Ice road truckers feel the economic freeze

YELLOWKNIFE — The winter road in Canada’s north that received worldwide attention as part of the U.S.-based History Channel’s hit show Ice Road Truckers is seeing a little less action these days.

But the slowdown along the Tibbitt to Contwoyto ice road has nothing to do with Hollywood, but rather the far-reaching global economic downturn.

According to the Northern News Service, one closed mine and a general slowdown in production have led to a drop in shipments for trucking companies working the famous route.

"They’re dropping loads per truck. The mines are cutting back because of the economy and we’re all affected – some worse than others," Blair Weatherby, president of the NWT Motor Transport Association, told local media. "Some (companies) didn’t even get contracts this year."

The winter road opened Feb. 2 and is operating on schedule, completing 10 percent of this season’s shipments. The number of those on-time shipments, however, has gone down.

Initial rumors in the area suggested total tonnage for this season’s shipments would be cut in half, but Erik Madsen the director of the winter road, says it will be only 45,000 tonnes less than last year – down to 200,000 tonnes.

In other words, total tonnes being shipped to the mines has dropped to an expected 200,000 tonnes from 245,000 in 2008. Mining companies were originally expecting to ship 245,000 tonnes this year as well.

While the drop in tonnage will mean the trucks that are hired will do between eight to 10 loads, rather than 20 to 25 loads, Weatherby says the news isn’t all bad.

"If you go back five or 10 years, we’re still (shipping) more than we were then," he notes.

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