It comes as no surprise that the driver pool in the trucking industry is dominated by males. In fact, while gradually increasing, still only 5.8% of truck drivers are women. But why? We reached out to truck drivers and industry experts asking them what they believe to be the challenges women are currently facing in the industry and what needs to be done to attract more females into the driver’s seat.
“Female drivers face many challenges,” said Ellen Voie, President/CEO of Women in Trucking Association. “First, the training situation is difficult due to the prevalence of male trainers, so female drivers are often paired with a male for weeks at a time. This could be intimidating for someone new to the industry.”
As one respondent noted, there has always been a lack of female trainers. Many times, those females being trained by males are subject to harassment, which accounted for the number one challenge among respondents.
“Unfortunately, there is still some harassment toward female drivers from their male counterparts,” Voie continues. “This is changing, but there are still some drivers out there who resent the presence of women as their peers. Again, this is changing, but not fast enough.”
One male driver acknowledged hearing on several occasions women coming onto the cb radio to ask a simple question and getting bombarded by male respondents who start calling her “little Darlin” and flirting with her. As he states, “Heads up Romeo’s, she’s out here to do the same thing you are, earn a living, not play some juvenile version of cbradiomatch.com.”
“Another challenge female drivers face is due to the equipment, ” Voie adds. “Trucks were traditionally designed for men, and through our efforts, manufacturers are now looking at ways to accommodate the shorter statures of women (and men). ”
Other drivers pointed out that the hours spent on the road can be an issue among women who have children to take care of. In fact, many drivers stated that in order to recruit more women into the industry, we need to offer the same things that their male counterparts are looking for: flexible schedules, better home time, more money, and safer equipment.
Voie believes that to attract more women, “First, we need to start showing them that they are wanted and valued as professional drivers. Our first priority is to sell the industry to women, and then work on giving them the confidence to know they CAN do the job. Women In Trucking is doing this through several means. First, we created a Girl Scout Patch to introduce young girls to career in transportation. We have also created an Image Team to highlight female drivers and other women employed in the trucking industry to talk about their jobs and to speak to the media as well as provide ride-alongs with legislators and regulators. I am very proud to say that we even gave a safety advocate a ride in a truck and changed his perception of the industry. We also need to remove negative ads and change recruiting ads to be more gender neutral.”
Next, the issue of harassment needs to be dealt with in addition to the attitude of males that women can do the job as well. Some believe that the verbal harassment women receive will never be fixed while others believe that the first step is for men to speakup and put a stop to it when they see it happening.
But as one female driver explained, the issue of harassment also falls back onto the company receiving the reports and how they handle them as well. “The most important thing I think is that companies need to stop intimidating women when they speak out about the sexual harassment that they get from men in the company, show concern and act upon it. I have worked in two trucking companies and have often spoken with women who have been harassed, even I myself have been harassed by male counterparts. (1) By a trainer telling me that I should not be on the road but at home taking care of my family. (2) I was told on several occasions when I had situations with my truck to walk up to any guy and they would be willing to help me or if I was at a truck stop, “Go ask one of your boyfriends.”
Along with verbal abuse, many females fear their safety, especially when arriving at truck stops during the late hours. While some believe that carrying an equalizer, a can of wasp spray, or a gun would help these situations, others believe that situational awareness is far more important. “Anyone can be in danger anywhere, whether male or female,” noted one female driver while another explained that she never felt herself to be in any more danger than the other jobs she had. But still safety remains a large concern.
“Safety is a priority for female drivers, probably more so than men, and we work with truck stops to ensure a safe environment for both women and men,” said Voie. “More lighting, fencing and sometimes guards and dogs will provide a safe place for drivers to stop, fuel, eat and rest.”
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