Warning! Spoliers below!
Ice Road Truckers is back for season seven on History. For some this is a time for rejoicing. For others this is time to groan, shake your head and the flip to another channel. I have always been able to enjoy IRT on some level. In past seasons when the fake horn sound was in full swing and the narrator insinuated at the end of every episode that driver would break through the ice (never happened and thank God for that) I retreated to my safe place of just watching for the trucks. Believe it or not the past few seasons have been rather enjoyable. The dubbed horn is gone. The continuity between exterior/interior shots has improved. The drives are as enjoyable as ever. For those of you who dislike reality TV stay away! Over produced segments and personal drama still exist. After all, we’re talking television here. I’m fairly sure a show that revolved around hard working truckers doing pretrip inspections and sharing the road in a safe manor wouldn’t make it past one episode. That is not to say the cast of IRT do not work hard. They certainly do but at the root of it all a TV show is being produced.
So now that season seven has premiered what is different? To begin the show has returned to its roots of focusing on just one ice road. Whether this is by choice is unknown. The show has been uninvited from other winter roads in the past. We find that Hugh and Vlad have joined forces to form their own company of VPExpress. They explain they are on a noble crusade to defeat Mark of Polar Industries who just so happens to be their employer from last season. You may recall that Hugh left on less than friendly terms when he failed to make the return on his investment. Hugh tells us he is going to put Polar Industries out of business in the name of justice. He does seem genuinely PO’d about last season. Literally down the street sits Mark who is equally upset at what he perceives to be backstabbing former workers out to take what he has built over the past five years. Despite what we have seen on past season the animosity between these two groups is high and not produced. Real world items like money and a way of life are at stake this time, not some foolish load count that means nothing at the end of the season.
Polar Industries is staffed this year by Lisa Kelly, Alex Debogorski and Darrell Ward. When it comes to getting out loads on IRT I feel this is a good crew. Darrell is almost machine like when it comes to completing loads. He just plain works around the clock. Alex has a similar work ethic that is only impeded by his personal health although last season he was fine. Lisa is similar in skill and drive to both Alex and Darrell. Despite the rants of Hugh that claim she is not a real trucker and that she can not do the job because she is a woman I believe she will be fine. Hell, Rick Yem managed to survive last year so if he can do it anyone can. BTW, Rick is a no show this season which is probably a good move on the part of VP Express.
VP Express is obviously operated by Hugh and Vlad along with rookie driver Art Burke. By the time episode one is over Art will already be in hot water with Hugh. Less experienced drivers do not fair well under his direction. Hugh his more on top of people than ever before now that his wallet is directly involved. I expect many fireworks from this combo as the season moves on. The truck of choice seems to be Internationals, mostly 9900i and 9400i models for VP.
All in all I think Polar has the better staff at the moment. Darrell seems especially motivated to engage Hugh all season in the quest to defeat VP Express.
Speaking of Darrell, episode one gave us plenty of seat time with him as he was the first driver to hit the roads. His truck this season is an impressive looking Western Star with a set back axle. We are treated to numerous shots of him blasting through deep snow and drifting around corners. I don’t care if this is for TV or not, it looks cool. At one point we are treated to his thoughts on breaking through the ice. Better to stay with the cab and drown than to slowly freeze on the surface he reasons. The realities of ice road trucking I suppose.
So far I am happy with this season. I was starting to grow weary of the Alaskan scenery and shot after shot of blue Carlile Kenworths. Yes, the roads are steep and slick. Yes, you need chains. Yes, it is cold. Until next week keep it between the lines.