Diversity Career Stories Transportation

Female truck driver finds herself unwelcome on oil rigs

Female truck driver finds herself unwelcome on oil rigsS. Jessop shares her unique experience being a truck driver for an oil rig in this career interview. She shares what it was like having men not want her on their rigs just because she was female, and how she constantly has to work harder than others in her field to prove herself because of her gender. Whether you are male or female, if you’re thinking about a career in truck driving, this interview is for you!

What is your job title and what industry do you work in? How many years of experience do you have in this field? How would you describe yourself using only three adjectives?
I am a truck driver working in the oil field. I have 7 1/2 years of driving tractor trailer. I would describe myself as dedicated, trustworthy, and caring.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what worked best? Do you speak another language, and has it been helpful in your career?
I am female. It seems like I have always had to prove myself since I have worked in mostly a “mans” job occupational field. In the oil field they just didn’t want me there. A lot of the men said flat out that women didn’t belong in the oil field. I did my job better than most, some people at the rigs would tell my dispatcher that they wanted me on their rig, and I was told that I worked circles around most of the men, but that wasn’t enough to get over the prejudice of most of the workers. I am an outgoing person, very friendly to everyone. In hind sight, I should have kept to myself and been invisible I guess. After 4 months of harassment I started keeping to myself, but that didn’t help, so, I lasted 3 more months and then quit.

How would you describe what you do? What does your work entail? Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?
I haul fresh water to rigs when they are getting ready to frac the well. They shoot the water down the well at 8000 psi to break up the rock, shale, etc to get the minerals. I haul off what they call flow back, the fresh water after it has gone down the well. After the well is set, gas, oil and lease water is sent through a separator. The poison H2S is removed from the gas and it is sent down the gas line to sell, the water and oil is then separated and they go to their own tanks, usually 3 tanks for each so nothing overflows. I go in and pull the lease water out and take it to salt water disposals. New wells can produce 200 barrels an hour, our rigs can only hold 130, so it can be very busy. What I would like to change is the misconception that women can’t do this job. Its hard work, but that’s what I love about it.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What might need to change about your job to unleash your full enthusiasm?
I rate it right now at a 4. The thing that needs to change, is being taken seriously. I have a good head on my shoulders, I can see things that would make our jobs easier but I’m not taken seriously.

If this job moves your heart – how so? Ever feel like you found your calling or sweet spot in life? If not, what might do it for you?
I love driving. It was my sweet spot, but I am at a crossroads in my life. Do what I love and be alone or find a new passion and have a social life. I choose social life. I love to bake, make jewelry, read and photography. Those are the areas that I am looking into now.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?
I have been all over the lower 48 and Canada. I wanted off the road so I could have some kind of social life. Since the 7 month struggle I have had here, I’m not sure what to do, all available driving jobs are in the oil field it seems. I have been looking for another career in some of my other interests. I believe that if you love what you do you will never WORK a day in your life. My mother is 90 years old and still does what she loves 30 hours a week. Having mostly trucking and construction in my background, It has been difficult to get in the door to start a new career. I WILL persevere.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?
I got started back in 1985. I was 6 months pregnant, and my (then) husband was driving truck. We were going through Nevada and he got very sick and our load had to be in LA. He told me I was going to have to drive, and that out in the desert I couldn’t hurt anything… So, a truck driver was born!

If I could go back, I would have learned other aspects of the transportation industry, it would have opened more career opportunities for when I got older.

What did you learn the hard way in this job and what happened specifically that led up to this lesson?
I just kept doing what I loved and never looked long term. I am now at an age that pulling a flatbed or a tanker is out of the question. I hate pulling reefer or dry van, (to much time setting.)

What is the single most important thing you have learned outside of school about the working world?
To prepare for retirement when you are young enough to have the time to save for it… My boys are 25 and 30 and they both are focused on retirement.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?
I went to a location where the well was set and the fluids were pumping into the stock tanks. It was about 11pm. When I pulled on to the location I got a strange feeling, (goose bumps) I pulled around to load. I couldn’t get my pump to work, it would start then stop. Nothing would work. I had a very uneasy feeling, kept looking behind me felt like I was being watched. You have to understand, these locations are out in remote areas of northwestern Oklahoma, nothing for miles and miles. I couldn’t get anything done. I called another driver he said that it was on Native American burial land, and there was a little prayer you had to say. I told him to come do it; I wasn’t going to, I thought he was pulling my leg. He came and said the prayer and he got loaded no problems… I never went back there!

Why do you get up and go to work each day? Can you give an example of something that really made you feel good or proud?
I am proud of what I do. I feel I do a great service for Americans. We bring food, clothes, vehicles, building material, fuels to stay warm, etc. Local drivers take grain and hay out of the field… we move America.

What kind of challenges do you face and what makes you just want to quit?
The challenges that I face are inner city traffic like Dallas at 5pm. Staying current with all the DOT regulations and knowing the local and state laws.

The only thing that makes me want to quit is not being able to have a social life, being single and on the road all the time is very hard and lonely.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable
or healthy work-life balance? How?

This job can be very stressful, but if you love it you take it in stride because you love what you do. Truck driving is a career that you HAVE to love to do it.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough and/or happy living within your means?
Oilfield work is great with pay from $3000 to 6000 a month. You work about 70 hrs in 6 days in the oil positions. For local hauling jobs, it pays on average 1200 – 1500 a month. Over the road (OTR) trucking pays 4000-10000 a month, but that depends on whether you work for a company as an employee, or own your own. I grossed 189,000 when I owned my own rig.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?
I have never taken a vacation. When I was OTR, I owned my own rig so I would intentionally take jobs that would take me to the towns where my friend and family lived and just take a few days or a week off to spend time with them. A company driver can’t do that and they usually get 2 days off for every 2 or 3 weeks out on the road.

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?
Today you have to go to truck driving school. I would say Schneider National has the best, they teach you to handle the truck in different situations, like hydroplane, ice etc.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?
Take a hard look at it. If you are considering OTR, make sure you like being alone a lot unless you run team, them make sure you can live in a 6×6 space with someone else. Any driving job you take you have to be on your A game. Most of the people on the road with you have little or no respect for what you are driving, and it can be dangerous.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?
I would love to go to pastry school and open my own bakery