Every company in the shale, it seems, needs commercial drivers to haul equipment, oil, water, sand and hazardous materials. Yet there aren’t enough qualified drivers.
Open any local newspaper, and they’re just full of jobs for truckers, said Glynis Holm Strause, dean of institutional advancement at Coastal Bend College, which offers training at its South Texas campuses.
The lure of jobs in the Eagle Ford Shale is even being felt in San Antonio. Recently the city’s Solid Waste Management Department held its first job fair for truck drivers in at least 15 years.
We have had increased turnover, said the department’s assistant director, David Newman, who is looking for 30 drivers. It’s a ripple effect because there’s a draw from the oil field.
It’s difficult to determine how many jobs for truckers are going unfilled in the Eagle Ford Shale. The Texas Workforce Commission’s website, www.WorkInTexas.com, lists 87 openings for truck drivers, more than a fifth of the 399 job openings specific to the shale in South Texas. Those job listings don’t include openings on a new website for jobs in the South Texas shale: www.EagleFord.jobs. In addition, some employers choose not to post jobs on those sites.
But an acknowledged shortage of drivers hasn’t significantly bogged down drilling or hydraulic fracturing operations in the shale, experts said.
We’d worried about it as a potential drag on activity there, said Thomas Tunstall, director of the Center for Community and Business Research at UTSA’s Institute for Economic Development. But that’s not showing up in the numbers, as far as we can tell.
The pay for truckers can be good, ranging from $25,000 to $80,000 a year, according to Workforce Solutions Alamo officials. That’s translating to ample numbers of applicants.
The problem is that too few are qualified.
We’re hearing from employers that there are problems with background checks, said Monika De La Garza, communications and outreach coordinator for Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend. It’s a challenge that everybody faces. People may be qualified, but not drug free.
At a meeting of Eagle Ford Shale leaders last month, Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken said a trucking company looking to hire 100 drivers found that half couldn’t pass the drug test.
For those applicants who do pass the drug test, there is still the issue of training.
FTS International, which engages in hydraulic fracturing services, launched an on-the-job training program at its Pleasanton operations center almost two years ago.
Since June, 84 employees have obtained their commercial driver’s licenses through FTS’ training program, Percival said.
We keep about four to five employees in the training program at a time, rotating them out as they obtain their CDLs, making room for the next batch of trainees, she said. The training can last up to four weeks.
Oil field services giant Schlumberger, which recently opened an operations center in San Antonio, invests significantly in driver training, spokesman Stephen Harris said. All CDL drivers go through a two-week training course in Oklahoma that includes classroom work followed by defensive driving training. That’s followed by training in the field before truckers are allowed to drive in a convoy, he said.
But not everybody has to have a job to get training. The Coastal Bend Workforce Development Board has earmarked $100,000 to train people for CDL jobs in a partnership with Coastal Bend College. There’s some red tape involved; the applicant must meet certain criteria under the Workforce Investment Act pass a physical and drug test and a written CDL test to be eligible for the training.
The workforce board will pay the $4,200 tuition for training for those accepted in the program, Coastal Bend College’s Strause said.
They have to jump through several hoops, she added. We can’t take just anybody and put them in a $100,000 vehicle.