Leaving long-haul: Operators migrate to oil/gas

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Schneider TruckI talked to a pair of recently former team owner-operators late last week who, like owner-operator Mike Mace, leased to Reed Trucking, have truly rediscovered their old love of trucking — in this case as company drivers in service operations surrounding new natural gas wells enabled by hydraulic fracturing technology.

The strong demand for capacity in oil and gas services is bringing in competition to local markets as large as, you guessed it, Schneider National. The truckload company is actively hiring today in Texas, especially, but also around the oil/gas boom areas of North Dakota and Pennsylvania, says Recruiting Vice President Mike Hinz.

Schneider OperatorsFor now, it’s only company drivers, but “we’re looking at the potential for owner-operators,” Hinz says.

“An average guy with average experience [whatever the application] can expect $60,000 minimum his first year,” says Hinz, “depending on how long he wants to work.” Pay is in many cases salaried, based on a five-day workweek. With bonuses for extra workdays, it could run as much as $90,000.

That former over-the-road team of owner-operators is Kristin and Chris Stump, who moved to Pittsburgh, Penn., to get in on Schneider’s dry bulk operation in the Marcellus Shale, hauling mostly to sites in West Virginia. After leasing with carriers over the years, today they operate separate 2012 Freightliner Cascadia daycabs and mostly haul sand in pneumatic tanks to gas well sites in West Virginia.

“It’s more money,” Kristin says, and “it’s a lot more stable.” Hauls are short, meaning easy home time. And throughout each workday, she adds, “we see more of each other doing this than we did running team. Schneider certainly does a lot to try to keep us together.”

And those benefits don’t even get to what Stump views as maybe the biggest attraction of the work they’re doing, Stump says. “This is the most fun I’ve had in 11 years driving. It’s a good old-fashioned trucking team and you get to know so many more people.” Your dispatcher isn’t just a voice on a phone, the former owner-operator adds. “The other guys on the account, we see them on a regular basis. Other guys working with other companies, you see them regularly. Even if we’re not in work gear, we get to know people [recognizing them off-site], which is a lot like how it used to be back in the 1970s and 1980s and how it hasn’t been for a long time for most over-the-road drivers.”

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Stay tuned for more about this niche in the July issue of the magazine.

And to check out the full extent of Schneider’s oil field operations and hiring activity, visit this page, select “Oil Field” among “Driving Opportunities” in the Company Driver pull-down menu.

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