BLOG: Help Wanted Behind the Wheel in the Permian
The U.S. trucking industry’s driver shortage is escalating, according to a 2017 report by the American Trucking Association (ATA). In fact, ATA projects the estimated 50,000-driver shortfall that it anticipated by the end of 2017 could more than triple to 174,000 by 2026.
Perhaps few regions are as aware of the tight demand for qualified truck drivers as the oil and natural gas-rich Permian Basin in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico. If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) or are willing to obtain the certification and can meet other criteria, there might be a big rig in the region with your name on it. Moreover, plenty of employers affiliated with the Permian oil and gas sector would likely pay you handsomely for your expertise to haul drill pipe, equipment, frac sand and other shipments.
Louis Gonzales, associate dean of Odessa College’s Continuing Education and Workforce Training unit, confirmed that trucking opportunities abound in the region.
“CDL drivers in the Permian Basin are in high demand at this time,” said Gonzales, whose division oversees the college’s four-week CDL Truck Driving Academy. “You will see ‘Hiring CDL Drivers’ signs all around.”
Gonzales said the keen demand for CDL drivers translates into career opportunities for students of various ages and backgrounds.
“The industry is in high demand for CDL drivers, so any qualified applicant has a great opportunity for employment,” Gonzales noted, adding that more experienced drivers can also land positions with larger companies that offer attractive incentive and benefit packages.
“The oil and gas industry pays very well for CDL drivers and you have large companies like Halliburton, Pioneer Natural Resources and Key Energy seeking drivers,” Gonzales said.
In addition, a human resources pro with close ties to Permian oil and gas players told me that some employers are even paying to get the right students – particularly local candidates – trained.
“Many people may not realize it but if you live in some of these locations – and if you’re reliable and don’t do drugs and have no driving under the influence (DUI) offenses – some of these companies will pay for you to get your CDL just because they need drivers so badly,” my source told me.
Moreover, the HR contact said that CDL drivers who add tanker, hazardous material (hazmat) and other endorsements significantly boost their marketability in the Permian.
Although being a CDL driver can be a rewarding career, the work is not for everyone. Describing it as a “fast-paced, high-demand environment,” Gonzales cautioned that truckers often sacrifice time at home.
“For those with families, they might consider the long hours, too, that are sometimes required,” commented Gonzales.
Others Feeling the Pinch
For the broader business community in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, the demand for CDL drivers from the Permian’s oil and gas industry is making an already tough recruiting situation even more challenging. An HR manager in a related sector that also relies on CDL drivers told me that finding and retaining staff is a “universal” challenge for a variety of businesses in the region. In addition, she underscored that it’s clearly a seller’s market for the right talent – for CDL drivers as well as other roles such as welders and field personnel – in the Permian.
“You can imagine this kind of competition creates demands to be creative in employment offering, including many companies offering relocation and sign-on bonuses,” the HR manager said. “There are many challenges in retention in an area of prosperity.”
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