Estevan – “You just bought a trailer.”
That’s what Jesse Schlingmann told his dad, Ken Schlingmann, after a tense few moments taking part in a Ritchie Bros. auction online.
The Schlingmann family, which also includes Shelli, Ken’s wife, own and operate Estevan-based Camion Trucking Ltd. With things picking up in the oilpatch, they’ve been on the hunt for right-priced equipment to expand. On this day, March 16, the target was trailers to use for their pickers, and they nailed two from the Grande Prairie, Alta. sale.
The company operates two pickers, one tractor semi and a one-tonne hotshot. They are based on the east side of Estevan, on Jahn St.
“There’s six of us right now,” Ken said earlier, as he was waiting for the desired trailer lots to come up. “I’m hoping to grow during road ban.”
“We’ve gotten busy enough over this last year,” he said, adding he was hoping to get his hands on another picker and a few more trailers, possibly a Texas bed and another tractor. They’ve got one tank mover, and would like to add a second.
If successful, the aim is to double their fleet, and would bring with it three or more employees, hopefully.
Ken’s been around the oilfield trucking business for a large chunk of his life. “I ran Viking Trucking for a number of years,” he said. He spent 16 years working for the Viking Surplus, and then a further eight years managing Viking Trucking.
“I started running picker 35 years ago,” Ken said. He has journeyman tickets for boom A and hoisting.
“I ran pickers and winch trucks for 10 years with Ron Wanner with Viking Surplus. After that I was offered an office position, doing dispatching and purchasing for Viking Trucking,” he said. During that time he became the general manager of Viking Trucking.
He left in April 2014, and sold cars from May until September of that year. But it wasn’t for him.
“I couldn’t get oilfield trucking out of my blood. Me and another guy started Camion in October 2014,” Ken said.
Doug Franklin was his partner. Initially, the two of them alternately ran their first picker and swamped for each other.
The company started as oil was beginning its downward spiral in the second half of 2014. Just a few weeks after they fired up, OPEC opened the floodgates on Nov. 26, 2014, and oil prices haven’t been at that level since.
“It was a hard time. We had a couple of loyal customers,” Ken said. He said they worked with the bank, and added more equity. Basically that meant throwing everything possible into the company.
“She was going to be make or break for me,” Ken said. “It put a lot of stress on my wife, put it that way.”
The company started with a 30-ton picker and a trailer, renting a spot from Wanner at the old brick plant. They moved into their current shop, where they also manage the building for the owner, in February 2016.
Also that year, they added the one-ton hot shot truck. “We had a couple of our customers who said we should get one, and we’ll use you. And they did,” Ken said.
Camion saw things start to pick up in early 2017, and it improved moreso after the 2017 spring road ban. While rates are still low, the work has picked up. Like many others who’ve spoken to Pipeline News over the last year, he’s hesitant about testing the waters on rate adjustments. “As long as we keep working, we’ll get by,” he said.
The Schlingmanns bought out Franklin in December 2017.
Jesse came on board in August 2017. He had worked with Ken at Viking Trucking, and had worked with another trucking firm in town. He also has a picker ticket.
“We’re looking to grow. 2018 is looking good. There’s a lot of optimism out there now. It seems like it, from the customers I talk to,” he concluded.