Channel 19

Todd Dills

Haul Road to the Himalayas: Interviewing Lisa Kelly

| October 11, 2010

The current “IRT: Deadliest Roads” season of the “Ice Road Truckers” reality-TV series franchise on the History Channel aired its second episode last night, after a launch the previous Sunday that garnered 3.4 million viewers. It pits North American drivers from past seasons, as well as a new face, against the incomparably rugged terrain and chaotic cities of the Himalayas.(Read a summary of IRT’s second episode here.) If you saw it, you came into contact with the hauler who today might be the leading figure in the public imagination when it comes to U.S. trucking. Before that episode aired, I spoke with Lisa Kelly (pictured, History Channel photo) about her growing notoriety, enabled by a supportive carrier back home and what might well be best described as the hardworking, driven, no-nonsense aspect of a woman Esquire magazine, as you may remember, dubbed the “Sexiest Trucker Alive.”

Kelly, 29, is still employed by Carlile Transportation, truckers of the Dalton Highway (the “Haul Road”) in Alaska and her only trucking employer in her seven-year driving career. “They trained me,” she says. These days, she’s been traveling more and more in the air, flitting here and there doing promotions for the new series, but says the 2004 Kenworth W9 she more typically rolls in is waiting for her in Alaska. “I’m in love with it,” she says.

Getting back to her regular runs may take time, she adds, but that’s OK in the end.

Is she enjoying all the hubbub? “I am having fun,” she says, indeed.

Check out the first IRT episode of this season online, which aired on the History Channel more than a week ago now. And see below for selected bits from my interview with Kelly.

Do you think about your situation in terms of being an ambassador for U.S. truck drivers to the general public?
Whether I choose to or not, that’s the place I’ve been put…. I’m doing the best that I can to represent who truckers are and put my personality into it.

Is your day-to-day life relatively similar to what it was before IRT?
I would say it’s the same with a twist. [IRT has at this point] just taken over, the last three months or so. It’s completely changed from me being me to me being that person on TV. But I still feel like I’m me.

Are you back at work with Carlile at this point?
I’ve had the same truck for two years. It’s a 2004 Kenworth W900L. I have a push bumper on it now. I haven’t gotten to do a whole lot lately. I’ve been running around and doing a lot of commercial stuff and stuff related to the show. Carlile’s been awesome about this whole thing — they knew what they were getting into. They were very encouraging for me, realizing it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “We’ll save your truck,” they said. They’ve let me go all the way around the world — it’s amazing and awesome and they’re a wonderful company to work for.

When you compare the Haul Road with the roads you saw in Southeast Asia, what’s similar? What’s different?
Different? Everything. And similar: pretty much nothing. They both have roads, and that’s about it. One’s got avalanches, the other landslides. Nobody drives the same — we drive on the opposite sides of the road [and opposite sides of the cab].

What was the biggest driving challenge you saw in Asia?
We had new challenges every place we went – the crazy driving and the high crash risk. I never completely got used to it – by the end, though, it was a little like, “this is how people drive here”… The heights made me freeze up in the beginning, and at the end, I didn’t — by the end I could just look over the edge of the cliff like it was nothing. I really learned what a human being can get used to.

In the current season’s first episode, the dynamic of being a woman in something of a man’s world — even more so than trucking might be in the U.S. — was on display almost from the get-go. How did you deal with that dynamic, other than to turn your own camera on the gawkers [which Kelly was seen doing to a crowd of men who formed by and on the road in front of her in the first episode]?
As far as I understood, there had been no women truck drivers there — everybody we ran into said they’d never seen that before. It was a challenge mainly because of my annoyance at the stares that I would get… And though I don’t want to give too much away, I got stopped by the police because they didn’t think I was supposed to be driving — I just showed them my license.

  • JIM K

    I Agree not only is Lisa,sexy as Hell she has a great head in her shoulders and I wish her much success in here driving career. I look forward to the new IRT season on the Dalton .

  • Paul Davis

    Lisa is a exceptional woman and I enjoy her carisma and grace she brings to the show. (not to mention how beautiful she is) I almost thought she was going to cave on the first or second episode of “International”, but she is tougher than she looks.

  • timothy jason kent

    i want to drive for you.i have a class a CDL and i want to get out of alabama.please send me info on how to put my app in.thank you very much.

  • janis michel

    i look forward to watching the irt show every week, and i’m proud to see a young woman as yourself do such a fine job. you have a great deal of courage to take on such a dangerous job. keep up the great work lisa! i’ll be praying for you, but i bet ya’ll are finished and back to the usa already. my son “sean michel” has a music ministry and they were on a mission trip in all of india and he said he traveled those same roads you have been driving! had i’d known that before i would have been so worried about him. he is 31 years old and we live in arkansas, in a suburb called bryant and it is outside of little rock. we are all originally from new orleans,la. we moved here in 1993. anyway, look up sean michel on facebook or on the web under his name and you’ll find him and you can listen to some of his music, it’s chirstian blues and he has written all of his own music, but does sing others as well. oh yea, i forgot to mention he was on american idol season six. well lisa i have to go. thanks for reading this (that is if you do of course) janis michel

  • collin miller

    i love my favortive movie break ice 18 wheeler truck i will enjoy watch more

  • Kathy Foley

    Lisa, I am so proud of you, not just because you are an amazing and exceptional woman but because you have so much courage and stamina and you are an excellant truck driver. You do what is expected of you without complaining. You get the job done right! I look forward to every episode. Be careful out there!

  • sue khan

    i said i wouldn’t watch it, but, here i am. i’m amazed (shouldn’t be, i guess) that it sounds like lisa made it through. she is way impressive!! i’m so happy for her to have the great opportunities she’s having as a result of both shows, but i still hope she’ll stick to the dalton. it’s scary enough. how’s the puppy??? that’s so lisa to pick the poor,little sweetpea up; i’m so glad she did. she’s a girl after my own heart w/ her menagerie! God bless you, kiddo.

  • Sharon Priest

    I think with Lisa being a truck driver it shows that women can do the job just like men. This has been a men only field for years but there are women that probably have felt the urge to drive such equipment. I’m considering making such a change myself. From working in a laboratory to be behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. I just find truck very fascinating and love to travel. Go Lisa!!

  • beverly smith

    yours is the only show i every watch love you guys

  • Neil Meacham

    WoW, I am very Impressed with what you have accomplished with your driving skills. My hat is off to you! I am a Heavy Haul instructor for Gordon Trucking out of Pacific Washington. I would Love to have the chance to run the Dalton. where do I sign up? and would you be my Trainer for the Dalton? Keep it up you are AWESOME……
    Neil Meacham
    Vancouver Wa.

  • Nicki Rion

    Lisa do you know where Ogdensburg, NY is? Seems like everyone here drives with there eyes closed. The roads are narrow and everyone parks out in the streets so you have to take chances by going around them all the time. The woman are safe drivers here but it seems that the men are the dangerous ones! Although there are a few women that can’t drive. Me for one,, (: My daughter could probably drive better than me. Anyways,, we love the show,, You and the other girls are great !!!!ha ha (;

  • James Dean

    Timothy Jason Kent, you are stuck in AL for life, get use to it.

  • Jim Jones

    I have watched IRT for several seasons. This is just as scary as any of what I have seen. My wife now has gotten interested in watching this new series which she has not done before. I applaud all of these drivers or what they are doing.

  • janice martin

    my step-father thinks lisa is so cute and sexy i think lisa is a great drive and i hope she kick butts

  • Shelena Thomas

    I salute your courage to drive in Dehli. I have been there on 2 extended work trips. India’s view of women drivers is low, and they do look upon truckers as the lowest caste. Girl you set the bar on that one now. Did you finally cone to realize that yield, zip, yield, cringe is the driving motto there. But there is a method to the Chaos and madness. I can certainly understand your concern or annoyance at the stare you received, but for the most part they are simpy curious. But whoa, what an experience for you, you go girl!!

  • curtis fox

    you seem like a nice lady who loves GOD and family. as a CHRISTian that means alot to me. im 40 years old and my mother went home to be with JESUS on 4-21-98 and i miss her alot but i know i’ll see her again when my journey here is over. thank you!

  • brian mcmanus

    irt is an amazing show.lisa has a lot of and witty.very very hot and sexy lady.



  • zianool khan

    i am a concrete pump operator but lisa you are good.I admire you.I wish i could drive with you guys.I like your pony

  • jeff

    Girl you set the bar on that one now. Did you finally cone to realize that yield, zip, yield, cringe is the driving motto there. But there is a method to the Chaos and madness. I can certainly understand your concern or annoyance at the stare you received, but for the most part they are simpy curious. But whoa, what an experience for you, you go girl!!

  • Lupe W.

    Lisa has more guts that I could ever have. I got scared on our icy roads and hills in Mid America! I am also wondering how the puppy is doing and hoping Lisa got to bring him home. I like her love of animals. She is a good person! Stay safe and happy.

  • Mike Simmons

    Personally I am tired of the whole LISA thing…I think the show is trying to capatilize on having a woman driver. She needs to go back home with her husband and be a WOMAN.

  • Mike Simmons

    Buddy…it’s a trucking show. Take another look. The girl should act more like a lady. I wonder if she weighs more than her husband?!

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  • Mike O’Roark

    Lisa layed off here spotter but never took a trip by herself.
    So what was point?

  • Lupe W.

    Does the puppy live in Alaska now? I sure hope so. Lisa is good with animals.

  • larry redenbaugh

    Lisa: I think from i have seen on tv and seems to me you are a good person. thinking about the lack of fuel on top ratain pass, i’am not sure how to spell that, but any way, do you ever anwser back on anything ,and do you ever read what people say. Thank you for being you !!! Larry Redenbaugh north carolina see ya

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  • sagar

    hey lisa one compliment for u looking so beutyful. and u drive in india “wo bhi himalaya pe” its dam better.
    ur suporter Tashi he good na?

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  • shashank

    Hi lisa this is one of your s fan you are so nice and very good turck dirvar its nice to come in india i want too mite you lisa ok plz take care and god belss you thnaks ……………..> strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.