By Jeff Sanford
Alida, Saskatchewan -- September 17, 2015 -- Trucking company Three Star Trucking built a collision repair facility to do its own repairs, but the company recently began offering collision repair services to third-party operators as the tough conditions of the area create all kinds of demand for repair services.
It seems trucking in southern Saskatchewan is kind of tough on the trucks. It’s not so much that they have a lot of collisions that require bodywork. It’s the nature of the work itself.
Alida is a small town in the far south of the province. This is a region over top of what is known as the Bakken oil reservoir. This is a patch of tightly-trapped crude oil that has recently been tapped by new so-called hydro fracking technologies that have led to a boom in oil and gas drilling in southern Saskatchewan and North Dakota.
This oil is not being moved by pipeline. Most often it is put in a trailer towed by a truck, and then put on a train bound for the refinery. But this oil is unique in that it is often mixed in with saltwater and other noxious chemicals used in the fracking process.
The new drilling techniques have led to a boom in production from the region, but this fracked crude oil is hell on the insides of the trucks transporting it.
One of the employees of Three Star, commenting to a local paper, noted that, “Salt water, produced from conventional oil and Bakken oil is very corrosive and raises hell with aluminum tanks.” So many vehicles are being damaged that Three Star set up the repair facility that is now being made available to other operators. The facility came into being two years ago, and received Saskatchewan General Insurance (SGI) accreditation in the spring of 2014. It is the only shop in the area that handles major collisions for big trucks. A recent job saw a $130,000 repair on a 2013 Mack tri-drive tractor that had rolled over. The shop had to swap out the cab and bunk and replace the stack, fuel tanks and hood. So this is big business.
The company is also doing a lot of glass repair. The wells are located in remote regions. Trucks spend a lot of time on rural gravel roads getting to the wells drilled into the Bakken. Other typical repairs include damaged hoods and fuel tanks caused by bumps. Business is so good right now the shop is employing two journeymen bodymen and two sandblasters.
Industrial sand blasting and painting is also a big business right now. Carrying the highly corrosive crude damages the insides of the tanks used to carry it. When the trailers arrive at Three Star they are blasted to see how weak the shells have become. The firm removes and repairs any corroded parts. If there are pits the metal is cut out. Bolt-on valves are replaced. Once the trailer is back together the paint shop coats the interior of the tanks. As it is, the price of oil is low and so the oil service companies moving the oil are finding it makes more sense to repair a trailer than replace it. A new trailer might cost $130,000, but the cost of repairing it is less than half of that. The benefits are going to Three Star, which is picking up the work.