At 29, you’re one of the youngest, and often only female driver in the Ice Road Truckers and [its spinoff] IRT: Deadliest Roads teams. Did you have to fight hard to prove yourself?
Yeah, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, you’ve got to show that you can handle the job – that you can do the job that’s demanded of you. Everybody’s got to prove [themselves], and I had to do that to a certain degree. [I had to prove myself] in my personal life before the show, and then I had to re-prove it to the world when I was on the show, so had to do it twice [laughs].
How did you become an Ice Road Trucker?
I was a bus driver [first] to get my CDL [Commercial Driver’s License] to be a truck driver. And I was a truck driver for about five years before I was even on the show. It was a lot of hard work, and I don’t know what made me decide to do it, but I just put my mind to it and had to work really hard for it. I had to prove to people that I had the will to do it, and then convince people to train me. [It] took quite a few years to get into it.
Was it all due to a strong interest in driving?
No, I actually didn’t really like driving that much, and I still don’t like driving in my little personal vehicle, because I always want to be somewhere. But with trucking, it’s the journey that’s the adventure.
You said that you had to convince people to train you. What argument did you present?
It wasn’t mostly words that I had to convince people with, it was actions. So I told them, ‘I really want to drive a truck.’ And then they’d let me do something, and I would just do it to the best of my ability, even though it was a really small job – keep pushing and wanting more, you know? And they’d figure I’d be satisfied with it, but I’m like, ‘No, no, I want to get the big truck, I want to get the big truck!’ [Laughs] So [there was] a lot of nagging, and a lot of hard work that I put in to work through it. Hard work at being a nagger! [Laughs]
Describe the most exciting leg of your Himalayan trip.
[It was] the first road that we did. It was Highway 21, called the Freefall Highway, or something – a road as skinny as your truck is, and a thousands-of-feet drop – it was just right on the edge and just switchback after switchback. Trying to get used to it all at the same time – it was pretty overwhelming.
Most heart-stopping experience?
There was a spot on the road that a dump truck had to move over for another vehicle. The road gave way, and the truck fell off the cliff and the driver died. And [in] less than an hour later, I was going right by that same spot, and I met another oncoming dump truck. I had to move over to the edge that gave way and killed the guy, so that was very scary.
What’s it like navigating these dangerous roads while being filmed?
Definitely the cameras distract you because they’re trying to ask you questions when scary things are happening. You’re just so tired and they want to ask questions on top of it, and you just want to tell them to be quiet and concentrate [laughs], but that’s how they make their show. So it definitely adds to the danger – you have to put everybody’s safety, and your driving, first. I can answer questions and do the filming, but if I get in a really dangerous situation, I’m like ‘Guys, we’re going to die, so we’ve got to be quiet, otherwise we’re going to die!’. And they usually keep quiet because they don’t want to die either [laughs].
What are the thoughts that go through your head when driving down a dangerous road? What are the fears that come to mind?
The common fears, I guess, [could be] like a bus coming around the corner, or the road giving way, or animals running out in front of you. It could be anything. I had to learn how to block certain thoughts, because there’s so much going on at once and you’re constantly [thinking about] what could happen, and it gets overwhelming, because in your mind you know something could happen at any second.
How do you work up the courage to be fearless 24/7?
I do a lot of extreme things in my life, because I’m scared of them [laughs]. So it really helps with that when I’m skydiving, or racing motocross, or [doing] really scary things. [When] I drive on dangerous roads, it’s just another scary thing that I do. I’m not courageous – I just do [these things] in spite of being scared of them – or because I’m scared.
Why do you drive trucks? For the adrenaline rush?
I got interested in dirt bikes first. And it’s kind of a feeling you get hooked on – like once you conquer a scary jump, you feel proud of yourself. You get hooked on that feeling and you want to go out and conquer things because of the sense of accomplishment you get from it.
Do you need a daredevil mentality to take part in ice road trucking then, because it’s rather dangerous?
Well, it depends on what kind of trucking you want to do. It’s not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. If you want to just do open highways, anybody can do that. But if you want to do dangerous roads, you’ve definitely got to have a little bit of moxie.
You had problems with your spotter Tashi in the show, and you chose not to use him for a number of your trips. Were you afraid at all, being by yourself in a place where you were unfamiliar with the language and terrain?
It wasn’t portrayed that way, [but] I really like Tashi and we’re still friends to this day. I didn’t know what I was doing at the beginning, but when I started to get the hang of it after two months, he was still trying to tell me how to drive all the time. I felt that he was putting me in dangerous situations. It wasn’t that I fired him or anything – it got played up for camera a little bit. But I wanted to show him that I could do well – that he taught me well, and that I could drive the roads without his help. I told him that I’d do a trip and if it didn’t work out well, that I would have him back in the truck with me. But it went really well, and it was only on the last few trips that I went without him, so I really appreciate all the help that he gave me, and it was fun to prove that I could do it without him.
Did the cultural factor play a big role in the difficulty of the situation?
Yes, very much so. [Laughs] For one, it was so much hotter than I’ve ever been in my life. The road rules are completely different, the trucks are completely different, we drive on the other side of the road, we shift with the other hand, our bodies were getting used to the food…every aspect is so different because it’s Eastern culture. Dangerous roads, camera crews, culture, environment, everything. [I’d also have to] take pictures with people and I felt really dirty because I was working. [Laughs] Very strange.
Besides the Himalayas and Alaska, what other kinds of terrain are you interested to cover?
I would love to drive in Australia, with a whole bunch of trailers. And I would love to drive in Antarctica, because it just sounds windy. [Laughs] Cold and icy, and I know I do that here, but it would just be interesting. I haven’t seen the whole world yet. [Laughs] A desert? That would be kind of cool. I don’t know, what kind of land you got there?
Singapore’s roads are mostly cement, and the opposite of dangerous. But a recent phenomenon has been flooded roads. What’s your advice for driving through high water safely?
Well, the whole point of ice roads is not to be driving in water [laughs]. So I don’t have a lot of water experience. In the Himalayas we had a couple of mudslides, but nothing too bad.
What’s a typical day in the life of a trucker? When do you have to retire?
The rules are different everywhere. In India there were no rules [laughs], so you go until you’re tired. Here in Alaska, you can drive 15 hours a day, and down in the States, I think it’s ten or 11 hours. Over in Europe it’s nine hours. So it just really depends on where you are. As far as age goes, you can have certain physical tests – eyesight tests and stuff like that. As soon as you can’t pass those then you have to call it quits.
IRT: Deadliest Roads has been a huge hit in the US. How have you been coping with all the popularity – and how does your family feel about your fame and your chosen career as a trucker?
I think they were a little disappointed at first when I didn’t aspire to be anything more than a truck driver. But then when they saw how happy it made me, they were supportive. How am I coping with the newfound fame? I’d like to think that I’m coping well [laughs]. It’s really weird and I’m trying to not get a big head about it. I realise I’m a normal person like everybody else and I just do a job. It was all luck I’m on TV, so that doesn’t make me any more important than anyone else. Sometimes people forget that about me too – some days I don’t feel like signing autographs or taking pictures, or I’m having a bad hair day, or I’m tired. So, it goes both ways. I’d like to think I’m handling it well.
You’re also named Esquire magazine’s Sexiest Trucker Alive.
[Laughs] I don’t know who named that one. I don’t know how I could be the sexiest truck driver alive, but I’m the only one on the show, so I’d hope one of the guys wouldn’t win that [laughs].
What does your husband think about your career?
We both do our own thing. He’s happy to do his thing, and he’s very supportive of me doing the show because that’s what I want to do. We [made an agreement] that [trucking will] never get in the way of us, and if it does, I’ll stop doing it.
Considering the danger truckers face practically daily, would you let your kids go down that career path?
Yeah, they could do that too, if that’s what they wanted – whatever makes them happy [laughs]. My husband does dangerous things too. So we both support each other and, you know, that’s how we live life to the fullest.
What are some of the traits a would-be truck driver should possess?
I would say hard work, willingness to learn and patience.
You’re a wife, a driver with [Alaskan trucking company] Carlile Transportation Systems and an actress. Which is your favourite role, and how do you juggle them all?
I like my home role, that one’s always the best [laughs]. Juggling it all is a very delicate act, because it’s hard to hold a job when you’re never there to do it. [Laughs] Filming six months a year, you have another six months when you’re trying to have a job, and they don’t really want a part-time driver. But I’m lucky Carlile understand that, so they keep my job for me whenever I get back.
You’re also a role model to aspiring female drivers – how do you deal with that?
I’m stepping up to the plate. A lot of people are role models, whether they like to admit it or not. I realise I’m in that position now, and I’m just trying my very best. I try to be a good representative of women in the industry, [and] a good role model for the people who are watching.
IRT: Deadliest Roads premieres on Thursday 28 July, 10pm at StarHub Channel 401: HISTORY.