Oilfield vs Over-the-Road Driving Jobs

Posted in Get Your CDL

Oilfield vs Over-the-Road Driving Jobs

Whether you are working on getting a commercial driver license or have recently gotten one, you’ll have to work a little harder than experienced drivers to find your first driving gig. Many of the larger over-the-road (OTR) trucking companies will take on new, inexperienced drivers and will provide training. Some companies will even help you get your CDL before your on-the-job training begins. But don’t assume that going “OTR” is your only option as a newbie truck driver. With the explosion in fracking job opportunities, CDL drivers – newbies and veterans alike – are in demand in the oilpatch. In fact, some recent oilfield job hunters are reporting that one of the first questions oilfield employers ask is: ‘do you have a CDL?’ Some oil and gas companies are willing to accept freshly minted CDL drivers – those with no experience – for oilfield job training. Some drivers may wish to jump into oilfield related work right away, while others may prefer going OTR, at least for a period of time. Let’s take a look at oilfield vs over-the-road driving jobs, and the pros and cons of each: Oilfield Driving Jobs Pay: often “by the load” and sometimes by the hour. Either way, new drivers in the oilpatch can expect to earn at least $60k per year starting out. However, while newer oilfield drivers can expect to make more than newer OTR drivers, the work is far more physically demanding and lack of adequate rest might become an issue. Rules and Regulations: drilling environments can be hazardous environments. For this reason, you’ll find yourself becoming far more concerned about your company’s safety policies and procedures (as you should) compared to local or state laws. Lifestyle: you may be living in a “man camp” or even in an RV when you aren’t on the job in the oilpatch. This might mean a slightly more comfortable living environment for you vs. an OTR driver’s situation, but not always. Hours: you’ll work very long and sometimes grueling hours in the oilpatch. On the other hand, you’ll generally make the big paychecks that accompany such longer hours. Like an OTR driver, you won’t see much of family or friends while you are on your work cycle which (depending on the company) could be a week, two weeks, or even longer. This might not be an issue if you’re simply looking to make as much money as possible when you aren’t home. Comfort: you’ll be getting in and out of your truck frequently when working in the oilfields, which means you’ll be exposed to extreme heat or cold conditions depending on the weather. However, this also means you’ll be more physically active, which will be a boost to your overall health. The somewhat sedentary nature of OTR driving is not always the best way to maintain optimal health. Safety: a big issue whether you...

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Oilfield Driver Pre-Trip for the Real World

Posted in Get Your CDL

Now that you have your CDL (if not, start here), you’re probably wondering if all that hard work you did memorizing the pre-trip inspection portion of the CDL exam was really necessary. Well, of course it was, to some degree. You will never see any professional driver actually going through the entire pre-trip inspection that takes place during a commercial driver license exam, to be sure. However, it pays to know which parts of the pre-trip are pretty important, and deserve your attention regardless of your experience (or lack of experience) as a pro. So, before you head down the road or over to an oilfield rig, check out a truck driver pre-trip for the real world: Check your lights and turn indicators – Don’t be lazy. Get out of your truck and walk around it. Once you do, you can eyeball every single light on your tractor and your trailer. Besides, you’re probably pulling different trailers (if not driving different tractors) every day. You don’t know where they’ve been or what works and what doesn’t. So turn on all the lights, and flip on the turn indicators in both directions. Walk around your vehicle and make sure there are no burned out lights, and that those following you will know when you plan on changing lanes or making a turn. If you can back up to a stationary object like another trailer or a warehouse wall, check to see that the brake lights work using the reflection from the wall or trailer when you press down on the brake pedal. Make sure the trailer kingpin and glad hands are connected and secure – Keep a flashlight with you, which you’ll need for this purpose even in broad daylight. Get under the trailer just behind the rear axle of the tractor, and make sure that the tractor fifth wheel is locked around the trailer kingpin. Double check to make sure that the glad hands are properly connected to both the tractor and trailer, and that you have your blue lines and red lines hooked up to the proper connections. Perform a quick brake check – Be sure you checked the kingpin and glad hands first, as mentioned above. Then, get back in the cab and release the air brakes on the tractor while keeping them in place for the trailer. Put the tractor in its lowest gear, then initiate a little “tug” to see that the trailer brakes hold. Doing this also assures that the tractor is properly connected to the trailer. Check the tires – This is key, as you have seen lots of shredded tires on the roadside from trucks whose drivers didn’t do this. Using a wooden mallet or club (or your feet if that’s all you have handy), make sure all the tires – inside and outside of each axle – have proper tread depth...

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Five Ways to Get a CDL

Posted in Get Your CDL

Five Ways to Get a CDL

Left: What’s in your wallet? If there’s a CDL there, there’s probably some greenbacks to go with it! You will have an advantage over the competition if you have a valid commercial driver’s license before you apply for any jobs in the oilfields. While the economy is booming in drilling hotspots like those in Texas or North Dakota, some employers are becoming a little pickier about who they hire as compared to a few years ago. In some towns or within certain companies, it is expected that worthy fracking job applicants have a valid CDL before applying for any jobs around a rig. Why is this? Well, almost all equipment that has to be moved to and from a drilling operation requires transport by truck. From the heavy machinery that powers a rig to the vast amounts of sand, water, and chemicals needed to maintain a frac operation, trucks form the lifeline of the oilfield industry. Even if you’ll spend the majority of your working hours on a rig and away from the cab of a semi, employers want the flexibility of having CDL-equipped employees to help move goods and materials. Take a look at the more common five ways to get a CDL below. Each method has its pros and cons – some methods cost more than others, while some methods take far more time than others. You have to pick the strategy for getting a CDL which suits your individual situation best. It helps to remember that once you have your CDL, you’ll have spent far less time studying for and getting it than the average college student takes to get a bachelor’s degree. And you won’t have the backbreaking debt to go with that degree, either. Note: at the bottom of this page you can see an overview of the pros and cons for each of these avenues toward getting a CDL Private Truck Driving School – This is perhaps the best option for any aspiring commercial driver, especially someone seeking employment in the oil & gas industry. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive option (you knew there’d be a catch, didn’t you?) Private CDL schools can run from roughly $2,000 to $4,000 per student for the roughly six weeks it takes to complete the school. For most schools, this also includes a guarantee that the student will successfully pass the CDL tests in the state he or she resides in, and get a CDL. However, with the upfront cost comes freedom: once you have your CDL in hand as the result of successful completion of the school, you’re free to work wherever you want – including within the fracking industry. Train Through an OTR Company – This is the cheapest way to get a CDL for those who have never set foot inside a truck before: there is no cost. That is, if you...

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Truck Stop Safety 101

Posted in Get Your CDL

You’ve been driving all day, working hard in the oilfields all week, and you are tired. And hungry. Where can you park your rig for an hour or two to hit the restroom, grab some grub, and just relax for a bit? Well, because you’re pulling several dozen feet of water, sand, oil, or whatever behind you – your options are certainly limited. Enter the truck stop. Yes, it’s probably not your favorite place to be, and it probably doesn’t even offer the best food around. But it does have one thing that most other “pit stops” lack: ample parking for big rigs. Like it or not, you’ll have to pull into a truck stop sooner or later, if for no other reason than to – ahem – answer the call of nature. Truck stops are constantly changing and fluid environments where you can get yourself in trouble if you’re not careful. There are potential hazards within the truck stop environment that don’t exist out on the open road. Even if you work in an oilfield, odds are you’ll need to pop into a truck stop at some point. Here is the Fracking Jobs “Truck Stop Safety 101” guide: Watch out for the other guy, especially if he’s a newbie – We’ve all been there (or maybe you’re there yourself right now): we have all been brand-new drivers. Newer drivers aren’t familiar with the out-of-the-way parking spots or freeway off-ramps that the veterans know about. As a result, truck stops are prime “camping” spots for newer drivers who don’t know where else to park. So, whether you are a new driver yourself or not, be aware that truck stops are swimming with inexperienced truckers. Assume that the guy (or gal) trying to back up next to you hasn’t been doing so for very long. If you wish, you might want to be unlike most other drivers and actually help the other driver back up, if it looks like they’re having a hard time. They may not necessarily show it at first – pride is a powerful thing – but that newbie might appreciate your hand signals and gestures that can help him or her back in properly. Also, if that new driver tags the front end of your tractor, the accident report will delay you too, not just him or her! Watch out for the other guy, especially if he’s a veteran truck driver – You’ve seen ’em. Sadly, maybe you’re one yourself. That is: the hotshot, know-it-all, super trucker who can do no wrong. He’s the guy who can back up like a wizard – first time, every time. He can back into a hall closet and have five feet of room on either side of his trailer to spare. He drove 10k miles last week and hasn’t slept in five years. Oh, and he also netted over...

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Fracking Jobs are Plentiful for CDL Drivers

Posted in Get Your CDL

Fracking Jobs are Plentiful for CDL Drivers

Because of the nature of the industry, fracking jobs are plentiful for CDL drivers – especially those with experience. Large commercial quantities of water, sand, and chemicals are required for an oil shale drilling operation. And while there are numerous jobs available to move the equipment and supplies for a fracking operation, most of those jobs require a commercial driver’s license. If you’re thinking about getting a CDL, here are some things you should consider: Do you have a lot of tickets? Two or three minor traffic tickets within a prior three year (or longer) period before you attempt to get a CDL probably won’t keep you from getting a driving job with some companies. However, if you have more than six points on your current license – and none of those points will “fall off” in a couple of months – you may wish to wait before getting a CDL. Almost as important as having the CDL itself is your driving record. Many companies are very picky about who they hire in recent years, largely due to insurance requirements which are a major cost for trucking companies. On the other hand, if you have a spotless driving record – you are golden! Get your CDL if you are considering it. You will be hired by someone. Can you be alone for long periods of time? If not, rethink getting a CDL. Not only is this an obvious consideration should you be looking at going over-the-road (or “OTR”), it applies to local truck drivers as well. All driving jobs require a high degree of self-reliance and independence. The flip side of this fact is: there isn’t  someone sitting in a cubicle next to you, micro-managing your every move. If you’re comfortable working on your own, trucking is one possible antidote to “cubicle farms”. Are you physically fit? This wasn’t a major issue many years ago, but it certainly is today. The federal Department of Transportation (“D.O.T.”) mandates that all truck drivers receive full physicals at least once every two years. You must carry the D.O.T. medical card with your license when operating a commercial vehicle. The D.O.T. requirements, however, are the minimum physical requirements. Many companies have physical requirements that go beyond what the D.O.T. mandates. Do you like to read or listen to the radio? This might be an obvious point to consider – but many drivers simply don’t like to read. How do I know? I’ve heard them complaining about “waiting at this warehouse” or “that dock” for long periods of time. If you enjoy reading a good book, this isn’t an issue! Are you organized? The modern trucker must be organized, in many ways. The paperwork alone can be overwhelming (log books, bills of lading, purchase order copies, receipts for everything from tolls to fuel, etc.) In addition, you’ll need to plan your trips – even...

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How to Renew a CDL in California

Posted in Get Your CDL

How to Renew a CDL in California

A few weeks ago, I had to renew my commercial driver’s license in the state of California. I’m not sure, but I think it’s a good bet that the process for renewing a CDL is similar in any given state, with California being (perhaps) one of the more difficult. The Golden State has managed to over-bureaucratize everything else, and that includes driver’s licenses. Here are some things to keep in mind if you might have to renew a CDL in the near future: Renew by mail if possible, and renew before your license’ expiration date. While this might seem obvious, there are some things to consider: I never received a notice from the state that my CDL would be up for renewal. Instead, I made a mental note of my CDL expiration date (my birthday), and scheduled a Google Calendar reminder to automatically e-mail me to renew my CDL about a month before it was due. You can use Yahoo!, Hotmail, or a mobile device app to send you reminders also. Bottom line: you are responsible for keeping track of your CDL expiration and renewal. Don’t expect your state to do it for you. You’ll probably have to re-take all of your written tests, so be prepared. I was never informed by the state that I would have to re-take the written tests which apply to my CDL. In fact, this piece of information was dropped on me during my first visit to the California DMV (Dept. of Motor Vehicles). I thought I would pay my $40 fee, get a new picture taken, and be on my way with a new license. Nope. Because I had to take six tests (including the tests which apply to my endorsements), I needed time to study. Again. After paying the fee and getting my picture taken anyway, I was told I could return to the DMV before my license expiration date and take the tests. Fortunately, my first visit to the DMV was at least two weeks before my CDL expiration. Give yourself some time to allow for these types of hitches. And yes: I have a clean record – no tickets or accidents! I still had to take the written tests to renew. Study for the tests, even though you already have your CDL. Unlike a newbie driver, you might feel pretty confident that you’ll pass the CDL written tests without having to study. Heck – you’ve been a professional driver for years – you know this stuff! Why should you study? Well, because that kind of cockiness can blindside you, that’s why. Laws (and CDL tests) do change, and updates are made to the tests on a regular basis. In addition, let’s be honest: most of what you learned in truck driving school which applies to written tests has probably been forgotten in “real world” driving situations. Also, there are...

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