If you’re like many people, you probably feel like oilfield truck driving is just another unwanted nuisance on I-35 … and we get it.
But, here’s the problem; while you’re rushing to get your kids to their doctor’s appointment, we’re out here trying to keep them out of the Emergency Room. Thankfully, for the most part, drivers understand our dilemma.
The majority of drivers don’t begrudge the guys behind the wheel trying to get dangerous materials from Point A to Point B. They see our hazard placards and realize this is a guy putting his life on the line to provide for his family.
But, with every majority comes a minority. That’s not good or bad, it’s just reality. My goal today is to provide the minority of dangerous drivers on the road with a little perspective. Hopefully, this will prompt you to ease up and “give us a break” the next time you run into one of my fellow truckers out on the road… Metaphorically speaking, of course.
Let’s dig right in with exactly what you’re looking at when you see a truck carrying hazardous materials.
We Get Paid to Drive Bombs Around — Safely, Every Day
I know, I know. That sounds like a bit much, but it’s really not. It’s just reality.
Your typical car on the road probably weighs 5,000 pounds and might hold 25 or 30 gallons of gasoline. On the other hand, your typical oilfield truck driving load weighs 80,000 pounds and carries between 5,500 – 11,600 gallons of explosive liquids.
The propane tank on your deck weighs 20 pounds and holds 4.7 gallons of propane. If one of those explodes, you’re looking at the equivalent to a 90 pound TNT explosion. According to Quora, that explosion gives you a “lethal blast range of 100 feet, a minimum evacuation distance of 1500 feet, and a falling-glass hazard range of 1250 feet.”
And that’s just from the propane tank you use to grill-out on football Sundays!
If you have any kind of sanity, you wouldn’t drive your family in a speeding vehicle directly at a stack of 4,000 propane tanks that could produce the equivalent explosion of over 222,000 pounds of TNT. But that’s exactly what you’re doing when you run up behind trucks carrying hazardous materials at 80 miles per hour (or more).
To be blunt about it, you’re speeding directly at an 80,000 killing machine. If that sounds scary to you, imagine how the guy feels driving that stick of dynamite. A typical day “at the office” for us is no stroll in the park.
If You Think Your Time is Money, Check These Numbers
It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional driver or not, no matter what you’re driving you want to get it going. Anyone who has driven a 20-foot U-Haul loaded with furniture knows the feeling. You stomp on the gas hoping to come out of the gate, but no matter how hard you press on that peddle the truck can only do so much.
The same applies to 80,000-pound commercial vehicles. They are going to take a heck of a lot longer to accelerate than a Honda Civic. While you’re chomping at the bit behind us wishing we would get going, so are we.
If you’re late for an appointment you might have to reschedule or keep someone waiting for a few minutes. If ACE Completions misses a delivery time, we’re going to bring an entire drilling operation to a grinding halt. Here’s what that looks like.
Let’s say you’ve got $35 million worth of equipment at the drilling site. That equipment might have a burn rate of about $50,000 — $60,000 a day. That cost includes “wireline crews” and all your other services companies. Basically, sub-contractors that help drill the well.
Did you hear that? If I miss a delivery I’m costing our customers $50,000 — $60,000 EVERY SINGLE DAY.
If you don’t think we understand how badly you want to get to where you’re going, you’re sorely mistaken. We’re trying to safely deliver explosive materials hundreds of miles on-time or else, for more reasons than you know.
Give Us A Break
Now that you see what we’re dealing with on the road, here are a few things you can do to keep the people your loved ones (and us drivers!) safe when you get behind the wheel.
Keep a Safe Distance: Remain 15 — 20 feet behind trucks at all times. If a truck suddenly blows a flat, the last thing you want is a 110-pound tire flying through your windshield.
Straighten Up: While you need to stay back, you also need to stay straight. You put yourself at risk by swerving in and out of a driver’s line of sight. The signs you see on the back of trucks aren’t lying. If you can’t see his mirrors, he can’t see you.
Don’t Drive in Blind Spots: Have you ever had a close call when someone drove in your blind spot? It’s terrifying in a 15-foot long sedan. It’s no less frightening in a 70 – 80-foot long truck. Pass commercial vehicles quickly to help everyone avoid a scare.
Be Patient. Please: Again, we feel your pain. We want to get to where we’re going just as badly as you. The problems come when you don’t remember this. Just 60-seconds of patience could virtually eliminate accidents caused by other drivers rushing around commercial trucks.
Let’s Keep On Truckin’
Before we head on out of here, I’d like to say again this isn’t about pitting oilfield truck driving in a fight against everyone else. We love to see that bored little girl in the backseat light-up when she gets us to lay on the horn after quickly raising and lowering her arm in the universal “HONK!” sign. We appreciate the Moms and Dads that flash brights to let us know we’re clear to come back into the right lane after passing them.
The truth is most Americans have the potential to be downright delightful behind the wheel, and often are. Like anything else, it’s the small minority that creates problems. If you know anyone in that minority, feel free to share this article with them.
The sooner all drivers see the light (or the brights?), the sooner we can all get to where we’re going safely. Every time.
Oilfield Truck Driving Help Wanted
Interested in getting into oilfield truck driving with a company that understands what you go through and works tirelessly to keep you safe at every turn?
We’d love to hear from you. Click here to inquire about oilfield truck driving jobs with ACE Completions.