Larger than Ever

By Stephen Large

I have been getting busier as time goes on. About two months ago, I was offered a deal where a guy that I used to work for would send me a couple of brand new Cat bulldozers and I would get someone to operate them. I would look after the jobs and move the machines from job to job with my truck and lowbed.

I have almost no expenses—only the fuel, license and insurance for my truck (which I already have to look after anyway). I have been operating one of the Cats myself, getting $40 per hour and $120 per day to use my Ford F350 4X4 to get to the job and bring fuel for the Cat.

I am working 12 to 13 hours a day and have to haul the machines about once every four to five days.
Last night for instance, I hauled two machines.

First I had to get to the site: It was 40 miles away. I loaded the dozer and hauled about five miles. Then I had to back and haul the second dozer. Then it was 40 miles empty back home. My day? Five hours at $200 per hour  and because I did this little run in the evening, I made $1,000 after supper and only drove about 100 miles total. Just right!

This is what I enjoy: Movin’ dirt and hauling equipment.

There is not much policy or procedure B.S.—I just haul a couple of bulldozers to a site where there is nothing but some farm land or pasture or sometimes bush; we doze off the bush, topsoil, subsoil, etc., and move a bunch of dirt to make a perfectly level site for a drilling rig to set up and drill an oil well.

There is no one to check my logbook, I don’t have to match my fuel receipts to anything, and I don’t even have to wear a hard hat! (There is nobody to check anyway.)

I run the bulldozer for 10 hours, fuel it up and grease it and then go home.

Twelve and a half hours per day at  $40 per hour equals $500, plus $120 for the pickup truck equals $620 for a day’s work.

When the site is ready, I use my red 1990 two-million-mile Kenworth or my orange 31-year-old Kenworth with my 31-year-old 16-wheel lowboy to haul the machines to the next site.

I have to keep track of the hours for everything, including the other machine and operator and organize getting some gravel hauled for the access road into each site (which I haul myself and then use my Cat grader to smooth the road when we are finished) and then meet with the consultant from the oil company and get the time tickets signed to be sent in and billed.

Every two weeks, I submit my bill to the company who owns the machines for my contracted wages, truck and grader hours, and in five or six days, I have a check in my hands.

I think that the trucking industry as a whole must pay attention to the way the Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. oilfield companies look after their people.

It’s mostly a matter of simply paying people for their time and trouble.

If all truck drivers were to get paid the way I do, even if the wage was only half this amount, there would be no shortage of good drivers willing to work.

The trucking industry already forces drivers to keep all sorts of records of their time (which is required by law). So why not pay the drivers for all the hours they work?

What’s more, trucks should also charge by the hour for all the time they spend moving a customer’s freight. Of course this includes the time they spend waiting. This is the only way that shippers will stop wasting the driver’s time.

I honestly think that paying drivers and charging shippers for all of the time spent getting freight moved is the only way that this industry will get any better.

I have found that, in the last few years, with all the policies, procedures, regulations and rules that are pushed on to truck drivers, it’s more important than ever to start paying for services delivered; in effect, giving people what they’re worth.

Also, it seems that this industry believes in strange ideas like “treat everyone the same” and “don’t point fingers but deal with the situation, not the person.” Anybody in the trucking industry knows what I’m talking about.

All of this has driven many of the of best drivers away from the industry and they are now running loaders or backhoes on construction sites or doing some other job where they are paid for all their time—which leaves a whole different class of people to “steer” the trucks down the highways.

After 28 years of driving all over North America, I quite often find myself leaving after supper and doing my trucking when a bunch of these new people are asleep and parked. Common sense is not very common at all. How can the industry stay safe when you drive all your one-, two-, three- or four-million-mile drivers away and replace them with people who have no experience?

The best way to improve safety in the industry would be to retain the multi-million-mile drivers who can successfully haul whatever, whenever, wherever and then let them to do what they have been doing for years.

Then, pay them accordingly. They will rest when they are tired and work when they are not. It’s pretty simple when you think about it.
I have always found that if I have a bit of money in the bank, and I get tired while I am driving, I just pull over and crawl in the sleeper and have a nap.

When I am not tired, I drive.

When I don’t have enough money, or when some rules or regulations force me to use my time so that it works out for my logbook, I have found myself having to drive when I am tired. This is not safe!

I am pretty sure that, unless prevented by something, most humans would choose to sleep when they are tired, not work when they are tired. It is the arbitrary rules, the attitude of most shippers, and the shortage of pay that makes most truck drivers drive when they are tired.

I could go on, but supper’s done and I have to go trucking. While everybody else is asleep.

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