NOTE: If there’s anything on this page that you as a water hauler can use to train your new drivers, feel free to help yourself–as long as the manual you produce using my material gives me the credit and tells everyone where to find this page.
As They Come to Mind
1. Paperwork. Sad to say, I’ve seen more sorry excuses for logbooks (where required) and daily work records than there are “blame somebody not me” remarks in a typical Barack Obama stump speech. How the office personnel manages to wade through some of that is beyond me. Take the time to do it it right. Sure, yes, of course you’re dog tired and ticked off and worn out and hate the freaking job.
So? You may not realize it, but your rep rides on that pesky paper. Not all of it, of course; you still get major debits for a brain fart that puts your truck upside down because you were too close to the edge. But a significant portion, yes.
Keeping the paper gods happy is worth it. I’ve always excelled in that area…and while I often heard drivers griping about messed-up paychecks, that never once happened to me.
Can you tell that’s a pet peeve of mine? Huh? Can ya, huh?
2. Enjoy the wildlife. Water haulers in oil or gas drilling booms get to see a lot of it. You’re out there, and gawking at the critters (plus, of course, the landscape views) is definitely one of the under-reported but highly appreciated perks of the job.
–Hippee and I were blowing off our loads into a reserve pit on the Roan Plateau. “BEAR!” I yelled, and we both scrambled into the cab of my truck. Never knew my shift partner could move that fast. Turned out he’d been knocked down by a very young bear once. We watched the black bruin amble onto location, past the pit, over around the frac tanks…and Hippee got a picture with his cell phone camera. Cool.
–Herds of elk. Deer galore. A giant bear gorging on berries on the slope across Garden Gulch, getting ready for hibernation. Jack rabbits literally racing your truck up a steep grade. The liberal Left would have you believe energy exploration and development is destructive to wildlife. Not true.
–One night, loading alone at the pond on Little Creek. Two bull elk come up out of the draw–and despite the noise of my truck’s engine and vacuum pump, stare at me in sudden surprise from a distance of no more than thirty feet. Way cool.
–My first-ever bobcat seen in the wild (not just on TV or in a zoo).
–A baby coyote in the headlights, loping ahead of my barely moving rig on a high, steep ridge, till it finally found a way off into the timber. Coyotes (of any age) made up some of my most treasured critter sightings.
3. Cold weather considerations: Most drivers figure these out the hard way–when they realize the sight tubes on their trailers have shattered from the expanding ice inside, or when the discharge valves are suddenly frozen shut.
–When it gets cold enough out there, forget about the sight tube. Really. It can freeze up so fast, you won’t even have time to close off the top valve and drain it before it becomes a tube-sicle.
–Keep those discharge valves open when the tankers are empty and sitting in the subzero yard overnight.
4. Ride for the brand. This concept is not unique to oilpatch water hauling, of course. After all, the saying comes from the ranches of the Old West. If you’re not familiar with it, the idea is that if you’re going to take the man’s paycheck, you owe him a day’s work for a day’s pay and a degree of loyalty as you stand against his many enemies out there in the hardcore competitive world of serious business.
Which does not mean you put up with a bugger of a boss any longer than you have to. But you don’t badmouth the guy; you just find something else. Quit. Move on.
Personal story: A month or two before I left my job in Colorado, one of our Field Supervisors got careless with the best of intentions. It was pitch dark, the dead of winter. I’d checked in with Dispatch, grabbed a fresh batch of production seals, and piled back into our Subaru Outback. My assigned truck for the night was on the other side of the yard. Not far…but I didn’t get there without incident.
Sailing along at three or four miles per hour, I was–*SCCRAPE!! GRRIND!!*–suddenly jammed under a winch cable that hit the car right above the windshield. Already scrunched halfway under the thing before I could react…I punched the gas. Forced the vehicle all the way through the “cable gauntlet”. Coming to a stop and sitting still under that rusty steel was not an option.
What had happened? One of the owner operators had gotten his truck completely stuck in a little ditch that ran between the two major portions of our truck yard. Mr. F.S. (Field Supervisor) had jumped into a winch truck and was attempting to reel the stuck truck outa there with the 100 feet of super-taut cable between the two rigs absolutely invisible in the dark.
Damage to the Subaru: A fair amount of scraped paint and a busted luggage rack piece.
How it was reported up the line: It wasn’t. The owners weren’t around, there was no damage to any company vehicle, and as I told the few folks who were present, “He (Mr. F.S.) doesn’t need that on his record.”
Clarification: Mr. F.S. was at that time a young ex-Marine who’d moved up in the company rapidly. In my opinion, he had plenty of potential, but he was still pretty new as a Field Supervisor. One dumb stunt on the books can wreck a whole career…and I’m willing to bet he never made a mistake like that again.
How is that Riding for the Brand? Simple: It helped out my employer, who didn’t have to report it to the insurance company. It helped out one of their better hands, the Field Supervisor.
And before you start marveling too much, hey, it helped me out, too. I didn’t have to take the car in for repairs. Not right then, anyway.
SUMMARY: This manual is complete…for the moment. Hopefully, the hints herein can help you speed through the water hauling learning curve with fewer UH-OH moments than you’d otherwise have.
Best wishes to all, and be careful out there.