Oilfield Workers Buy Up Dealer’s Sturdy Fivers
The palatial fifth-wheel camper trailers on Tour America’s lot in Billings, Mont., certainly take the “rough” out of roughing it.
According to the Billings Gazette, salesman Dustin Bretz knew standard RVs weren’t going to cut it when Bakken oilfield workers came calling.
There’s camping rough, Bretz explained, and then there’s Bakken rough, living full time through the winter on the frozen prairie of Montana and North Dakota, where more than a few days of arctic weather are normal.
Oilfield camps are dotted with fifth-wheel recreational trailers shielded with foam-board insulation and whatever else workers can muster to keep water pipes and waste tanks from freezing.
“Wintertime can run as cold as 30 below zero, and a lot of RVs aren’t made for that,” Bretz said.
So, Tour America started looking for one and opted for a fifth-wheel custom built for the Bakken environment.
“These go relatively quickly,” Bretz said, directing to conversation to a trailer resembling a super-sized version of what contractors commonly haul their gear in. “It has 2 to 3 inches of spray foam on the lower chassis, heated water lines and holding tanks. They have dual-pane windows, like your house. This is a niche product.”
Bretz has the rugged trailers, which retail for about $34,000, parked north of his main lot in full view of eastbound Interstate 90, where semis loaded with drilling equipment and bentonite are streaming to the oil patch. His show-pony RVs are in Tour America’s corral, not so easily spotted from the freeway.
Housing of all kinds is scarce in the Bakken oilfield, where high-paying jobs have lured thousands of transient workers. Real homes are hard to come by, but so are campers and trailers. The running joke is that the oilfield holds the record for homeless people with $100,000 incomes. At a western North Dakota housing summit last spring, developers identified the need for 5,000 homes over the next two years.
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