For Drilling Contractors, What’s in a License?
Let’s talk for a minute about licensing. As the editor of a voice in the industry, it’s important for me to be informed about my readers’ experiences. Licensing, for you, probably competes with a visit to your CPA or the dentist’s office as a to-do you’d rather not do.
I’ve been digging deep into state licensing requirements for drillers. It’s an aspect of contracting I haven’t yet dug into in my three and a half years at National Driller, so it was long overdue. Let me tell you, it’s all over the place. Contractors — especially those working across state lines — deserve a clap for dealing with it.
Most states have some type of license that applies to water well drillers. Sometimes, the same rules apply to water and geothermal, even environmental. Some states appear to draw the line at just taking a contractor’s money and giving him or her a license. One state I found makes clear on its website that contractors need not demonstrate any specific knowledge of well drilling in order to secure a license. What?
From a contractor perspective, it’s a relief knowing you won’t have to gather up all that documentation to prove you know what you’re doing on the jobsite. But what does it do for drilling, as an industry, if lax licensing means literally anyone could be working next to you?
I guess what I’m wondering is, what is it about a license that gives it value to the drilling community? If you could snap your fingers and make it go away, would you prefer no licensing?
Or do the barriers to entry lend the industry pride of professionalism? You guys who work around the country know which states are easier to work in. Do you see higher-quality coworkers and competition in states with higher licensing barriers?
Take California, for instance. If I read their state documents correctly, water drillers need to:
- Submit a license application.
- Document years of journeyman experience.
- Pass an exam on trade law.
- Get a criminal background check.
- Post a $12,500 contractor bond.
- Provide proof of workers’ comp insurance.
- Pay about $500 in application and licensing fees.
That may seem like a lot. And it is, compared to a state that asks for a $100 application fee and your solemn oath that you’ve taken a couple CE courses on how to poke a hole in the ground. It takes a contractor with some resources and wits about him to pass through California’s hoops. Do all those prerequisites create a higher, more level playing field for professionals in states like California?
Or does there come a point where, like a dentist or CPA appointment, re-upping your license is just a necessary evil endured on a regular schedule? I can see where licensing could feel like a tax on practicing your craft without much obvious benefit (beyond supporting your friendly state regulating agency).
A lot of issues swirl around licensing. I’ve researched more than 20 states and each does things slightly differently on licensing itself, testing, continuing education, bonding, insurance and fees. I have to use a spreadsheet to keep track, so I definitely applaud those who actually have to go through the process.
What do you think? Do you work in several different states? Do you have a favorite state to work in? Why? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe out there, drillers.