If you type “Oilfield Jobs” as a keyword search with the search engines, you’ll find job boards, companies and directories listing available work. This may or may not benefit you if you’re new to this career. The first thing new people to the industry should be considering is whether or not this is a step they really should take.
If you just joined us on this page from a web search, welcome to the 2nd part of an 8 page series on Oilfield Trucking.
There’s a lot of things to consider before you start looking for oil field jobs. First, you may have to spend lots of money to get yourself there. Second, consider that a company can spend thousands of dollars training you for the job. This is an important decision you’re making with investment on both sides. Of all the people that come to Alberta each year for oilfield jobs, many return home very quickly.
The investment could be wasted on both accounts if it isn’t an educated decision.
Many drivers hear about the great paychecks they’ll get, but might not like what they have to do to earn them. Lying on your back in mud to repair something broken in the middle of nowhere, chaining up at -40 with frozen hands, sliding down an icy hill backwards at 3 am with nobody around. These are all things that can happen to you.
Make sure you give some thought to things like:
- How will this impact your life, family or financial situation?
- Are you willing to make this sacrifice and commitment?
- Is the sacrifice going to pay off?
- Where are you going to live?
- Are you prepared for the lifestyle change?
- Can you work in extreme weather conditions?
- Can you drive in mud, snow, ice, and use tire chains?
- Are you prepared for the physical requirements?
- Are you aware of the strict drug and alcohol testing requirements by almost all companies?
- Can you deal with boredom, and social isolation?
- What level of self discipline do you possess?
Think about these things before you start your job search. An educated decision always involves weighing out the good and the bad.
Drivers that don’t consider these issues often end up returning home within weeks of arriving in the oilfields. I’ve listened to beer bets whether or not a newbie was going to “make it” or not. Working in the “Patch”, is not for everyone.
We’re all familiar with the term “Play your cards right”. The purpose of this article is to help you do that. Your license to drive a truck is your card, and we want you to play it right.
The information we provide is meant to be a reality check, not a deterrent from oilfield jobs. Leaving a decent job to find out this life isn’t for you could hurt you financially. If you’re already living from check to check, you may want to consider a temporary leave of absence so you don’t lose your current job.
I’ve asked many truck drivers why they came to work in the patch and the most popular answer is, “To pay off some bills, then go back home with the extra money.”
As noted above, one of the things mentioned was your level of self-discipline. We don’t just mean self-discipline as it relates to work habits. If you lack financial self-discipline you may end up in the same position as many others do. A bigger pile of bills with more toys to pay for.
We all have the best of intentions, but we can also be sucked into the vortex of spending more as we make it, or even beyond our means. This means the bills never do get paid off, and there’s no extra money to go back home with.
Prepare yourself for “Spring Break-up”
Spring break-up occurs each spring when load weight restrictions, and road bans occur. The costs of doing business is significantly increased as load volumes must be reduced for roads with weight restrictions. If the economy is booming, it could mean double the loads. If the economy is normal or down, it could mean no work and possibly a longer than normal break up period.
Certain areas will no longer be accessible due to the frost leaving the ground. (This occurs in muskeg or swampy areas where ice roads are built up to support the weight of the trucks.) Other roads may apply temporary bans for any commercial traffic over one ton.
Spring break-up has to be part of your decision making process for truck driving employment in the west. Some companies will pay you a base salary through this period, while others may lay you off. There’ll always be companies that are better to work for than others. We’ll cover this in the next section when we take a closer look at truckers salaries.
Spring break-up can last as little as a week or two in some areas, and up to a couple of months in others. There’s no hard and determined time regarding the break-up period. It depends on the structure of the road, amount of frost, snow, and general economic conditions (The price of Gas or oil.)
There are sometimes exceptions and special permits that allow people to keep working through breakup. These depend on the oil company and road use agreements. Some oil companies also own and maintain their own roads.