BIG OIL BOOMS: Texas Truck Drivers Make $140k, Forces Rising Wages in Other Industries

Posted: Jun 09, 2018 3:50 PM

Big Oil is having an incredible impact, again, in Texas. Midland, TX is experiencing such a booming shale-oil economy that truck drivers are making more than $100,000. In turn, smaller businesses are forced to either raise their wages or extend hours to retain workers. But, this successful economy has what some say are a few downsides as well. With increased wages comes increased rents and labor shortages in public positions. Regardless, the region’s industry is providing bevy of economic benefits that could last for a very long time, reports the Los Angeles Times

Midland has an astoundingly low 2.1% unemployment rate due to the success of companies such as Chevron and Aveda Transportation & Energy Services Inc. Thanks to recent technology developments and decreased regulations, a swath of land roughly 75,000 square miles accounts for “30% of all U.S. [shale-oil] output.” Plus, “booming U.S. shale production is fueling record crude oil exports, with shipments reaching an all-time high of 1.76 million barrels a day in April.”  

As these companies grow, they need more workers. In order to be competitive, some are offering truck drivers as much $140,000 a year for transportation services. This provides many Americans who cannot afford a 4 year degree to instead opt for a two year degree and a commercial driver’s license. 

“A CDL is a golden ticket around here,” said Steve Sauceda, who runs the workforce training program at New Mexico Junior College. “You are employable just about anywhere.”

Other folks such as Jazmin Jimenez, age 24, earn $28 dollars working in the industry. 

“It is crazy,” she said after completing a two-week training program for a well-pump checker position with Chevron Corp. “Honestly I never thought I’d see myself at an oilfield company. But now that I’m here -- I think this is it.”

Jimenez, a former government employee, is not alone. Which is causing headaches for the town’s public services. Midland currently needs to fill 100 teaching positions and dozens of bus driver positions. But, this surplus of oil has enabled the Midland government to see a 34% increase of sales-tax collections during each of the last four months. Which has the mayor, Jerry Morales, asking for a raise for government employees in hopes of attracting more. 

Morales also owns a private restaurant. So many employees have left for the oil business that Morales"now issues paychecks weekly, instead of twice monthly, and offers more opportunities for overtime hours" to keep his staff on hand.

He tells his private sector workers, “If you’ll stay with me, I can give you three-quarters of what the oil will give you but you don’t have to get dirty or worry about getting hurt.”

As for his public sector workers, Morales is not quite sure how to retain individuals from leaving aside from offering the aforementioned raises which have to be approved.

Big Oil has seen booms in the region and across America before.  But, the workers who have left their old jobs for Midland seem rather pleased.

“This will be my best year yet,” said Jeremiah Fleming, who used to work the shale industry in North Dakota. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”

Still, not everybody is happy about the recent change in economy. 

Typically, as is happening now, residents complain "about poor service and long lines at McDonald’s and the Walmart and their favorite Tex-Mex joints. Rents soar." When, it goes bust, the wages come falling back down and those problems go away as the labor market evens out. But, as Jimenez told the LA Times, "she’ll take the money as long as it lasts."