A Day in the Life of an Alaskan Truck Driver

September 9, 2022

Alaska has two oceans, three seas, 3,000 rivers, and 3 million lakes. Despite being the largest land-sized state, only 20 percent of Alaska is accessible by road

The Alaska supply chain requires unique and customized logistics for distribution. Just as individuals use boats and seaplanes to travel to remote communities throughout the state, supply chain logistics include boats, barges, and planes. They also require truck drivers to haul long distances across paved, unpaved, and ice roads.

The Long and Winding Road

Alaska has over 14,000 miles of public roads. These roads are often not what you may envision. These roads offer adventures through national parks and forests over steep and rugged terrains and connect communities throughout the state. You can spend miles on these roads without seeing another car, a gas station, or a community. Most of these roads are two lanes with narrow and no shoulders. These are reasons why being an Alaskan truck driver takes vigilance, experience, and perseverance. 

Here are some key highways on which our truck drivers haul various types of cargo daily. 

  • ALASKA HIGHWAY: This highway was once considered a wilderness road with minimal maintenance. It’s a 1,500-mile highway from Mile 0 at Dawson Creek, B.C., to Delta Junction, Alaska. It is traveled daily by our Alaskan truck drivers, hauling supplies from the Lower 48 to Alaska. 
  • DALTON HIGHWAY:  The Dalton Highway takes our Alaskan truck drivers to the top of the world and through Alaska’s oil fields! This 414-mile gravel road runs parallel to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and is not open for public access.
  • DENALI HIGHWAY: Running through the middle of the state from Paxson to Cantwell, this 135-mile-long highway is beneficial for our Alaskan truck drivers to get across the state; however, this highway is closed from October 15 to May 15, which causes additional planning and awareness for truck drivers.
  • NOME ROAD SYSTEM: You can not drive to Nome, but once there, you will find over 300 miles of well-traveled and maintained roads that allow truck drivers to deliver cargo to remote communities.
  • SEWARD HIGHWAY: Listed as one of the most scenic highways in Alaska, the Seward Highway starts at the harbor city of Seward and allows truck drivers to deliver goods to Alaska’s largest city – Anchorage. 
  • KUSKOKWIN ICE ROAD: When built, this road, made entirely of ice, is 300 miles long and reaches over 17 villages. It also gives access to the oil fields in a manner that doesn’t disrupt the arctic terrain. Ice roads allow truck drivers to move cargo during the winter months. 

We’ve Mastered Moving Cargo Despite Roads

Being an Alaskan truck driver is a superhero-type feat. It takes logistics, planning, and coordination to keep all cargo fluidly moving with or without roads. 

Most food items, like produce, are trucked up through Canada or flown to Alaska daily. The shelf life of these products is short, so immediate distribution is vital.

Other items, like lumber, furniture, and shelf-stable foods, may come up via ships, barges, or rail. Once in Alaska, cargo is often distributed via truck drivers when additional logistical solutions aren’t needed.

Although Carlile does not have a terminal at each port, our truck drivers frequently access these ports to deliver and pick up trailers for hauling. Carlile has terminals at 3 of the four most active ports in Alaska. These ports are Anchorage, Valdez, and Kodiak.

Trained for the Terrain

Beyond the solitude of the open road, truck driving in Alaska brings unique challenges that require experience, professional judgment, and critical thinking. 

Alaska has vast forests, tall mountains, and beautiful glaciers. Our terrain is often difficult to navigate, especially when hauling large loads. Steep hills, unpaved roads, changing weather patterns, and wildlife can be tough on the truck and the driver.

  • DAYLIGHT: The change in seasons, increase and decrease in daylight hours will throw off the natural circadian rhythm of a truck driver. It is just as easy to lose track of time as it is to feel more tired than usual earlier in the day. Our truck drivers must always understand and identify their physical state during their hauls. Safety is our number one priority. We work closely with our truck drivers to ensure they know the signs of driving fatigue and pull over for additional rests if needed.
  • WEATHER: Rain, ice, and snow showers can move quickly and often without much warning. Wind patterns can shift from breezes to gusts, snow can cause white-out conditions, and black ice is not detectable. A truck driver must remain alert and be prepared to hunker down in remote areas of Alaska, with no cell or internet service, for days without warning. Truck drivers must carry extra food, water, and cold winter gear. They must be prepared to assess weather conditions quickly and understand the terrain of the road ahead of them to minimize any unwarranted risks. 
  • ANIMALS: Alaska is a vast, remote place where large animals roam. Our Alaskan roads take truck drivers through some of the most breathtaking places in the United States. These lands are filled with grizzlies, black bears, wolves, mooses, elk, musk ox, and more. Seeing wild animals in their natural habitat is one of the more unique experiences for Alaskan truck drivers. It also poses a serious threat as these animals often are camouflaged in vegetation and/or frequently cross the roadways as they graze. 

Your Career Starts Here

The trucking & logistics industry plays a critical role in the Alaska supply chain and economy. We have many opportunities for truck drivers in various locations within our company. 

Contact Carlile today if you’re interested in becoming an Alaskan truck driver. We would be happy to chat with you about the available opportunities.