Carnduff – David and Linda Powell have owned and operated Powell Autobody of Carnduff for 21 years, and their business has been built largely on supporting the oilpatch.
“We wanted the new shop in our 20th year, but it didn’t happen,” said David. “We started in the 20th year and finished in the 21st.”
“I came out here in 1994 to paint five trucks for Fast Trucking. I never left.”
Indeed, there has been a strong tie with Fast Trucking and the Day family that owns and operates the Carnduff-based rig mover. “I worked in Fast Trucking’s yard for seven years. I got their trucks all green. I painted Tony’s first truck. They are unbelievable people to work for. There’s no way we would be where we are without Fast Trucking.
“My father taught me a good work ethic, and the Day family let me exercise that.”
The business caters to light and heavy vehicles, oilfield, industrial and agricultural equipment as well. That includes rigs and trailers. They specialize in sandblasting and painting drilling rigs.
This past spring has been noticeably slower than previous years. David called it a breather, saying, “This is the first spring I haven’t worked seven days a week in 20 years.”
That’s because spring breakup is when most companies get caught up on their maintenance, which in this case, includes autobody work.
There are nine people on staff. Two are journeyperson autobody and paint technicians. One is an industrial painter. Two are sandblasters. There are two office staff and two helpers.
While they are able to do mobile sandblasting, David said, “I’d rather do it in my own yard and paint them in our new 30 by 60 foot paint facility.”
David still paints, and more. “I do everything. I sweep the floor and haul garbage if I have to.”
Probably three-quarters of their work is oilpatch related. Some of that has been drilling rigs, including Carnduff-based Totem Drilling and Betts Drilling.
“I did four rigs last year, the most I’ve ever done,” he said. “Crusader 1, I did the whole thing. I’ve done lots of Trinidad, Champion, Ensign, CanElson. I’ve done work pretty well for everyone.”
When rigs come in for a Level IV certification inspection, a new coat of paint is par for the course.
“I do the inspection blast for them and they fix everything up,” David said.
They’ve also painted numerous service rigs.
When it comes to the local trucking companies, of which Carnduff has plenty, there’s always work to be done. It could be a smashed up front end, a fibreglass fender, or something else. “Gravel just eats them,” he noted.
The company has been very much a family affair. Linda said, “I’m the administrator.”
“She pulls the reins in,” David added with a smile.
Their three daughters, Joey, 25, Jamie, 23 and Jenna, 22, have all pitched in over the years, occasionally pulled out of school during busy times.
“They’ve masked, sanded and prepped,” David said. “They help out. They’ve got their own things now.”
Working so closely with family can be testy for some families, with work following them home to the supper table. Linda said, “It’s not allowed in our hot tub.”
The expansion to the shop is 60 by 120 feet, with a 20 foot ceiling. There are three 20-foot wide, 18-foot tall doors and one 16 by 16. Those large doors can swallow a substructure of a drilling rig. The end bay is a paint booth.
There’s a new frame machine on site as well, capable of handling vehicles up to a one-ton in size.
“We’ve got plenty of room for collision work on big trucks,” David said.
Since an awful lot of oilfield miles put on trucks are done on gravel roads, there’s a never-ending need for windshield replacements.
“We do over 300 windshields a year,” David said, adding they are an SGI-accredited shop for light vehicles, and working towards a similar accreditation for heavy trucks once their facility is completed.
“There are some days we just have windshield days. We’ll do eight in a day,” he said.
“We stock pretty well every half-ton pickup windshield there is.”
That’s important, as he noted “We’re out in the middle of nowhere.”
“If a truck hits a duck during the day, we’ll work into the night to have it changed for the next day.”