Phillips and Sons Trucking LLC

A Safe Option for Oil Rig Transport
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Victor Martins

The Phillips family founded Phillips and Sons Trucking LLC (PST) in 2011. “Our company is about a year-and-a-half old now,” says Martin Phillips, co-founder, partner and general manager of PST. “My brother and I have been doing this for around 15 years and my dad has been doing this for closer to 50. We had worked for other people for a long time and we have a lot of experience. We just came back from North Dakota to start up our own deal.”

The crew specializes in oil and gas rig disassembly and transportation. “We tear down, move and rig up oil and gas base rigs,” Martin elaborates. “We’re usually so darn busy we don’t have the time to do anything else, but we have the capabilities to do compressors, if we wanted to. We can do more, but our specialty is rig moving. That’s what we have done our whole lives pretty much. I did eight years with Uncle Sam. I grew up doing this before that and came back to it when I got out.”

Leading Experience

Martin and his crew have been hauling oil rigs for longer than most of the competition, a factor that sets the business apart. “There are a lot of rig moving companies, but not a lot of good rig moving companies,” he notes. “My brother and I have both worked for other people for over a decade before we started PST. I’ve always been a supervisor, one in charge. I still have probably 10 employees who have worked with me for the last five to 15 years. They’ll go wherever we go. It says a lot about a company if your employees stick with you. We are one of the two top oil rig movers in our state.”

Martin goes on to note that the majority of PST’s work is in Oklahoma. “We do venture off into Texas and Kansas on a semi-regular basis,” he elaborates. “We will travel if we have to, but we are so busy right here that there is no need for us to go much further. Sometimes we will transport rig equipment from North Dakota to Oklahoma or Port of Houston; it all depends. Generally speaking, though, our business is concentrated right here in Oklahoma and southern Kansas.”

The crew’s experience comes into play most when something goes wrong on a rig site. “We have cave-ins sometimes,” Martin notes. “The ground gives way and the rig falls into the ground. We have to go out there to pull it out of the hole. We had a platform once that dropped 30 feet. You also get blowouts and the rigs burn to the ground. We have to dismantle them. Other times a rig will drop its derrick and we have to go salvage what we can. These instances do not happen as often as they used to, but those are the exciting jobs.”

In the 15 years Martin has been in the business, he has never had a fatality on his crew. “We work with oil and drilling companies on the same jobsite,” he explains. “That’s a reality of our business, and fatalities are not uncommon. We have a good safety record.”

Reinvesting for the Future

With 45 employees, PST is not a large company for this industry comparatively. “When we started this up, we planned on being a small business,” elaborates Martin. “In the last year and a half, however, we have doubled in size. I keep thinking I’ll start making some money for myself, but we keep buying stuff.”

According to Marin, reinvesting has been more of a reaction than anything. PST has become a popular player for regional oil operations. “We have secured a contract with Sandridge Energy, one of the larger oil companies,” Martin notes. “Rig movers do not often get contracts, but we are good enough that we got one.”

As the business continues to grow with demand, Martin and his crew have avoided many of the challenges other businesses have faced in the recession. “Our biggest problem nowadays is finding qualified people who want to work,” he explains. “It’s hard to find good employees. And, honestly, I would rather hire someone with no experience and train them our way than hire somebody who has already developed bad habits. It is best in this field to learn by doing the job. My brother and I learned from our dad and that has made a world of difference.”

A few years ago, the Phillips brothers embarked on an unusual training mission with a trash-talking, 17-year-old gamer whom Martin’s brother met playing online video games. “You know how it is on those games,” Martin laughs. “They were trash-talking back and forth and the kid told my brother he could do our job. My brother told him to hop on a plane and prove it. Here’s the thing: he did. This kid shows up, 17 years old, a homeschooled, part-time dog groomer. For the first six months he wouldn’t even look at you when he talked to you. We’ve worked with him for around four years now. He’s worked in subzero temperatures and never complained. He’s worked in 120-degree weather and never complained. Now he is a certified crane operator. He came from a rough family situation, but now he is buying his own house and his own car. Everybody at the company loves him.”

Clearly, Martin leads a tough crew. Despite the risks involved with the business, he and his brother stick with it. “I’ve been run over by a semi-truck,” he explains. “I’m stupid for still doing it. Nobody gets rich off this business. Our family has had some tough luck, but we have had amazing success with our new company.” With a determined attitude and leading expertise, Phillips and Sons Trucking LLC continues to carve out a niche in the market.

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