Lisa Kelly is known for her part in the History Channel reality television series, “Ice Road Truckers“. The show featured the hazards truck drivers face in the isolated Arctic regions of Alaska and Canada, who forge across frozen rivers and lakes, sometimes hauling oversized loads.
Lisa was born on 8th December 1980 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA. At the age of six, the family moved to a small farm in Sterling, Alaska. Lisa returned to study at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, but only lasted one semester before deciding that the academic life wasn’t for her and dropped out. Lisa then took on jobs as a school bus driver, worked at a couple of gas stations, a pizza company, and became the state’s freestyle motocross champion. She then trained to become a trucker, and after (in her own words) ‘nagging the crap’ out of a couple of companies, she got a job with Carlile Transportation, an Alaskan trucking and shipping company. Lisa acknowledges that this was a difficult accomplishment for a woman, and claims she had to work twice as hard at pulling her weight and everybody else’s, to get the job done as fast, or faster.
Lisa Kelly and “Ice Road Truckers”
The show premiered on 17th June 2007 to a record-breaking audience of 3.4 million viewers, which History Channel, in its 12th year at the time, had never previously experienced. It ran to the end of its 11th season which wrapped up on 9th November 2017, claiming to be taking a short break from production. The show was nominated for an Emmy and four other awards. Thom Beers was one of the producers and a narrator who is also known for the reality TV series “The Deadliest Catch”.
Lisa’s first appearance in “Ice Road Truckers” was in Season 3 in 2009 and she continued to take part through Seasons 4 and 5, took a break for Season 6 and then rejoined in Season 7 onwards to the end; all in all, she took part in 84 episodes. The earlier seasons showed truckers manoeuvring their heavily-laden vehicles over frozen lakes, which are known as ice roads, in Alaska and the Northwest Territories of Canada, and notably Alaska’s Dalton Highway which is solid ground that is mainly covered in snow. The later seasons were mainly filmed on Manitoba’s ice- and snow-covered winter roads. IMDB coined that form of trucking as ‘a job to die for’. The opening theme song for the first four seasons of the show was “Livin’ on the Edge” by Aerosmith, which well describes the dangers involved. The theme music composers were Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith and Mark Hudson, who co-wrote 12 of the band’s songs and is also a producer.
In 2010 Lisa was the only American trucker to finish the spin-off series, entitled “IRT: Deadliest Roads”, which took three truckers to India and presented them with the huge challenge of transporting jet fuel through the treacherous mountain passes between Delhi to Shima and up to the Himalayas, for helicopter crews involved in mountain rescues. The Rohtang Pass, at a height of 13,000 ft (3,980 m), was most arduous, with the truckers suffering bouts of altitude sickness, dealing with other traffic, and deep snow. The other two truckers, Rick Yemm and Alex Debogorski gave up before the end.
Lisa quips that her biggest challenge in India was all the people gawking at her, as they’d never seen a woman driving a truck before. They would even pull over to take pictures, or stop dead in front of her so she had to avoid hitting them. There were times when the police prevented her from accessing certain parts of the road, because they didn’t think she would be able to manoeuvre the truck through.
The second season of the series “IRT: Deadliest Roads” launched on 3rd October 2010. The truckers handled what is known as the world’s most dangerous road – the North Yungas Road in Bolivia. It winds through 43 miles (69 kms) of narrow, serpentine bends, fog, mud and landslides with cliffs dropping below for 2,000 ft (160m) and parts where the road crumbled under their wheels. Then the truckers tackle Peru’s precarious switchback roads through the Andes Mountains. Hair-raising driving to say the least, so the drivers really had to know their stuff – one slip on those roads could end up being fatal!
When asked whether the Dalton Highway in Alaska seemed easier after driving in these foreign countries, Lisa answered that it does, but that she has to be careful not to get careless as ‘it’s still a dangerous road and could get you when you are not paying attention’.
Lisa has also featured in various TV shows such as “The David Letterman Show”, “Luciana by Night”, and in a TV commercial for York Peppermint Patties, and has given numerous media interviews and contributed articles.
A little about Lisa Kelly’s Personal Life
Currently 41 years old, Lisa is attractive with light brown hair and brown eyes. She has a slim, athletic figure. and is 5ft 6ins (170 cm) tall. The 2010 Men’s Esquire Magazine labelled her “The Sexiest Trucker Alive”. However, Lisa strove to prove that she was more than just ‘eye candy’.
Lisa certainly chose an unusual job, particularly for a woman, often driving a Dalton eighteen-wheel truck from Fairbanks up to Prudhoe Bay’s offshore rigs and oil fields. She has said that she loves the sense of freedom that trucking gives her. She was the only female trucker in the TV series until Season 5, when Maya Sieber joined; later, Stephanie ‘Steph’ Custance joined in Season 10.
One thing that is apparent is that Lisa is an adrenaline junkie. Her job is full of formidable moments such as when she was crossing a frozen lake and the ice started cracking; she propelled herself out of the truck, but thank goodness the ice held. One of Lisa’s dreams was to fly in a fighter jet with the US Navy Blue Angels flight exhibition squadron, and in 2014 she achieved this dream, which she found more difficult than she could have imagined, quipping, “Dreams really do come true and they can come true if you believe that they can and you go for them and it might not be what you expected it to be and it might be harder than your expected them to be, but if you want to badly enough, you’ll get it!”
In her free time, Lisa enjoys horse-riding, snowboarding, skydiving and hang gliding, as well as motocross.
She is an animal lover, and over the years has had a miniature horse called Rocky, a pet cat and now a couple of miniature and other horses on her Wasilla property where she owns a home. Whilst working on the “Ice Road Truckers: Deadliest Roads in the Himalayas”, Lisa chose a puppy called Rampur Jackson to accompany her. Her Indian helper, Tashi, helped her take care of the dog who was given to one of the producers of the show once filming was concluded.
Lisa Kelly’s love and romance
Lisa met Traves Kelly, a full Aleut Native Alaskan and an ardent dirt-bike rider, when she purchased a Kawasaki 125. At the time he was a motorbike mechanic and worked at the shop where she bought her motorbike. They met up again on the race track when Lisa was racing. Traves then invited her to watch him perform in a dirt-bike freestyle show – their first date ended up with him damaging his shoulder, in an injury known as a separated shoulder. They dated for four years before they married in 2008. Apparently they are still married, but possibly not together – Lisa hasn’t mentioned him in her recent media posts
It’s not clear whether Lisa and Traves are still married and Lisa has not let anything slip, but by Traves’ accounts on his Facebook page, it seems he has been in a relationship with Terri-Jo Ewing, a horse-rider, since 2021.
It's a brisk 41 degrees F. But I'm doing the last city motocross race! pic.twitter.com/FHijKNl6CD
— Lisa Kelly (@LisaKellyIRT1) September 16, 2013
Tragedy befalls Ice Road trucker
Darrel Ward joined “Ice Road Truckers” in Season 6, and soon became a firm favorite. He and Lisa would often partner up for long hauls, and became good friends. Lisa spoke to “Truckers News” about Darrel when she was interviewed at the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas in 2016. She said she found it a ‘blast’ to work with Darrel, that he was like a big kid at heart and like a big brother to her. Shortly thereafter on 28th August Darrel died in a tragic plane crash in Montana at the age of 52.
What is Lisa Kelly doing now?
After the end of “Ice Road Truckers”, Lisa, who was one of the most popular stars of the show, kept her audience’s attention by sharing positive statements with the hope that the show would reignite, but it hasn’t happened. She made public appearances, as well as standing in for the Ellen Show. On 10th March 2016, she started promoting brands and proudly announced on Twitter: ‘Team Lisa = Team Delo! Proud to announce that I am working with Chevron Delo.’
When it was obvious that “Ice Road Truckers” had breathed its last breath, she was released from her contractual obligations and was employed by Chevron Delo as brand ambassador. The downside of her new position is that she had to leave her home in Wasilla and her beloved horses, and move to Fairbanks. In a YouTube video on 22nd September 2021 she relates that she might be gone for a couple of years, and tearfully kisses her horses goodbye.
As an indication of the importance of Lisa’s job, and that of the company, the Delo brand of engine oils, lubricants and coolants are used for a variety of heavy-duty applications e.g. for busses and trucks, as well as construction, mining, agriculture etc. Just as a matter of interest, Chevron, initially the Standard Oil Company of California (Socal), was founded in 1863 by John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flagler and at its peak became the largest petroleum company in the world. Rockefeller sat at its helm as chairman until he retired in 1897 and the success of the company contributed to his becoming one of the wealthiest people in history. Chevron, now one of the largest companies in the world, is one of the successor companies of Standard Oil and has its headquarters in San Ramon, California.
However, that’s not all Lisa’s doing – that’s what she loves best, so she hasn’t stopped trucking along those icy roads. On 16th October 2021 she posted a video where she had spun out on the ice, but luckily was able to right the vehicle without any serious consequences. She appears at various trucking shows, has her own online shop now, and best of all, has bought a new truck – a Peterbilt!
With that, in February 2022 she started a new business called Arctic Fox Trucking, and a video series on her YouTube channel followed by over 37,000 faithful fans. She also posts regularly on her Facebook page, with 900,000 followers.
Lisa Kelly’s net worth
Lisa has claimed that her salary on the show was not that great, as it wasn’t much more than the usual trucker’s salary. However, according to authoritative sources, her net worth as of mid-2022 is estimated at around $600,000.
All in all Lisa is an inspiration and was thrilled that “Ice Road Truckers” revived the image people held of truckers. She has a genuine love for life and wants to live it to the fullest ‘with the precious time that I’ve been given here on Earth.’ One of her favorite things to say is, “I’m the only one living my life, so I’m going to live it to make me happy. I can’t live for other people and I hate when other people judge my life because I’m having fun rather then just live their own lives so they are happy with themselves.’