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Day In the Life: Ice Road Trucker

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I recently had an exciting opportunity to speak with one of our drivers, Gus Hoagland. Gus works in our Fairbanks, Alaska office and he isn’t your typical driver. Gus is AmeriGas’ one and only Ice Road Trucker. He goes above and beyond to ensure that the individuals living Northern Alaska have the propane they need to survive the frigid living conditions.

Explain your role at AmeriGas
I’m a Bulk Transport Driver here in Alaska. I drive a tractor trailer to make deliveries to customers all around Alaska. When I’m not on the road, I’ll typically jump in wherever help is needed in the office. I enjoy helping the customers at the counter by providing them with information about our products and services.

How does your role differ from that of a typical bobtail driver?
The interesting part about my job is that I’m one of the only Bulk Transport Drivers in the company. The rest of the drivers are Bobtail Drivers. One of the major differences between my job and a typical Bobtail driver is that I driver a lot more highway miles. My trips are also a lot longer than the average bobtail driver. One of my deliveries is located in North Slope, Alaska—the most northern borough of Alaska. This is a 500 mile drive and takes me an entire week just to get there due to the inclement weather.

What is it like driving through Alaska?
The roads are a lot harder to maintain in Alaska, which results in harsh road conditions and a more challenging drive. The weather is also very unpredictable and changes drastically, which adds to the challenge. Weather conditions can change within a 150 mile radius. You can easily go from driving in rain to sleet to snow to sun—all within that 150-mile drive. Although it’s a harsh environment, nothing compares to the beautiful Alaska landscape. 

What is your favorite delivery?
My favorite delivery is definitely the fire training facility. This facility is where the fire and airborne teams of Alaska attend their training. I don’t get to visit the facility too often, as they only receive deliveries about 3 times a year, but when I do visit I’m in awe. The people training at this facility are great individuals. They’re very warm and welcoming people. I’ve even had the opportunity to sit in on some of their training. Seeing what these men do on a regular basis is truly astonishing.

What was the most challenging delivery you’ve ever had?
The inclement weather here in Alaska has definitely resulted in some challenging deliveries. The one delivery that sticks out the most would have to be this delivery I once made to Homer, Alaska. It was snowing particularly hard this day, which was challenging enough. The snow was coming down so hard that my truck got stuck as I was driving on the highway. I had no other choice but to get out on the middle of the highway to put chains on my wheels. It was very nerve-wracking as I couldn’t see anything due to the weather, which means it’s pretty likely another car wouldn’t have been able to see me. I moved as quickly as possible to put the chains on my truck so that I could move my truck to safety. I always try to watch the weather forecast prior to making my deliveries, but more often than not those forecasts are incorrect. 

What’s your favorite part about your job?
Prior to working for AmeriGas, I worked in construction. I’ve always enjoyed working outside and being able to take in the in the fresh air each day. What I really love about my current role, which I never really got to experience before, is that I get to go somewhere new every single day. And nothing can beat the landscape of Alaska. I see everything from moose trampling down the road to wolves and coyotes running in front of my truck—wildlife that you can’t see in most other parts of the country. I also love the freedom my job gives me to spend time with my family—something I didn’t get at my previous job. 

Have you acquired any hidden skills/talents from your current role?
I wouldn’t classify this as a hidden skill, but I’ve definitely learned a lot about propane and propane safety from my current role. I think the most valuable lesson I’ve learned in the five years I’ve been at AmeriGas is to take my time and be patient. At my previous job, everyone was always in a hurry; trying to meet deadlines as quickly as possible. Since working at AmeriGas I learned to not be in such a hurry all the time, especially when it comes to safety. If it’s a safety issue, that should be—and is—the number one priority. 

So I hear you’re a second generation AmeriGas employee. Can you tell me a little more?
Absolutely! My dad worked at AmeriGas for 30 years and he just recently retired from his role as District Manager. My dad was actually the one who suggested my career change. He knew that I wasn’t truly happy in my previous job and let me know about the new position opening up at AmeriGas. He told me that the current Bulk Transport Driver was going to retire and suggested I try it out—and I’m glad I did! The previous Bulk Transport Driver worked at AmeriGas for 25 years and was an amazing instructor. I felt confident taking on the role after his retirement. At the time, I thought this would be a temporary role, but I ended up falling in love with my job.