If you don’t mind long shifts, loud trucks and using a porta-potty on occasion, you might be oil field gate guard material.
It takes a certain kind of person to guard the gates at well pad sites. Some say it’s more a lifestyle than a job. The shifts are long, work can be loud and dirty, the pay’s not the greatest, and there’s the porta-potty – But it’s the change of scenery, meeting new people and the freedom to move from one location to the next that inspires them.
Gate guards are hired by oil field servicing companies to sign people in as they pass through the entrance of a drilling operation. Their job is to keep unauthorized vehicles out and to maintain a log of those that enter. It may not be the most exciting job in the world, but it does have its good points. Certain jobs can last from a few days to several months and there always seems to be another gate position open when the last one ends.
Oil field gate guards are usually paid a day rate, somewhere between $150 to $300. The busier the gate, the higher the pay. But take note, this job is not for everyone.
Oil field service companies will either have you working out of a “shack” or they’ll have you provide your own RV to work out of at the well entrance. RV’ers are usually a husband and wife team. The company provides a generator and fuel for the RV, as well as a water tank. You provide the RV and the motivation.
Teresa Franklin is the exception to the two-member team rule. Franklin said she worked a 24-hour gate alone for an entire year. “I learned to sleep, rest between trucks,” she said. “I bought food through WalMart online and Schwann’s.”
While a well is being brought to production, you’ll see the same rig workers and company men every day. You might see some interesting faces – but certainly, at slower gates, you’ll see lots of satellite TV. If you’re an avid reader, you’ll have plenty of time to pursue your passion. The job can be boring, according to veteran gate guards, but you’ll learn to appreciate slow downs after days of being slammed.
Most gates are manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You and your partner will have to decide how you split up those hours. Two 12-hour shifts don’t leave much time for togetherness. It’s not an easy life and, most days, you’ll definitely earn your pay.
You are expected to check-in a vehicle in as soon as it crosses the gate line and an alarm is sounded. Many experienced guards set up a makeshift shelter outside the shack or RV so they can respond quickly and efficiently to incoming well traffic.
Gate guards have a camaraderie of sorts. They stick together, sharing information, funny stories, work tips and work opportunities. They write and share blogs and form Facebook groups – but they’re not always so welcoming of newcomers. It can be a little cliquish, and even though there are gate guards located in oil fields throughout the country, they know one another, for the most part, and aren’t keen on new people entering their work arena.
The type of traffic coming and going from well pads includes 18-wheelers hauling drilling mud and water, rig crew members, oilfield salesmen, company men, contractors, and consultants.
Gate guard Kathleen O’Keefe said she once worked a very busy round the clock gate. “I always slept in my clothes on the couch or recliner and when a truck ran over the bell, I jumped up and opened the gate and signed him in,” said O’Keeefe. “One has to hustle, but it can be done by certain types of people and we still have pride in our work and do well.”
Thomas Ford, who has been working a gate just outside of Laredo, Texas, said it’s always a little unnerving at night when the alarm keeps going off for no apparent reason. Recently, it has been coyotes setting off the alarm, not truck traffic.
A word to the wise, a gate guard shouldn’t be too loose-lipped. Discussing specifics of what is going on at the site or even publicly announcing your location is frowned upon, and can even cost you your job. This is the type of behavior that can get a gate guard blackballed from the business, insiders say.
Now it appears that the wind industry is following the lead of oil companies and they, too, are in the market for experienced gate guards. According to Mark Bass, who recently worked at a wind farm, this too requires a two-person team. One patrols the site and the other patrols the lay down yard, also known as the storage yard, where high-value assets are kept. Bass said that teams usually rotate from nights to days during the work week.
Interested in becoming a gate guard? Here are a few oil field servicing companies that hire gate guards.
Want some more firsthand experiences of gate guards? Check out these blogs:
- The McKnight’s Luke and Inez Making Memories
- Our RV Adventures
- Texas Heat: Tales of the Gate and other Phenomena
- Bertelsen Bits
- Full-Time RVing… Our Journey Into Full-Timing, Workamping And More
- Travelin Terriers: RVing dogs…working our way around the country
- Doris and Dave’s Excellent Adventure