If you own pneumatic trailers, congratulations for the biggest year of your industry’s long, storied life.  Pneumatic trailers are employed moving sand to wellsites.  Trucks and drivers are in such short supply that a company in East Texas recently turned to LinkedIn seeking 40 drivers with trucks who would commit to a month’s worth of hauling to a 3-well wellpad:

“East Texas is rolling with the highest rates yet! We need 40 trucks with pneumatic trailers to haul sand for three pads. We have our own sand coordinators. Three loads per day. Lease on or own authority. Fuel cards if needed. Message me if your (sic) wanting to work for a company who cares about your success!!”

These trucks and their drivers are in short supply because 2016’s 1 million truckloads became 2017’s 2.5 million truckloads. And more than anything else in the oilfield, it is these pneumatic trucks that are driving frac costs up, damaging environmental health, and making the neighbors mad.

But change is afoot: By 2020 proppant in a steel box will be the primary method for delivering sand to a frac job in the US and possibly Canada, up from 15% of all frac jobs in the summer of 2017.  Some frac people say the conversion will happen even more quickly than this, but we’re conservative by nature. Sand in a box solves all three problems created by pneumatic transports: Cost of delivery is cheap and efficient, silica is no longer flung all over the wellsite and downwind, and fewer, quieter delivery trucks are required for the same amount of sand.  What’s not to love?

Critics of my analysis will point to the substantial capital investment in existing proppant systems,which we acknowledge is a fair point, but OSHA silica-limiting rules are driving the frac industry away from pneumatic delivery systems by summer of 2018.  

So if you are an owner of a pneumatic trailer company, sell your trucks, sell your trucking company, just sell before the industry’s usurper becomes so widely embraced that you are trapped with a few thousand too many pneumatic trailers.