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Still Waiting on a Gate Assignment? This May Be Why........

I was reading somewhere else this week that the recreational vehicles are stacked up on the yards waiting on gate assignments.   Some oil field gate guards in waiting seemed surprised by this fact……. and may be even a little defensive or pissed off about it.  I wrote about the reasons behind the lack of gates guard assignments in 2011 and and they are still valid.  Let me visit the reasons I am seeing now versus the same time last year….  BTW, let  me remind all my readers that I predicted if you did NOT have an assignment prior to Thanksgiving 2012 that you might be waiting well into February 2013 for an assignment.

The world of an oilfield gate guard — all quiet at 4am

The price of crude oil is lower than it was at this same time last year.. not much but it is lower. However, it has risen the last 8 days in a row.  When you see the price of crude oil hit $100/barrel and above, they will be begging for gate guards.   I wish I could say the same thing about gas prices.  They are not rising as the crude oil does.  Because of this many rigs are stacked.   The rig count right now is the lowest it has been in some months especially the rigs drilling for gas.

The oil business is extremely volatile and it IS dog eat dog.  The Barnett Shale went from boom to bust in 45 days due to depressed gas prices and an oversupply with no place to store it.  When the big money is not flowing freely here, things get rough;  make no mistake.  Miss K and I thought we had found a real ‘home’ last summer.  The oil company loved us and told us we had job security.  Needless to say we busted our asses for them just like we did for EOG up in the Barnett.   All it took was one phone call from Corporate to the Company Man about budget over runs on that ranch.  We had one flowback crew in place and things were slow.  We were released 2 hours later due to budget constraints even though they knew a drilling rig was scheduled in there to punch 3 holes within the next 10 days.  Almost the same thing happened to us up in the Barnett.

Let me tell ya something friends and neighbors — you may do a stellar job and be the best thing since sliced bread but if the call comes down to your Company Man from one of his bosses to release you– you are outta there.  After that happened to us twice we adopted a new business model.  Most of y’all are self-employed contractors, right?    Miss Kathy and I treat each assignment as an individual contract and rightly so. You accept the gate at $xxx per day and do your best.  When that gate assignment is over, we consider ourselves free agents.  Now mind you, there is some integrity and protocol we follow. Generally, I will tell our Supervisor they have 3 days-5 days-10 days-whatever to find us another good assignment.  Then I will contact them daily to make sure the communication stays open.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease and this is no time to be bashful if you are needing to work.  If our current company does not come up with an assignment within the allotted time,  I will contact everybody and their brother to get another assignment.  There is no loyalty as far as you suffering without income because you feel you owe it to the company.  Get that out of your mind, OK?

Have all of you been keeping up with the current economy?  Does it surprise you that there seem to be more gate guards this year who are not Winter Texans just looking to supplement their income?  It should come as no surprise at all!  Things are tough ALL OVER and there are a goodly percentage of folks down here because they are on the ropes financially and they really, really need a job as an oil field gate guard.  Keep that in mind the next time you turn down an assignment or complain about some nitpicking detail.  Everybody is replaceable–period.

Gate Guard Services seems to have the biggest backlog of gate guards in waiting right now and I guess some folks want to bash on them.  Who knows the reasons?  Maybe they anticipated some new contracts that fell through?  Maybe they did not anticipate the rig count dropping as it did?   I will tell you that Miss Kathy and I would go back to work for Jay or Roger or Jaime with no reservations.  They treated us with respect, paid as promised and were generally truthful.  Let me touch on something else while I am blowing and going here.  Some veterans feel like they should be given preferential treatment  as far as assignments.  Some noobs resent that all to hell and back.  In my mind, sitting on a yard someplace is the absolutely worst place to be if you are waiting on a job.  Tabs are being kept by each and every couple as to when this one or that one arrived and who gets a gate in chronological order or not.  Those damned yards are a boiling pot of gossip and innuendo.  Way, way back in the day when I was dispatching trucks and I had a shortage of freight and an overabundance of equipment, I would disperse the trucks to multiple locations just to avoid this scenario. That is one reason you never see Miss K or myself on a yard waiting.  We stay below the radar and can get another assignment without our supervisor having to endure the bitching and complaining of a half dozen folks asking ‘Why did HE get a gate? We have been here longer!!!”   Food for thought.

The other thing that sometimes happens when you go for a long time with no assignment is that you have been blackballed for some reason.  Are you a bitcher and a whiner?  Do you continually require assistance from your service guy? Do you have a workcamper entitlement attitude vs. this is a REAL job attitude?   The LAST truck to leave the truck stop when I was dispatching was the least capable and the least trustworthy as far as job performance.  Think about it.   The gate guard bosses are being held accountable by the oil companies for your performance on the job.  At the same time,  none of the gate guard companies have an overabundance of service personnel.   Your service guy is not your personal concierge!  If you are sucking up more of his time than is necessary, don’t think it won’t be noted because these fellas talk amongst themselves.   I know for a fact this paragraph is gong to rub some people the wrong way but there are more than a few of our gate guard brothers and sisters who need to open their eyes and realize how the cow eat the cabbage.  Experience a Level III H2S event or a fatality onsite and you will learn quickly just how important your job is to the oil company.  Don’t be found lacking when lives are on the line!

Let me give you a real life example which may be helpful to noobs and may be even some veterans.   We make top pay scale working for this present company.  If you have been reading the blog for awhile you know the reason for this high pay rate.  Their gate guard division is small; they started out  as dirt and excavation contractors years ago and that is still the main focus.   Our equipment is not as good as what the Big 3 has and I do not expect it to be.  Our support level is not as high as the Big 3 and I do not expect it to be.   The money they are saving on overhead  is in part being passed on to Miss K and I.  We realize that. We deal with it. They get to concentrate on their bread and butter.  No sniveling!

Yesterday my service guy shows up.  We don’t have a fancy service trailer;  Fuel goes into one of 4 50 gallon drums.  I pump 56 gallons of fuel into the generator myself every other day.  Water goes into a 300 gallon wire tote sitting on the ground.  My guy shows up yesterday and he says he does not have a working fuel pump.  We use mine.  I ask him for 2 gallons of oil for the generator since it is beginning to use some with over 8k hours on the clock.  He doesn’t even have a quart to give me.  I keep up with the service intervals on the generator.  When he comes out again in 2 weeks I will text him beforehand and remind him we are due for service.   If I need to add oil in the meantime, I will raid my personal stash.

We have been at this same gate since Labor Day.  We really expected to be released around Christmas.  We weren’t.  Right now they are building a new pad and it looks like we are being picked up to stay here for the next hole as well (knocks on wood).  That is fine by us.

 

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13 comments to Still Waiting on a Gate Assignment? This May Be Why……..

  • Doris

    So true Andy. The right attitude and a good work ethic go hand in hand. When we first started this lifestyle our friends asked “what if you can’t find work?” Pftt! If I had to work at McDonald’s I would do so. We have been fortunate enough to find good work and have always given it our best. Of course research was key and we knew what to expect.
    Your website and a few other bloggers we read were instrumental in our decision to come to Texas. We knew what we were getting into, we learned the gate ins and outs quickly and have always given it our best.
    This is a rough time of year to expect to get a gate the day you arrive, but patience IS a virtue. 🙂

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    • Andrew

      Good to hear from you Doris. What do we always say? “This job is not for everybody!” I actually read the other day that someone purposely stayed quiet about gate guarding opportunities BECAUSE they did not want the competition for assignments! I say bring it on. It just ups everybody’s game!

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  • Nan

    Know what you are talking about. I have done the gate work in Pa. Slow now as you say due to the downward prices of natgas. My hubby is a super on the pads now for safety. We have our share of envirocrats that like to invade the areas occasionally. Used to be so busy checking trucks in you couldn’t sit down as you say, but now it is pretty boring. We work for Talisman. They don’t have MH’s on site. You travel via your vehicle and go home after 12 hours. Nice to hear your story from that part of the country. Food for thought if we every decide to pack up our MH and hit the road.

    Nancy Mitchell

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    • Andrew

      Hi Nancy,

      Now is a great time to be in South Texas. 70s/50s for the next 5 days. If you ever get the urge, I would welcome an essay about gate guarding in PA.

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  • Carol (nikki)

    You nailed it Andy, as you always do! I think too many people come down here thinking this is a “do nothing and collect the paychecks job”. Some gates are easier than others, but eventually, if you are here for a while, you are going to get a gate with restrictions or different procedures. Like you said, “Suck it up and do what is expected of you and do it well”!(Or go home)

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    • Andrew

      Thanks Nikki!
      It is what it is, huh?

      Miss K just got up and boy oh boy she is wound tight on this subject as well! Wait till she chimes in on this!

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  • OK imagine this; you get a job as a security guard for a large bank or a computer company. Do you honestly believe it would be OK with the company for you to sleep on the job. Would they allow you to check in a vehicle in your jammies?
    Gate guarding is a job that requires 24/7 WORK. Now granted vehicle traffic does tend to slow down at 2AM. That is no excuse to not give the same quality of service to that lost driver than to anyone else who comes in.
    It irks me to no end when people sleep on the job. Don’t!

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  • I sense an opportunity. I could use a little cash, you need a nap. Howzabout I sub-contract the hours you wish to snooze? I’m only good for about 4 hours a day, these days.

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    • Andrew

      The commute might be a killer. 🙂 Seriously, we are seeing some pipeline gates that are single man 12 hour gates. They are closed tight each night and you go off duty. $100 day with all utilities furnished. You could certainly pocket few bucks there and sleep all night.

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      • Aw, man, that might be just what I need to feel useful again.

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        • Andrew

          It ain’t rocket science boss and there is usually enough watch some good satellite TV and stay up on the internet side of things.

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  • Nora (Texas Cruiser)

    20 Thumbs up Miss K. Folks telling me it’s ok to doze at night between arrivals is a big pet peeve of mine. Doesn’t matter if I don’t get a single soul at the gate all night they’re paying me to be awake and ready to go!

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    • CindyH

      Well thats all good… to each his own! When we 1st started the supervisor said if you cant keep ur eyes open in between vehicles it wasnt a problem! we have the bells in the drive an I lay on the couch as I sleep so lite I hear the trucks comin down the road… all I have to do is jump up and out the door! I dont feel bad to nap as long as he not waitin at the gate…

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