“Honest labour bears a lovely face,” Thomas Dekker
Mae Muhlnickel is a head turner. Not because she’s a beautiful, fiery red-head powerhouse, but because she’s a minority in the oilfield. She’s proof positive that a woman can do a “man’s job” and do it well.
Trucking has long been a male-dominated field. There are approximately 3.5 million CDL holders in the U.S.– 200,000 are female. In the oil, fracking industry, only 7% of all workers are women.
Muhlnickel, 25, grew up in trucking. Both her mom and dad were life-long drivers. In fact, Muhlnickel got her start in trucking by driving team with her father.
After an 8 month stint with her father, Muhlnickel spread her wings and signed on with company that hauled mulch to Canada.
Less than a year later, Muhlnickel’s mother passed away and she decided that over-the-road wasn’t for her. With trucking deeply engrained in her DNA, she chose to stay in the trucking industry and sought out a job that allowed her to be closer to friends and family.
Her brother told her about a trucking job in Eastern Montana. Muhlnickel applied and was hired to drive for hazmat carrier Kurtz and Sons.
Muhlnickel drives a crude oil tanker and says that there is no “average day” on the job, but that she typically works 60-80 hours a week and gets to do a job she loves.
When asked how she’s received by others in the oil fields, she replied, with a chuckle, “They say things like, ‘What’s a little girl like you doing in that truck,’ or ‘Is it just you in that big truck?'”
Muhlnickel isn’t intimidated by the work. With a confident voice, she described working on her own truck, digging herself out of deep mud and battling Mother Nature.”
“I’ve taken my truck places I wouldn’t take my 4×4 Trail Blazer,” she said with a laugh.
Muhlnickel said she’s doing a job that leaves her satisfied, “I love being able to see 500-600 barrels of oil being delivered each day. It’s quantitative proof that you did something.”
While the truck driver turnover rate is more than 100%, Muhlnickel says she loves her job and values her boss. She said she works a good schedule: 5 days on and 2 days off. She’s paid hourly and gets 2 weeks of vacation.
For anyone considering work in the oil fields, Muhlnickel offers this advice: dress warm; learn how to work on a truck; practice chaining.
“You’re out there in the middle of nowhere, you’re the only person who can save your own ass,” Muhlnickel said.
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