In 2011 when I came to work in Dickinson, North Dakota, I stayed in my camper on the company property where I worked. After work, I would take my laptop computer to the Tiger Truck Stop to use the internet. I came to know some of the truck drivers, and some of the workers who slept in their vehicles in the truck stop parking lot.
There were two truck drivers that I became friends with who were in their fifties, Kyle and Ryan. Both of them had been in the army. Both of them were from Montana. I saw Kyle every evening that I went to the Tiger Truck Stop. As I talked to other people late into the night on a Friday or Saturday, I saw Kyle coming in and going out throughout the night.
I didn’t know it for a couple of weeks, that Kyle was homeless, and broke. He had been driving truck for a company that did not pay him. Every few days he would go talk to the trucking company, and they would tell Kyle that they should be able to pay him in a few days. He was just trying to get his two weeks pay that he was owed, so that he could leave Dickinson. I found this out when I asked Ryan where Kyle was. Ryan told me that he gave Kyle a ride back to Montana, and that Kyle was so bitter about everything, that Ryan had to threaten to drop him off half way there. Ryan did not want to hear the complaining, Ryan was in the same situation.
Another one of the truck drivers that I was friends with at the Tiger Truck Stop, S.A., he had been given a two week pay check from a trucking company for $1,400. He deposited this check into his account at Wells Fargo bank in Dickinson, and got $200 cash back. The pay check from the trucking company later bounced due to insufficient funds, and Wells Fargo wanted the $200 back from S.A., which he did not have. He was another broke truck driver.
About a month after the non-payment of truck drivers that I described above, I met a tractor truck owner that just arrived in Dickinson and was staying on the property next to the company that I worked for. He was from California. I was talking to him in a bar on a Friday night about two weeks after he arrived in Dickinson. He said that at about noon, he had delivered a load of pump rod to an oil well site, but the oil company man would not let the work crew unload the pump rod with the crane, because the wind was over 30 mph, company policy. He said that because they would not unload his trailer, he told the crew at the site and the oil company that he would have to charge them $250 per day for tying up his trailer, that he couldn’t run his truck without having his trailer. He was satisfied that he was going to make $125 Friday, $250 Saturday, and $250 Sunday for doing nothing.
His trailer got unloaded on Monday. He spent most of that week trying to get the oil company man to sign his invoice, to accept the charges for tying up his trailer. But he could not get the oil company to agree to pay these charges. He took his truck and trailer back to California the following week.
When I drove back to Idaho after being in North Dakota for three months, my neighbor Craig who is a truck driver asked me about what North Dakota was like. I told Craig. Craig said, “You see that house right over there? That man is a truck driver. He went to North Dakota to drive truck last year. He was owed three weeks pay. He never could get the trucking company to pay him, so he came back home.”
I could go on and on with these stories about truck drivers not being paid in North Dakota and not making any money. The other types of stories are ones where many truck drivers said to me, yes, they made a lot of money hauling water for fracking, but then they would have to wait three or four days to start hauling again. When they calculated out how much it cost to sleep in their truck at night and run the engine, how much they spent on food, it turned out that they made just as much money doing long haul, and they got to spend more time at home with their families.
Let me know if you want to hear about the broke truck drivers that I met in Dickinson in 2013.