The trucking industry has been called the foundation of the United States economy. The American Trucking Associations estimates that over 70 percent of all freight moved throughout the country is transported by truck.

However, the U.S. is facing a significant driver shortage: a deficit of 48,000 drivers. If this trend continues, it’s predicted that the shortage will rise to almost 175,000 by 2024. These are statistics that Todd Dewey is working tirelessly to improve.

On “Ice Road Truckers,” Dewey became a fan favorite. The series showcases various drivers who operate trucks on seasonal routes crossing frozen lakes and rivers, in remote Arctic territories in Canada and Alaska. The star hopes fans understand that professional truck drivers do much more than sit behind a steering wheel.

“We’re not just truck drivers,” he tells Mediaplanet. “We have spent many years of our lives learning how trucks work and how to prepare for any situation that might come our way. Whether it’s driving on the highway through thick traffic or powering through the mountains on a steep, narrow road, there’s a lot of physical work involved.”

Caution ahead

In 2016, Dewey suffered a severe eye injury when a logging truck tire exploded, resulting in four eye surgeries. Since, he’s become an outspoken advocate for practicing safety on and off the road.

“Always know your truck inside and out,” he urges. “Know where all your safety gears are. Prepare yourself for whatever kind of trip it is. You can never be over-prepared.”

For novice drivers lacking mechanical experience, Dewey recommends getting comfortable with the truck’s service manual. “You’ll need to learn what all the button operations do and how to reset it when it half-powers down. Otherwise you’re going to be parked on the side of the road trying to get a hold of your fleet manager to figure out how the hell to get the truck back.”

“I’m old school. I like the old big motors that put out real horsepower. All they need is a little battery and some diesel fuel…”

Tech tools

Technology has changed every aspect of the way every industry operates, and the trucking industry is no exception. From GPS systems to hands-free mobile calling, America’s roads have never been safer.

“New technology makes it a bit easier for us,” he explains.  “With some cars, you can’t even switch lanes without turning your blinker on.” According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the number of fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses decreased almost 5 percent in 2014. Even so, Dewey occasionally enjoys going off the grid.

“I like old-fashioned horsepower,” he laughs. “I’m old school. I like the old big motors that put out real horsepower. All they need is a little battery and some diesel fuel and they go all day long.”

Healthy horizons

Spending 300 days per year behind the wheel comes with its downsides. In fact, the CDC found that nearly 9 out of every 10 long-haul drivers has at least one risk factor for chronic disease, including hypertension, obesity and smoking addiction.

“It’s easy to overeat or snack too much,” Dewey explains. “I like to make I pack healthy stuff: vegetables, trail mix and protein bars. I like food that keeps my energy high. You don’t want to feel sluggish or worn-out.” His two front seat must-haves? Coffee and Johnny Cash. “I won’t go anywhere without my kettle ready to make myself a hot cup of coffee in the morning.”

Whether he’s riding through treacherous terrain or at home with his wife and four daughters, Dewey claims he’s still the same small-town trucker at heart. “I’m just an ordinary truck driver who has worked hard and succeeded.”