Shortage of truck drivers may slow production of oil in Permian Basin

When the price of oil collapsed in 2014 and disrupted drilling operations all across Texas’s massive Permian Basin shale formation, truckers were among those hardest hit. Rendered unnecessary by the slump in output, they were fired in scores.

Now, three years later, with oil prices inching back higher and production in the Permian soaring once again, the drillers want the truckers back. The feeling, though, isn’t mutual. The pain of the 2014 bust remains fresh for many who went on to find driving gigs in other industries and, what’s more, they worry that companies will remain tightfisted with pay as they re-hire.

The result is a growing trucker shortage that threatens to limit just how high drillers can push production. The problem is most acute in the western fringe of the Permian -- known as the Delaware Basin -- where shale companies are moving back into aggressively as prices climb. Given the off-the-beaten-path location of these wells amid the sprawling 75,000-square mile Permian, the need for truckers to haul the oil over primitive roads to pipelines is greater than in more centrally located spots.

“We are able to sell the trucks to the crude haulers,” said Wade Black, a salesperson with Premier Truck Group in Amarillo, Texas, a city just to the north of the Delaware Basin. “But there’s no one to drive them."
Before the oil bust, the Permian and the Eagle Ford were able to recruit drives from troops who had gotten out of the military after earlier operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.   Those guys have since found other jobs that are apparently more secure even if they are not as lucrative.  The producers need to solve that job security problem if they are going to lure more people into driving the big rigs for them.


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