice Road Trucker per Load?

The pay per load is what draws most truck drivers to this position despite its many obstacles. Most truck drivers can expect to make thousands per load that they carry.

On average most make between $2,000.00-$4,000.00 per load. The price goes up based upon the load, with more volatile shipments paying better, and the conditions in which the driver must travel.

How Much do the Ice Road Truckers get Paid?

Per year, ice road truckers make around $40,000.00. This may sound alarmingly low, but consider that the “year” for an ice trucker is only from between January-March/April. 

This means you’ll be paying good money per load to hire an ice trucker to move your load.

It will of course depend upon the load and the distance, but the average trucker will be making hundreds per their time on the road. 

That being said, it is an average because most truckers get paid per load rather than per hour.

Do Ice Road Truckers Drive on the Ocean?

Yes, indeed they do! Ice road truckers travel over the sea in the northernmost regions of Canada and Alaska. 

The winter routes between Barrow and Deadhorse in Alaska are one of the most popular spots. Here truck drivers use coastal freezing to more easily maneuver through the rough terrain of the region. 

In these regions traveling overland is virtually impossible in the winter months and the seas get very cold making for easier travel.

These areas need truck drivers to bring them much-needed supplies since it’s even hard for planes to get to these spaces. 

Are there Regulations around Semi Trucks Driving over Lakes?

There are very strict regulations regarding the speeds at which truck drivers can travel and the weight of their loads. However, these trucks are traveling in spaces that are extremely isolated. 

There aren’t necessarily going to be police waiting to hand out tickets for violations.

One of the main ways these rules are enforced is through necessity. In other words, if the driver violates them, they may pay a hefty price of plummeting through the ice. 

Regulations are strict for the construction of these spaces as well, with crewmen being held to very strict parameters. This helps to solidify the safety of the drivers.