One of the many words commonly associated with the oil and gas industry — and one that can cover multiple segments of the industry — is rugged.
The word can describe the men and women on the drill rig or those traveling across the North American continent installing pipeline infrastructure. Rugged also comes to mind when talking about the equipment. Those involved in oil and gas say that this industry in particular subjects the equipment to some of the harshest conditions possible.
As a result, the non-motorized equipment — trailers — used to get the pipes, excavators, mats, generators and other items to the jobsites must be equally durable.
“In general, pipeline, drilling and heavy-haul operations are all looking for different features, yet they want the same high performance and results from their trucks and trailers. With that said, each contractor has slightly different specifications or manufacturing options that work best for their individual operations,” says Tare Kennedy, outside sales representative for Toledo, Illinois-based Ervin Equipment. “The common factors are the product’s reliability and performance. Downtime and mechanical failure are the most costly aspects of the contractor’s operation.”
One of the ways to reduce the likelihood of downtime due to equipment failure is clear communication between the manufacturer and the customer, a dealer and the customer or both.
“Our process when we design products is to understand how our customers are going to be using them,” says Patrick Jennissen, vice president of sales and marketing for Felling Trailers. “Historically, we have designed products for hauling construction equipment. As our products have expanded, we realize that customers may use them in a number of different ways. If we know they are also going to haul pipe, we will typically beef up certain wear areas or suggest different options like rollers, stops [and] tie downs in different places.”
The Sauk Centre, Minnesota-based manufacturer has found that in addition to durability, customers want their trailers to make jobs easier as well as the ability to do more with less.
“We build products specific to our customers’ needs. If adding a certain feature or customization can save them time and money we try to get that done for them,” Jennissen says. “We have found customers are always looking to do more with less, so innovative designs and materials that are giving better strength to weight ratios have been very popular the last few years. We have also found aesthetics to be more important, not only do they want the trailer to last they also want to make sure that it looks good.”
On the retail end, Kennedy, with 22 years of heavy-haul and product manufacturing experience, has seen the same thing.
“Exact specifications can get very intricate based on the specific task to be performed in the oil patch,” he says. “Operators request different neck designs, trailer widths and lengths as well as varying axle weights. Tail rollers also can be placed in different areas throughout the trailer body.”
Felling is not alone when it comes to custom trailers. Customization is one of the reasons Talbert Mfg., of Rensselaer, Indiana, began marketing its Oilfield Series in 2012, according to Greg Smith, vice president of sales and marketing at Talbert.
“Talbert was already building custom low bed heavy haul trailers,” Smith says. “The slight adjustment to build oilfield specific trailers was really right in our wheelhouse. In fact, I was somewhat surprised we were not already in this market. Perhaps it’s a sign of this business coming back in North America.”
Since introducing its three-axle, 35-ton step deck, the four-axle, 60-ton fixed gooseneck and five-axle, 65-ton fixed gooseneck lineup, the bulk of Talbert’s trailers have gone to work jobsites in the Dakotas, Texas, Oklahoma and the Marcellus shale region. The trailers feature tail rollers, optional pop-up rollers and weevil pins that line the sides to aid in sliding equipment along the deck.
“We have long had a multitude of trailers involved in oilfield work, such as, site-prep work by hauling excavators, front-end loaders, etcetera,” Smith says. “Our three-axle, four-axle and five-axle oilfield trailers gives us a line for hauling deck-mounted units that are somewhat unique to the oilfield.” Smith is referring to skid-mounted generators, housing units, compressors, pipe sections and rigging equipment found at jobsites across the industry. To handle the stress of sliding the equipment along the deck, the rear portion is steel-plated and the front section is apitong flooring providing better footing where people are most likely to walk.
“We do not build specific products for the oil and gas industry per se, but as a custom builder we have built hundreds of custom products that we market directly to the industry or that we work with other partners to supply to the industry,” says Jennissen. “In the past year we have built semi-trailers to handle heavy duty pipe in Texas, trailers for transporting natural gas generators in Wyoming and automated flare trailers in North Dakota.”
Kennedy says the most common new and pre-owned transportation equipment — both trucks and trailers — Ervin supplies to the oil and gas industry are winch trucks, pole trucks, lowbed trailers with tail rollers and contractor-specific coil tubing trailers for down-hole operations. Standard specification flat beds, drop decks, tankers and removable goosenecks are also used.
Despite a company’s desire to have a Swiss Army knife solution that can do it all, both Smith and Kennedy say that it is best to match a trailer to a specific need, especially in the oil and gas industry.
“Certain trailers are specifically designed for one specific type of load, such as coiled tubing and drilling and fracking equipment. Other trailers haul skid-mounted equipment, pipe and crawler equipment such as dozers, cranes and excavators,” Kennedy says. “While some companies haul a very limited range of items, others move the entire drill rig and all auxiliary equipment. Ervin Equipment has researched all the manufacturers tirelessly to ensure we have the most versatile and durable oilfield trailers available when a contractor needs it.”
Regardless of what trailer a company decides to purchase, Smith brought everything back to durability as being the key for success in the oilfield and ultimately more money in the pocket.
“You need to make sure it’s designed to be able to withstand all of things that will happen,” he says. “Reliability, durability, longevity are what customers expect when paying for this kind of product.”
Mike Kezdi is assistant editor at Benjamin Media Inc. and a contributing staff editor of North American Oil & Gas Pipelines. Contact him at email@example.com.