For those who aren’t interested in our daily descriptions of gate guarding we have provided an overview. If you would like to read our daily account you can start here. It is important to note that there can be significant variations from gate to gate, but most are scaled to pay more if the traffic is higher and/or the weather and gate conditions are more difficult. The pay also varies significantly based on the current oil prices. This account is based on a singular experience in South Texas working a brand new gate with three wells on it that were not drilled when we got here. The more wells, the more traffic, and in our case there was additional traffic initially to build the lease road which leads to the oil pad, and the fracking pond, which would already be done at an established gate. We also did not experience the fracking process, which is a high volume activity that occurs at the end right before the well starts producing oil. These numbers are a summary of our 79 days in the position between January 11 and March 30. The hourly wage depends upon how you look at the position. Since it is a 24/7 gate, you can look at all the hours in the day, or just the hours between when the first truck comes and the last truck leaves, or only hours where a truck came or left.
By The Numbers
- We worked 79 days, which was not the complete cycle of time between drilling the well and oil production. Wells can be dug and oil flowing in less time, but due to a shortage of resources in the area there were delays to the schedule. One of the downsides to the job is you never really know how long a position will last. There is a project plan and an overall schedule, but this is rarely shared with the gate guards or the gate guarding company.
- We opened or shut the gate a total of 5,722 times. Each passage was logged into the computer and the entire process takes approximately 2 minutes. The only exception to this would be when a truck wasn’t in the system and all the information had to be added, or when gravel trucks came through and we only needed to capture a check mark on a sheet. Those were the exception though, so for simplicity’s sake we will estimate 2 minutes. Using this logic pure task time was 191 hours. We had to be available 1,896 hours so that works out to we were opening and the shutting the gate roughly 10% of the time.
- The busiest day we had 422 trucks (the bulk of these were gravel trucks) and the slowest day we had was 0.
- Our average work day (if you look from when the first truck came until the last truck left) was 12.5 hours. Our average number of trucks per hour was 6. The bulk of the traffic was between 6am and 6pm, but there were several days where we had trucks all night long.
- For the 79 days we made a total of $9,750. We did take off a partial day for our anniversary and they deducted $31.26 for those 7 hours.
- The site and services are also covered, which some people include in their wages. We don’t, so I didn’t include that here. I will say our costs were the lowest they have been on the road, because our schedule and location made it easy to keep costs down.
Hourly rate is interesting. If you count the 24 hour period, the rate was $5.21 which is below minimum wage. If you look at the rate between the first and last truck it was $8.09 an hour, which is above minimum wage in Texas, but because it is a contract position no taxes were taken out and their might (depending on your deductions) be an extra tax burden. If you just look at hours we got trucks the rate is $9.95, which is better but still under $10.
- In Texas you do need a state license to do this work, but not all states with oil activity require one. Our company worked with us to complete the application, test, and background check, and made it extremely easy. The cost for both of us was under $100, although Lee got a military discount for his past military service. Once you get the license it is renewable online. Not all companies help with this though, and it does take some time, so if you are thinking about doing this I recommend starting to work on that in advance. You do NOT have to be a Texas resident to get a Texas security license.
- Some positions have guard shacks, but most allow you to work from your rig. This is a huge benefit as you can watch TV, read, complete personal chores, etc during your down time. You could even work a second job, if the job was virtual and allowed tasks to be completed at nonspecific times. Since you never know what the schedule will be from day to day it would be difficult to have a job where you were required to complete tasks at a certain time of day.
- We were allowed to split the day however we wanted and both work a 4-4 shift, which is somewhat unusual. It worked for us because Lee is an early riser and I was able to go to sleep while it was still dark outside, which made working nights much more pleasant for me. We were individually able to take time and run errands, but neither of us did anything fun away from the RV during the time period. Partly because we couldn’t go together, but mainly because there wasn’t much to do in the immediate area. Lee went into San Antonio a couple of times to buy things we needed, but I never felt the desire to drive that far on my awake time off.
- There is minimal supervision and the people we have met have been very nice. Sure, you get the occasional cranky person, but nothing particularly obnoxious. The oil business is a small community and few people want to cause an issue for someone else because you never know who you will be working with down the road. It’s also important to note that the contracts are written so your job responsibilities can be changed.
- The positions come with a water tank, a generator for power, and weekly dump services, and no fees are paid by us. You certainly can boon dock cheaply in the winter, but the cost for full hookups in a winter friendly place is generally not cheap.
- The work is mostly easy, but it is outside and elements can be at play. Extreme heat, high winds, thunderstorms and tornadoes can all be a factor, and vary from day-to day. Rattlesnakes are also a concern in the more remote areas along with illegal immigrants in some areas. Also your house WILL become extremely dusty if you take one of these positions, as the constant traffic and dry conditions make dust clouds a near constant element.
- We were issued safety vests, two chimes (which worked poorly in general and particularly poorly on windy days), a cell booster, and two tablets. Safety was a major concern and stressed to us from Day 1. We were encouraged more than once to wave trucks through if they started to stack up on the road, which made the job much easier. The only safety issue we had was initially the gate did not have drop rods and while I was struggling with the gate in the wind I fell into the cattle guard and banged my leg up pretty bad. Once we reported the problem they did fix the issue and our company does provide workers compensation, although not all do. It is recommended that you take off your rings if you are working one of these positions because they can get caught in the gate and hurt you. We’ve heard stories of people losing fingers when the wind grabs the gate and a finger gets caught in it.
- The location of the jobs is usually pretty remote and cell/internet services can be limited. Grocery stores, and laundromats can be far away and since one person needs to be onsite at all times, errands must be done by one person during their “off” time.
What We Thought
We both liked it, although we did have a few rough days when the volume was particularly high. The slow days though are extremely pleasant, especially if you have hobbies or side projects you want to work on. I like the fact that unlike most work kamping positions there are jobs year round, although I would have to be hard pressed to take a position down here in the summer, because we don’t handle extreme heat well. The winter weather was really great. It can be windy and the dust can certainly get annoying, but after we started we mostly kept our rig closed and ran our two air conditioners which kept the dust down. Now that we have experienced it start to finish we would both definitely do it again. We would be careful though to ask questions regarding traffic volume, whether we could work out of our rig, and internet availability. Using my triangle scale to determine if we liked a job or not it was great on time, and OK on quality and money. If we were on a busier gate, or the work conditions/weather were extremely unpleasant this would change for us significantly.
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