Faces Of The Boom: Bakken Business Opportunity Brings Long-distance Couple Together

Kathleen Hartman, pictured Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, in Stanley, N.D., is president of T.K. Trucking and manages the operation from her home office. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

STANLEY, N.D. – Kathleen Hartman and her husband of 12 years will fly on an airplane together for the first time this week.

Hartman and her husband, Tom, have taken vacations before, but because he’s usually on the road as a truck driver, they typically fly in from different locations.

“We had never really lived together,” said Hartman, a Washington, D.C., native.

That changed a few months ago when Hartman left Virginia to join her husband in the Bakken, where he’s been hauling sand for hydraulic fracturing for the past two years.

Hartman had been looking for housing in North Dakota so they could see each other more than three times a year and so her husband could sleep somewhere other than his 18-wheeler.

“He was perfectly content to stay in his truck, but I could see that it was really wearing on him,” Hartman said.

Several attempts to find housing in North Dakota fell through, but Hartman, a former commercial real estate agent, jumped on an apartment opening last summer and moved to Stanley in August.

“I just couldn’t believe how expensive it was,” Hartman said of Bakken housing prices, which are higher than what she was used to in Washington, D.C.

Tom Hartman first discovered the Bakken in 2011 while working as an over-the-road trucker based in Montana. He delivered bags of frac sand from Seattle to Watford City and grew intrigued by the opportunities he saw in North Dakota.

That led him and his brother to pool their resources and form a small trucking company to operate in the Bakken.

Recently, Hartman and her husband bought the brother’s share of the business, T.K. Trucking, and now she is president with 51 percent ownership, qualifying it to be considered a woman-owned business.

Hartman manages the company from their apartment, making sure drivers have work, handling insurance and other administrative matters and working with safety compliance.

She also recruits new drivers, which has been the most challenging aspect because turnover has been “tremendous,” she said. At most, they had four drivers and are now down to one in addition to her husband.

Once Hartman gets the trucking company running smoothly, she wants to work toward her North Dakota real estate license and help other people who are new to the area find housing.

Although she sees her husband a lot more than before, he is on call 24 hours a day and can be gone for several days if he’s working away from Stanley. The couple is taking a trip to New York this week to see their favorite band, The Skycoasters, but Hartman may not see him much before they leave.

“I’ve been teasing him that I’ll see him when he picks me up for the airport,” she said.