The Legacy of Darrell Ward

by Jake Tully - Published: 8/04/2017
1.8 23 votes

Many truckers and fans of truckers alike know about ice road truckers, both as a division of professional drivers and the popular History channel program, which is still airing at this time of writing.

Aside from the legacy that their incredibly perilous job entails and stories from the road featuring drivers such as Hugh Rowland, yet another individual popularized by his activities on and off the program is Darrell Ward.

Arguably one of the most popular drivers within the cast of the program, Darrell Ward left a legacy in the world of ice road trucking as well as in the entertainment world at large, meeting an unfortunate end due to a plane crash in late August of 2016.

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Those who watched Ward will not soon forget his antics in the trucks that brought supplies to camps and small towns in the great white north, nor will they forget the true trucker spirit that Ward brought to his trucking job every time viewers saw him on screen.

Darrell Ward On The Small Screen

Ward, a trucker originally from Montana, came from a long line of professional drivers all throughout his family. It’s safe to say that a taking on a truck driving job came as something of a second nature to Ward, taking a cue from his grandparents who had operated harvest rigs in the past.

Reportedly racking up over 30 years of experience behind the wheel before joining the cast of Ice Road Truckers, Ward became a full-fledged cast member in the sixth season of the show. He quickly became a fan favorite – then-online forums and message boards relating to the show often cited Ward as one of the most engaging and entertaining drivers, as critics of the show also took note of Ward’s residency on screen.

Ward liked to bill himself as the show’s daredevil, often promoting the motto “any road, any load.” This figure of speech often became the reality for many of Ward’s loads on the show and in real life, as Ward found himself traversing over highly treacherous terrain to deliver the load to some of the most remote locations found over ice and snow.

Always up for a challenge and frequently pushing himself to the limits made Ward such a favorite early on in his addition to the team of Ice Road Truckers. Ward played an interesting foil to Hugh Rowland in many respects, leveraging his position as a veteran driver to seem confident and prepared for whatever may come his way, versus the traditional and somewhat jaded outlook that Rowland often professed.

Not only a driver, Ward was considered a true outdoorsman, hiking, fishing, hunting, and enjoying other high-intensity activities. It may be safe to assume that the driver’s propensity for high stakes made him a perfect candidate for the arena of ice road trucking. As these drivers must be fearless and tactful, Ward immediately fir into the hardened and ragtag ice road trucking crew found at the History Channel.

Big On Trucking, Big On Heart

Aside from taking on some of the deadliest routes in trucking, Darrell Ward was frequently known as one of the most conscientious and caring drivers on the road, both in the context of Ice Road truckers and his professional career.

We may forget that despite film crews following Ward and the other drivers on their pursuits over ice, these drivers, were, in fact, actively participating in their trucker jobs as any other driver might. Certainly the camera added an extra dimension of “reality” to what was already a healthy dose of reality television, but this did not diminish the fact that the ice road truckers were achieving the insurmountably difficult task of transporting highly anticipated freight over some of the most unforgiving routes in the country.

Many believe that Ward never let the potential hazards of stardom let his ego or need for adrenaline overtake who he truly was, as he often proved to be one of the most generous drivers in the entire cast of the Ice Road Truckers.

As the show pitted drivers against one another as rivals (in perhaps the most California nuanced La-La land fashion of all) Ward hardly saw his competitive side win out over his compassionate side. Ward was show numerous times to help his fellow drivers if they were caught in a perilous fashion, even if it meant that he had to forgo his chance at being claimed the “top trucker.”

Ward’s partner on the show, fellow trucker Lisa Kelly who was considered another fearless and favorite ice road trucker, was often impressed by Ward’s demonstration of selflessness on the program.

Aside from what the camera showed, Ward was also known for his philanthropic endeavors in the real world. Ward frequently used his money and relative star power to for charitable organizations, notably to help the victims of the 2016 flooding in Louisiana as well as acting as the Grand Marshall of the truck convoy portion of the Special Olympics held in Nova Scotia.

The End of the Road For Darrell Ward

As Darrell became more popular and in higher demand due to his stardom from the later seasons of Ice Road Truckers, he began to pursue more avenues that were considerably more artistic than simply driving on camera.

Feeling the need to pursue his own interests and hobbies, Ward began planning a documentary series on the recovery of plane wrecks in North America. Ward’s interest in the subject matter may have stemmed from his own pursuits on the road, seeing some wreckage and feeling compelled to “save” the remains as he did with many fellow truckers and their potentially damaged rigs.

Ward also found himself a best-loved figure at several trucking-related events including conferences, shows, meet and greets, expos and trucking conventions such as the Great American Trucking Show in Texas. In fact, it was at GATS 2016 that Ward made his final public appearance, a somewhat fitting final arena for the driver to appear at.

After what was reported to be the trucking industry public clamoring for Ward and a great deal of excitement surrounding his appearance at GATS, the ice road trucker left Dallas in order to head back to his home state in Montana.

As Ward looked to the near future to plan his documentary about recovering plane crashes, an incredibly cruel fate befell him. Ward was reportedly traveling back from the trucking convention in a single-engine Cessna 182 with his pilot Mark Melotz. The two planned to land on an airstrip in Rock Creek, Montana when the pilot lost control of the dirigible and crashed the plane into a nearby area.

The news of Ward’s passing sent immediate shockwaves through the trucking community and the community of those who are fans of the show. It seemed as though Ward was gone as soon as he had arrived, leaving behind a legion of fans and those who adored him.

Darrell Ward: Gone But Not Forgotten

Although he no longer graces the roads with his trucking expertise nor will he be seen any longer contributing to the causes and events he often held dear, Ward’s influence on the world of commercial driving has not dissipated.

Ward is one of the truly positive influences and figures that trucking has seen, without some sort of dark or insidious back story to accompany the great accomplishments that he has seen throughout his career.

Fans will always be able to revisit Ward by way of reruns of Ice Road Truckers and those who may have met him in person at certain trucking related events.

Ward is one of the ideal examples of someone who used his skills and trucking prowess to entertain audiences and benefit others in the process of gaining momentum as a celebrity, a combination that may be something of a rarity these days. Drivers and non-drivers alike can learn something from Darrell Ward’s positive and compassionate attitude on and off the road, as well as the adept level of professionalism he consistently showed.

While it is never an easy hurdle for the driving industry to overcome when they lose someone who is considered a true super trucker, admirers of Ward can still take respite in knowing that his efforts on the road will not be overlooked, nor will his contributions in shining a light on one of the most difficult trucking jobs in the world.

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