Danville Daily Item: Marcellus Shale fuels trucking jobs

By Evamarie Socha

“Safety, safety, safety. That is our first concern,” he said. “We train our people extensively. We have some of the best in the business at that.”

SUNBURY — If you have a commercial driver’s license, the job is yours.

While statistics vary on how much Marcellus Shale is fueling state employment numbers, the industry has done wonders for those who hold CDLs, and seems to have a never-ending need for drivers.

“Marcellus Shale has pulled a lot of drivers from this area,” said Dennis Hain, administrative director of SUN Area Technical Institute in New Berlin.

About 10 percent of jobs in the Marcellus Shale industry is for those with CDLs, Hain said, citing a study. Another 17 percent is for heavy equipment, a related field, he said.

That makes for even more employment opportunities at companies that lose drivers to the natural gas industry, he said. Within a 50-mile radius of SUN Tech, about 195 CDL openings were listed, Hain said.

“We are always hiring for drivers,” said Lisa Stanchick, human resource director for Minuteman Environmental Services, Mifflinville, which works in Marcellus Shale.

In the three months that she’s been with the company, about 94 drivers have been hired, Stanchick said, and the company usually averages about 10 hires a week.

For Minuteman, experience is a crucial factor in hiring.

“We won’t put anyone in a seat without a year’s experience,” said Jim Lapinski, director of operations at Minuteman. Insurance companies generally have minimum requirements on experience as well as age and driving record, he said.

“That takes a number of candidates out,” Lapinski said.

Drivers also need a tanker endorsement, a clean driving record, drug and alcohol tests and a background check and road test. It takes about a week from beginning to end for the job applicant to clear tests and administrative work, Stanchick said.

Minuteman will start a driver at $17 or $18 per hour depending on the license class, according to its classified ad that appears in The Daily Item. Shifts are usually 12 hours — most of these companies run Marcellus Shale operations 24/7 — and there is a salary differential for those who work overnight or odd hours, Stanchick said.

Lack of experience doesn’t rule out those particular CDL drivers, however. Energy Construction Management (ECM) of Williamsport, in business for roughly a year, will hire those with CDL training and teach them how to drive water trucks, the company’s particular need.

“They ride along with seasoned drivers until the experienced people feel they’re ready,” said Lou Mauro, executive vice president at ECM.

“There is high demand” for CDL drivers who can handle a sloshing load, Mauro said, which makes for the company’s willingness to train its own drivers.

“Safety, safety, safety. That is our first concern,” he said. “We train our people extensively. We have some of the best in the business at that.”

The company hauls water 24/7, and right now has 16 trucks and another 24 coming by the end of the year — all brand-new vehicles.

“That’s 50 people right there, right now,” Mauro said. “We’ll need another 50 to 100 people by the end of next year.”

Experience varies, “and if someone comes out of school and is taught how to drive a tri-axle and taught properly, we will hire them depending on the time and effort of what we have to do,” Mauro said.

ECM offers a competitive salary, and drivers can earn up to $21 an hour depending on their shifts and hours, Mauro said.

Mauro said ECM looks often to Penn College to hire its graduates but would love nothing more than to work with vocational-technical schools in the state to get its drivers.

SUN Tech’s Hain would love that, too.

The school has worked for about a year to create a CDL training program.

“It all requires money,” Hain said, and assembling such a program would cost about $378,000.

“It would be ideal to get it started,” Hain said. “There is quite a competition in the area for CDL drivers.”

Ideally, SUN Tech would join with truck driving companies for the training, Hain said. The school was close to a deal with a company but a lack of administrative space foiled it.

Meanwhile, CDL schools are seeing a bump in enrollment.

“I’d say we’re up about 25 percent,” said Brick Kepler, director of Professional Drivers Academy in Milton. “We were training 50 students per year. We’re going to be 60 or better this year.”

In the past 18 months, the majority of the academy’s graduates have found work with Marcellus Shale, Kepler said.

“Recruiters are calling us for the opportunity to hire our grads,” he said, adding about a half-dozen water haulers, including ECM, do business with the academy.

“Also, what we’re finding is there are a lot of local carriers that used to require a lot of experience,” Kepler said. “That’s not so much now because their drivers are doing Marcellus Shale and they need replacements.”

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