Fuel’s Gold

| July 02, 2012

That proved to be an inflated number, and the ultra-rugged climes didn’t make for many pleasurable days. So they plunked down close to $100,000 for a brand-new Tytal 8,400-gal./200-barrel 407-code-compliant crude tanker to get in on Lessley’s operation (though Lessley does own some tanks). “We run from Corpus Christi to the ranch” in the Eagle Ford Shale area, he says, referring to a well situated equidistant between Laredo and San Antonio on the old “King Ranch.”

On a really good day, says Kathrein, “we can get in three loads in 24 hours. That’s a huge payday – we can make up to $4,000 a day doing that, but we typically make about $2,500 to $2,600 a day seven days a week.”

They’re paid an 80/20 split with the carrier, and the rate is computed per-barrel. “And the further the haul, the higher the barrel rate,” Kathrein says. For example, 190 barrels hauled 200 miles might be priced $6 a barrel, a 30-mile run at $3 a barrel. “This is where the money’s at as far as I can tell,” he adds. “We’re making twice what we were making” hauling expedited.



Oil field hours exemption stirs controversies


A May 15 New York Times story suggested many on-highway deaths could be blamed on the oil field exemption to hours of service regulations, based on analysis of truck-related fatalities. The exemption permits a 24-hour restart provision for drivers dedicated to oil field operations.

Further, it allows an extension of the 14-hour on-duty clock during on-site waiting, available to drivers of vehicles “that are specially constructed to service oil wells.” There is some debate about how strictly to interpret that last qualification. Brian Remus, a safety manager with WHW Trucking of Billings, Mont., says Montana DOT told him his dry bulk haulers — including belly dump, side dump and pneumatic trailers — cannot take the exemption due to the equipment’s versatility potential, even though dedicated to servicing wells.

Yet in Pennsylvania, says owner-operator Steve Bixler, hauling sand in a pneumatic tank, he’s had no problems extending his clock as recently as February, when inspected by a DOT officer. On the other hand, other Reed Trucking-leased owner-operators have been told by inspectors that they’re not eligible. “Like a lot of things with DOT,” Bixler says, “it depends on the officer who checks you. How they personally see it is how they’re going to write it.”

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association told Bixler that its reading of the regs is that his dedicated equipment is eligible for the special hours provisions, even though it holds the versatility to be used elsewhere.

Some oil services haulers are able to take advantage of many states’ more permissive intrastate hours regs, given the local nature of the work. Owner-operators Mark Kathrein and Wendy Wing, hauling intrastate in Texas, can “drive 12, work 15, take an 8-hour sleeper period and a 24-hour restart,” Kathrein says. If they cross state lines, however, they’re back on the regular federal hours rules, with the restart exception.



Platform/dry van opportunities


Hydraulic fracturing is a materials- and waste-heavy process, one reason truck demand and rates have been so high for those working the wells with dry and liquid bulk tanks. Some dry van haulers as well as flatbedders have taken advantage of similar opportunities. Landstar-leased Tim Philmon, for instance, hauled the pump pictured below on his flatbed out of a Montana oil field in May, after carrying in fracking fluid packaged in totes.

Empty totes have to be carried back out, too, notes Brenda Hoover of MicBee Transportation, a Landstar agent based in Cogan Station, Penn. At sites around the nation, Hoover notes, “I arrange about a load a week of them, at better than average van lane rates.”

Backhauls don’t always work out so well for Philmon when bringing totes in. He had to deadhead all the way to Kansas to get a decent load the last time he went into the fields.

Rates he’s seen for liquid in totes coming out of Texas to North Dakota and Montana fell by $1,300 to the truck (from around $5,000), or as much as a buck a mile, between February and May, too, he says. “I’m usually hauling about 18 totes at a time,” he says. Philmon guesses the supply of trucks willing to take it north falls sharply when temps are reaching 30 below.

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