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Riding Herd on the Bad Boys

I wish! This sign was spotted just outside of Alpine, TX

Now, to some of you, this is gonna make sense and to others it is going to be like trying to understand Chinese arithmetic.  Most of a gate guard’s day is spent avoiding getting addlepated from the sun and swallowing a gallon of caliche dust.  All that changes if they are building new roads or drilling pads at your location.  Construction is the perfect storm of mayhem and outlaw cowboy behavior and I briefly touched on unruly behavior and how to get a handle on it recently.   In that previous post,  a portion of the post dealt with the poor behavior of the pneumatic tank trucks delivering sand  to our frac job.  Let me tell ya right now,  the sand trucks are altar boys next to the outlaws that drive those belly dumps filled with caliche rocks.

Here is how it lines up in the oil patch.  Everything is contract work.  The oil company never has the resources in house to complete even a small portion of the work that goes into bringing a well to production.  They use outside contractors and sometimes the contractors have sub contractors.  That is generally the case when they are constructing roads and pads at your location.  They hire a dirt contractor and if is a big enough job, the dirt contractor has to pick up belly dumps from multiple sources.  That means he is gonna scrape up trucks from every source he can in addition to what trucks he may own.    Brothers, uncles, inlaws, the old boy over the way that has 3 trucks, everybody and their brother is going to be over at the pit come Monday morning to load up and head your way.

Miss Kathy and I got word last week that they were fixin’ to build about a half mile of road and a quad pad here….   and it was a rush job.  I am all for that construction because it means job security.  I talked to the Company Man over construction and he said they were going to try and get all that rock hauled in 3 days.  I did some quick head cyphering and said ‘What– 350 to 400 loads of rock?’  He shifted that plug of Red Man to the other side of his cheek and spit in the dust.  ‘Something like that.  We have 60 trucks lined up to do the hauling.’   Hmmmm, I was going over the enormity of those logistics in my head ‘You know I don’t tolerate any bullshit from these drivers.’   Visions of drivers speeding through the location willy nilly, peeing on the side of the road within sight of perfectly good porta-johns,  Biggee Slurpee cups lining my right of way, jake brakes poppin’ loud enough to rattle windows and wake the dead all came to mind.  He said ‘I don’t expect you to tolerate ANYTHING!  I will be right here on site to keep an eye on them rascals. ‘

With all respect to him,   I knew better.  We had already been through a few smaller projects and about the best he had ever done was a quick check in the morning and then an afternoon drive-by.  I decided to go for broke and see if I could get some real teeth to enforce the rules instead of seething and fuming for 3 days because I was powerless to really do a damned thing.  I was fed up with the Ranch Manager and the Ranch Liason man and the Facilities Manager and even the guy who cleans the porta-pots on the side of the road complaining to me. Complaining to me about being dusted over by trucks running too fast, being squeezed off the road, jake brakes wakin’ them up and all such as that.  I said ‘Can I throw ’em out on their ear if they show their ass?’  He didn’t bat an eye ‘ Why hayull yeah, throw their ass out and tell ’em not to come back.’   Well, alrighty then; we are getting somewhere now.

Riding Herd on Bad Boys

The Dirt Contractor showed up the next morning and I related that conversation to him.  Matt agreed with stepping up the program so it looked like I was all set.  The only problem now was dealing with the sheer volume of traffic that was headed our way.  The caliche pit was an hour away which is not a good thing.  If they loaded a truck about every 5-10 minutes and they had 60 trucks to load at a time they would be spaced out on the road when they left.   After traveling for an hour, they would NOT be spaced out when they hit my gate.  I could expect bunches of 5 or 10 maybe even 15 trucks at a time bunching up at the gate.  I had to think a little outside the box or it was going to be a clusterf**k of monumental proportions.

I knew with  this volume of traffic, the only info I was going to collect was company name and tag number off of the semis so that would speed things up.  I decided Miss K and me needed us a sign to highlight some basic safety rules and aspects of polite behavior.  She headed over to Carrizo and came back with some neon green poster board and a fat Sharpie.  I told her what I wanted on the sign and went to bed.  The next morning, our stop sign had been amended with additional info. 🙂  The next step in the master plan was truly diabolical.

A truck driver will never admit to speeding unless you got him dead nuts on a radar gun.  I think it is in their DNA or something.  Our main lease road runs arrow straight past the Old Girl for 3 miles to the back of the property.  At about 3/4 mile in, the road tops a hill and I lose sight of the traffic.  I jumped in the Suburban and drove at the posted speed limit of 15mph to just over the crest of the hill.  3 minutes exactly.  Good enough!

I expected the first trucks to roll in about 8-8:15am Monday morning and I didn’t miss it much. I was waiting for them with extra log sheets,  a fresh pack of smokes, a bottle of cold water and a fresh cup of the rocket fuel from the Keurig.  I heard the jake brakes and big diesels howling as they downshifted out of sight to the west of me.  I stopped every truck in that first bunch of 10 and gave them their marching orders: speed limit,  seat belts,  litter,  flashers, jakes — comprendes?  I cracked nary a smile and made eye contact at stink eye intensity.   Just enough to rankle them a bit and get that radio chatter going.  It wasn’t but a minute or two until the next group of 4 arrived and I met them at the cattle guard.   Truck #2 already had his flashers on. Smart boy.  He had to set and wait while Truck #1 got the talk.   Truck #2 got the thumbs up and rolled through with no slowdown.   Truck #3  was delayed to get the talk and pulled away with his flashers going.  At the same time, I saw the flashers start on Truck #4.  Fair enough,  you had to be about as smart as a box turtle to figure this one out.

I had enough time to get a sup of coffee before the first bunch began to exit the property empty.  8 of ’em lined up nose to tail and creeping along at 15mph;  the ones of them that I could see through that god awful cloud of dust did not have their flashers on.  Perfect.  I held up my clipboard to signal a stop and took my time walking up to his door.  I could just feel the ‘What the hell does this guy want NOW?’ attitude falling out when he opened the door.   ‘Turn your flashers on when you are moving on this property.’  and I pointed out the gate.   I looked back at the 7 trucks behind him and they all had the flashers on now.   Bueno!

The next gaggle of trucks to hit the gate inbound all had the flashers blinking by the time they got to the cattle guard and did a slow roll by as I jotted down tag numbers and company names off the doors.  You have to understand something about truck driver mentality to really comprehend how important this flasher thing really is.  A driver does not like to turn his emergency 4 ways on.  An accident, moving slowly or blocking a lane of travel or parked on the shoulder of the roadway are about the only times you will see the 4 ways on because they realize the are in the middle of an unsafe and potentially dangerous event.  The 4 ways mean something and their driving behavior is modified accordingly.  By me requiring them to run the flashers on the property,  it called attention to their actions and most of them settled down right on down.

These boys get paid for each load delivered so naturally they are going to do their best to get as many rounds completed  in a day as they can.  I can respect that.  The last loads of the day are always the wildest.  They are tired and pushing hard to get back to the pit and park the truck.   I was anticipating that being as how this wasn’t my first rodeo.   It wasn’t long until 2 trucks hit the gate nose to tail like they were coming in for a Nascar pit stop.   I jotted down the first one’s info along with his precise arrival time 16:14.30.  He had his flashers on and got the high sign to roll on. The second truck was so far up his ass I had no time to get his tag number.  I made a note and let him roll.   I settled back to watch the time click by on my watch and was surprised when the second truck pulled off the roadway and the driver got out; had to pee most likely.  The first truck vanished over the hill at 16:16.00 — 90 seconds.  30mph by my figuring.  I settled back and waited for them to come out.

It wasn’t but about 15 minutes until they came rolling out.  I walked up to the first truck and said  ‘I need your name.’   He told me and I said ‘Pablo, how fast were you going coming in?’  Of course we know his answer was 15mph.  I said ‘No Sir!, I timed you from the stop sign to the top of that hill yonder.  It should take you 3 minutes at the posted speed and you rolled over the top in half that time. You are done on this job.  Please do not come back on this property because I will turn you away. ‘  I turned my back on him and walked to the second truck.   I asked him why he was in such a godawful hurry that I did not even have time to write down his tag number.  He stammered out some BS reply and I said ‘Lookee here, your running buddy ain’t coming back ’cause he can’t abide by the rules.  You need to straighten up and pay attention or you can join him.’  It goes without saying that word soon got out to all the drivers that we weren’t playing.

I guess I made my point. The rest of that day and the next two were uneventful with few minor exceptions.  I had everybody pretty much trained up like I wanted them.   I duly notified the Company Construction Man and the Dirt Contractor regarding the ejection I had been forced to make.   They reiterated that it was my call and I could proceed as I saw fit.  As the construction work progressed, Miss K and I received nothing but praise as to how well it was going.  I can tell you right now folks that if you step up and truly discharge all aspects of your gate guard duties and do it well, it will not go unnoticed.

 

End Note:  Key to the Highway by Derek and the Dominos from the Live at the Fillmore cd.    How do you get to be a legendary band without the benefit of videos, tweets and the internet?   Ummm, right here.  Next question…….

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6 comments to Riding Herd on the Bad Boys

  • Where would we be without you to help us along in our gate guarding adventure? I love your web site/blog so I’ve awarded you “The Versatile Blogger” Award.

    You can pick up your award at http://travelbug-susan.blogspot.com/2012/06/versatile-blogger-award-post.html

    Thank you so much for all the info and good stories.

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  • By the end of the 3rd day, the truck drivers were bringing me breakfast tacos. They thanked us for making them mind. Gotta love that!

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  • Joel

    Whatever they’re paying you, it isn’t enough.

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  • Marvin

    When you care about doing things right , it works for everybody .

    Staying safe and banking that money is what it is all about .

    Thank you for writing the blog .

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  • Clay

    Paid attention to what you wrote in the previous entry about riding herd on these critters. Second day on the job had a little set to with a Rental co. Driver. Blew through the gate w/o stopping. I called the Co. man at the rig and told him what happened. And he said he would take care of it. In the mean time my company rep happened to drive up and I explained to him what happened. Asked him if I might explain to the driver that he was to stop at my gate and let me log him in and out and that if he busted my gate again that I would report him to both my company and the oil co man on site w a recommendation that he not be allowed on the property. The answer was that is a good idea. So when the driver came back, I was blunt but polite and tried to explain that I wasn’t trying to be an ass but these rules were for his safety as much as anything. His belligerent response was, “I don’t have time to wait for you to come out of your trailer and check me in and out. I have lots of jobs to do and places to go.” Hmmm. To say his attitude pissed off this 6’5″ 240 pound grandpa is an understatement. So I just told him don’t bust my gate again and walked away. Gave myself time to cool off and then called the company man and shared with him the attitude I was presented with and told him that in my opinion if a man doesn’t have time to be safe then he doesn’t have time to work on or around our rig. Company man agreed and I am pretty sure that little piss ant will be looking for another job in a day or two. Good for him. If I am working here then it is my rig. I take this stuff seriously. I’ve seen too many accidents and fatalities and devastated families over the course of the last 30 plus years to tolerate any BS from some yeahoo that doesn’t care about anyone but himself. And that’s all I got to say about that! Go get em Andy!

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