A couple of weeks ago, I saw an ad in Work Kamper News to be a gate guard in Texas, and since this was on the list of things we wanted to try and we were already in Texas I decided to give them a call. Turns out we were only 45 minutes away from their office and they were very interested in talking to us and getting us set up to be gate guards. In the State of Texas you need to get certified to be an “onsite security guard”, which is how they classify gate guards, and the process was a little time consuming. The company we were working with was fully aware of that however, and scheduled a 4 hour appointment with us to complete an orientation and all of the setup. Once we were set up we would be put on their list and as jobs became available we would receive a call to see if we were interested in taking the jobs.
Gate guarding has been slow for the last couple of years as the oil industry has slowed down, but they are expecting more activity in 2017, especially since a Republican was elected president. So, our timing was perfect and we scheduled a day to come over and fill everything out. It was not easy getting a day off from the Christmas trees, but since we weren’t technically supposed to be open until the day after Thanksgiving we insisted. The other alternative would have been doing the paperwork after Christmas and we wanted to make sure we were on their radar well before then. The company was located outside of the cute little town of Boerne, in a beautifully renovated red barn. I was a little taken aback initially when we walked inside, because the walls of the barn were mounted with over a dozen animal heads, and the coffee table was full of books about duck hunting and ranching. It was definitely full on Texan, but Nicole, the young woman we were working with was so incredibly nice that I soon felt comfortable.
She had us sit down at side-by-side desks and walked us through applying online for our certifications. Some companies don’t help with this, and they also don’t tell you that once you are certified you can work for any gate guarding company, but Nicole was upfront about that. She also started by explaining the program and answering all of our questions. Some of them were as follows:
- What does it pay? Rates are low right now and depend on job site, but they are ranging from $100 a day – $165 a day for a 12 hour shift.
- What services will we have? Occasionally couples are at a campground, but generally they stay on the job site. They are given a generator which provides 12000-15000 watts of power, 250 gallons of water a week, and weekly pump out service.
- What does the job entail? You check in truck drivers as they arrive throughout the day. Some sites have a gatehouse you sit in, but mostly you stay in your rig and come out when trucks arrive. It doesn’t matter which member of the couple performs this function and they are very flexible in how the paycheck is divided up. Only one person needs to be onsite at any given time. This was a huge benefit in my mind because Lee or I could find a second online job and earn both the gate guarding pay and the second job pay. We talked to Nicole about that and she said it was perfectly fine. One member of the couple can even be gone for extended periods if necessary as long as one person was onsite, so occasional work travel was back on the table.
- How is the job divvied up? These are 1099 jobs, but worker’s compensation is included. Nicole has a list and starts calling couples and if they are not interested they pass on the assignment.
- Is there cell coverage? All the jobs have some cell coverage. but it might only be Verizon or ATT, and it can be minimal. In some cases they add boosters to help with that.
The last was particularly important to us, but she definitely understood the full timing life. She stressed that she would much rather have us reject an assignment than accept something and then be unhappy or leave the position. She promised that this would not in any way be a black mark against us, she understood not everything was a good fit. It all sounded interesting, even though the money was very low, so we applied online, verified our accounts via our email, and then I paid a $62 fee. Lee received a $30 discount because he is former military, but had to provide his DD 214 discharge paperwork as proof. Thankfully we have that information. She made it all very pleasant and although we could have muddled through on our own, I was very glad to have someone to walk me through it.
After signing up we scheduled our fingerprinting and background checks at a facility in New Braunfels. This process is pretty quick and will cost an additional $10. We will also get randomly drug screened at some point in the future, and because I was curious I asked if marijuana counted as a drug and found out it does since it is illegal in the State of Texas. All of the rules follow State of Texas law since that is where the company is based, but the work could be in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, or Louisiana. Just to be clear, we aren’t worried about the drug testing, I just wondered with all the new states that had legalized it if companies were changing their policies. Not this one at least.
Finally, we had a complete walk-through of the paperwork associated with the job and went through the employee handbook. Again, Nicole did a very nice job and actually made it interesting, but it was the longest interview process I have ever been on. It took about 3 -1/2 hours all together, but we are set up and ready to be called to be gate guards. Our original plan after the trees would be to go to Quartzsite, but if we find a paying gig we will take that instead. There are limited options for making money in the January-March time frame and limited places we can be due to weather, so this could definitely be something we can do to fill that time.
What’s the downside?
- The jobs often become available sort of last minute, so we would need to stay somewhat close to Texas to avoid long travel days to reach an assignment.
- The pay is low IF you view it as being for the couple. $125 a day for a twelve-hour shift is $10 an hour if it’s one person, but $5 an hour if you count it as two. If you are only working a 12 hour shift only one person is required to do the work, so you could theoretically work a second position online or in a nearby town, but cell coverage and distance to a town do vary from site to site. This might be a great job for someone who works full time from their rig and has a spouse who picks up other jobs, but again, cell coverage would be key. If you were working a 24/7 shift as a couple then you would get paid $250 which is again around $10 an hour. There is still an opportunity for someone to work another job online possibly, but becomes more difficult.
- No overtime. The reason jobs like the Beet Harvest and Amazon are so lucrative is the overtime. This job doesn’t have that, but it may also have lots of down time in between trucks. It’s also less physically demanding.
- Dealing with the elements. Depending on the time of year and location of site, we could be dealing with extreme heat, snow, wind, etc. Since we wouldn’t be sightseeing and will have services bad weather becomes an issue mainly because you are both “stuck” in the rig on top of each other. We have done that and it is not fun. This is a serious concern, but also one of those things we feel we would have to try and see how it goes.
- You can’t do anything together. Nicole is fully aware that it gets old after awhile and tries at least once a month to give the couples one free day so they can go to dinner together or explore the area, but that is not guaranteed. The jobs are 7 days a week until their completion, and during the shift someone always needs to be there.
- Many sites don’t allow pets. This was not a big deal for us, but she seemed relieved that we didn’t have dogs. I got the impression that has caused issues in the past. There are some job sites that allow dogs, but that makes you less likely to be able to fill a spot.
- No drinking on the job site. Since you are living on the job site that could get tricky, but the way they handle it is you can drink in your rig, but if you drink the other person needs to cover the gate. So if you are fond of your 3pm cocktails together, that needs to go away.
- No guns. I almost started laughing when I heard that. Almost all full timers have guns. Again, if the guns are in your rig they don’t care, but no open carry is allowed. That being said she was pretty clear that you could protect yourself. It wasn’t that hard to read between the lines on this one.
Which brings me to safety. These are remote areas and she made absolutely no promises about being safe. She did say that sites near the border were almost exclusively covered by off duty or retired police officers, but the others were remote. We are super safety conscious, but I think we would need to do a contract and see how it goes. The remoteness could work to our advantage. The truck driver traffic would be an advantage as well. What we have learned in this lifestyle is whether or not we feel safe is very subjective and situational. So we would have to see.
Overall I feel pretty good about trying it. But then again I want to try everything at least once. Lee is a little more cautious, but willing to give it a go. Now it just depends on there being a job opening around the time we are scheduled to leave Texas. Will see what happens and let you know.
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