Dickinson’s IcemanLife is a journey, and for some it can be an icy road.
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
Life is a journey, and for some it can be an icy road.
For Dickinson native Lane Keator, frozen highways have been part of his career. Keator is the terminal manager for Carlile Transportation trucking company, which has been featured on the last three seasons of the History Channel’s “Ice Road Truckers.”
The show chronicles the travels of semi drivers hauling across the frozen freeway from Fairbanks, Alaska to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
Keator isn’t in the driver’s seat, but still plays an integral role in the company and the show.
“Basically, I give them the information they need for the story they have on camera,” he said.
After graduating from Dickinson High School in 1990, Keator joined the U.S. Army and completed his basic training in Missouri. He was stationed at Prudhoe Bay and was later deployed overseas during Desert Storm. He earned his commercial driver’s license while in the military and saw an opportunity for employment.
“I was looking for a job to transition into the civilian world and it seemed pretty easy to find a job driving truck,” Keator said. He got on board with Carlile as a local delivery driver in Fairbanks and moved up the ranks into his current management position.
In 2008, Original Productions approached the company about being involved with the third installment of the show. Keator said Carlile was apprehensive at first because of how other companies were portrayed, but decided to take the high road.
“We were excited to work with them on the deal,” he said. “We had seen the first two seasons and they showed some less than safe acts, but we were able to work a deal where we could show how safe of a company we really are.”
Keator is no longer behind the wheel, but he is the driving force for safety. He works as the liaison between the trucking company and the production crews, which can be a delicate balancing act.
“The camera crews like to go pretty hard, but we still have to follow DOT (Department of Transportation) regulations,” he said. “The drivers still follow the federal rules of driving. They get their rest time and time off.”
Les Keaton, Lane’s father, said safety is his No. 1 concern.
“He is very concerned about how the show projects safety,” Les said. “He and the company want to project safety and have a concern sometimes that it doesn’t always happen that way all the time.”
Lane admits that the show sometimes “dramatizes” small events, but is a fair portrayal of the dangers of the road.
“It is 500 miles of hills and curves and ice and snow and wind, and that is what you get,” Lane said “The situations they get out there are real situations.”
Les and Lane spent time on the haul road during hunting trips and the treacherous conditions were apparent even without the snow and ice, Les said.
“I have been on it myself and I can tell you that I wouldn’t want to be on it in winter,” he said.
Lane said the best part of working on the show is being part of the rich lore of ice road trucking.
“The history of the haul road is interesting,” he said. “They make history every day. It is a neat deal.”
Lane said working with a variety of people and coming through for customers when they need it are also perks of the job.
Lane humbly describes things as “pretty normal,” but it is apparent he has reached a certain level of celebrity.
“There are a lot of people who watch that show,” Les said. “When the show first started way back, he got a fair number of calls from old friends who happened to see his name on the show.”
Lane said the drivers are the main feature of the show, but the company has also reaped the benefits.
“It has been really good for the company as far as name recognition,” he said.
The renown of the company has opened doors for fundraisers and different truck shows, which Lane describes as “fun and enjoyable.”
The company is moving freight 365 days a year, but the cameras are on only during the busy season, which is a little added stress.
“It’s like a second job,” Lane said. “These guys come here for three months and they are aggressive and want information. I provide information for the camera, but I also have to look out for my drivers.”
Outside of work, Alaska is a great place for Lane.
“I love the outdoors,” he said. “I love the wide open –– the hunting, the fishing, but more importantly is watching my son play soccer.”
Lane said he spends time with his wife, Ruth, and sons, Curtis and Christian. He also enjoys spending time with his family in North Dakota when he can.
“I love North Dakota. I always say that if I ever leave Alaska that is the one place I would go,” he said. “No place like home, man.”