Off Road Trucking: Texas

Welcome to Texas, the 2nd largest state in the Union. Driving across the state, you will find yourself moving from lush wooded, grassy areas to barren deserts and everything in between. One thing that remains common, however, is oil. From West Texas to East Texas, you will see oil field after oil field. Sometimes, it is as little as an oil tank battery and sometimes mile after mile of pump jacks, refineries and storage tanks. No matter where you are in Texas, there is work available in the oil field somewhere close by.

The oil industry, as well as companies that support it, are actively looking for drivers on a daily basis. Unlike traditional trucking, oil field drivers are usually home nightly; they seldom travel distances over 100 miles from their home terminal and generally earn a higher rate of pay than over the road drivers. Many oil field companies are also willing to take on drivers that do not have much experience. It’s a great way for newer drivers to break into the business. JNE trucking

There are numerous types of oil field driving positions to be found in Texas. Vacuum trucks – tanker trucks that haul water and other fluids to and from oil field locations – are the most common. You can also find dirt and caliche haulers; flat bed delivery trucks; winch trucks and other specialized vehicles. Nabors Well Services, Texas Energy Services, Basic Energy Services and Key Energy Services are all examples of oil field service companies that hire vacuum truck and winch truck drivers.

Working in the oil field requires the willingness to give up the daily life most people are used to. Gone are the 8 hour work days, replaced by 14 or 15, and sometimes even 24 hour days. Gone is the comfortable desk chair, replaced instead by a truck seat bouncing up and down. Home cooked meals are a rarity, unless you pack your own food, you’re eating at a truck stop or gas station more than not.

Where an over the road driver usually travels down highways and through cities, oil field drivers are off the road as much as they are on it. Oil fields are large by nature, spanning thousands of acres. Most of the “roads” in a field are made from packed caliche, a mixture of gravel, sand and clay. These roads are problematic when it comes to rain, often plagued by large potholes. This can lead to sore backs.

As with other truck driving jobs, drivers face other health risks as well. Poor diets and a lack of exercise can lead to a general decline in health. Sitting in the same position for prolonged periods of time can lead to pulmonary embolisms (““) and, according to the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, it can increase your chances of a heart attack by up to 54%. This doesn’t even take into consideration the strain that sitting all day can cause on your back and other muscles throughout your body.

Other risks to truck drivers, both over the road and off road include: Accidents – truck drivers account for close to 15% of all work related deaths in the United States; Sleep apnea – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) says that as many 28 percent of commercial driver’s license holders have sleep apnea; Poor sleep – Many drivers do not get enough rest.

With all of these concerns, one might ask why they bother being drivers. The main answer you will hear is that the benefits outweigh the risks. Oil field drivers typically make much more than over the road drivers. This is due to the risks involved as well as the number of hours worked in an average week, which can range from 60 to 90+ hours. The pay for a position as a vacuum truck driver ranges from $15/hr to $19/hr and sometimes more. Most companies also offer excellent benefits, such as health insurance, dental and eye insurance, paid vacation time, holiday pay and in some cases, safety and performance bonuses.

A typical day for a vacuum truck driver usually begins at 6 am. Drivers will often have a safety meeting either daily or once a week where different safety issues and other concerns are discussed. Assignments are handed out, trucks are inspected and it’s off to work. Work generally consists of driving to oil field locations, loading a tanker with produced water (water that comes out of the ground along with the oil) and taking it to a disposal facility. After a long day, you return to the yard around 8pm or 9pm, inspect your truck again, turn in your work and head home. On occasion, a driver may have to stay on a location the entire day, or even for days at a time.

A typical work week schedule is 4 days work followed by 2 days off. This varies from company to company however. There are companies that also offer up to 10 days of work with a 4 day period of rest. This is rare, however, as most companies are transitioning over to strict Department Of Transportation guidelines which do not allow more than 70 hours of work before a 24 hour period of rest is required.

Oil field trucking is definitely not for everyone. Ask yourself if the pro’s outweigh the con’s. If you don’t like working at a desk, If you enjoy working alone most of the day or if you just like driving, this might be the perfect job for you. You might also want to consider this: How many other professions can you name that only take around 2 weeks of schooling with a starting salary of $50,000 a year or more? Welcome to Texas!