Drilling rigs historically have been built to last longer than almost any commercial product, except maybe fine musical instruments. There are some good reasons for this. The technology changes very slowly, sometimes taking decades for improvements to be accepted in the market. Drillers tend to be very traditional, and it usually takes until the next generation for changes to be well-received.

Think of the transition from cable-tool rigs to rotary rigs. The technology has been in use for hundreds of years, but, in the last 100 years, they became common. Many companies built cable-tool rigs, and they still are being built – mostly because there still are some areas where cable tool is the best, or it’s sometimes the only way to drill a successful well. It is not uncommon to see cable-tool rigs mounted on 50-year-old trucks that still run.

Table-drive rotary rigs have been around at least for 100 years in the oilfield. It took World War II to bring small, portable, truck-mounted rigs into common use. The Army needed to provide water for the troops, quickly, in any part of the world. The George E. Failing company rose to the challenge and built portable rigs for this purpose. Some of them still are around, and the designs and technology still are being produced. Soon other companies joined the market, and the race was on.

With the advent of modern hydraulic systems, the top-head-drive rigs came onto the market. At first, they were underpowered and unreliable, and the older drillers didn’t like them, probably because they didn’t understand them. But they hung on, and made improvements as hydraulic systems became more sophisticated. In a rare reversal, the water well rig manufacturers led the oilfield in this technology. It is just in the last few years that powerful enough top-heads have been built for the big rigs.

All this history leads me to the observation that rigs usually outlast the trucks they are mounted on by several times. I’ve seen well-maintained rigs go through five trucks in their lifetime. This leads to the re-mount decision. There also are other reasons; sometimes road or field conditions or DOT regulations change enough to make the truck obsolete, or sometimes a driller may decide to sell his rig, and he knows that a more modern truck will increase its value more than the cost of the re-mount.

When selecting a new truck to mount your rig on, there are several considerations to take into account. Since the paying part of the job is in the field, a truck that will do the job is very important. It must be strong enough to get the rig from the end of the road to the stake-in-the-ground. This almost always requires a truck that is much stronger than one that just drives down the road. In fact, the military de-rates their trucks by half for off-road use. Obviously, if you spent 300 days a year on location, and only 10 days a year on the road, an 80-mph highway truck is not the best choice. Winching and repair cost soon will eat up any savings. A good choice might be a truck model that doesn’t change too often. There is nothing that makes a rig look old quicker than a dated truck. A good ol’ standby might be a crane carrier; they are very strong, and they look just about like they did 50 years ago.

Next is engine and transmission selection. It is important to have an engine that you can get parts for. Is there a good dealer network in the area where the rig is going to be used? For rigs going overseas, this is very important. Some engines are common in certain area, and some aren’t; it pays to do a little homework. In some areas, it is difficult to get parts for anything, so reliability becomes more important. Here in the States and for shipment to Central and South America, U.S. surplus military trucks can be a good choice. They are strong, almost indestructible, go anywhere, and parts are available if you know where to look. Careful attention to the engine manufacturer is important, as there are trucks available for which you can’t get parts. In Europe and Africa, a lot of rigs are mounted on surplus French army trucks. They really are good trucks, and having come from the French army, they usually have seen very little use.

Fuel can be a consideration, too. Diesels usually are the most reliable, but gasoline engines can work too, if the price is right. There also are some propane-powered rigs, and I’ve seen a lot of trailer-mounted rigs in the oilfield that ran off wellhead gas. When the rig was spotted, they hooked it up to the nearest wellhead, and fuel was free. Just a thought: With a dual fuel system, this would work with a truck-mounted rig.

These are just a few of my thoughts on selecting a truck to remount your rig. Now all you’ve got to do is git-er-done.

My wife recently figured out how to get out of a speeding ticket. The cop asked her why she was going so fast, and she told him, “Sonny, at my age, I wanted to get there before I forgot where I was going!” At 15 mph over the limit, she just got a warning.