Number of Female Truck Drivers is Growing
An organization called Women in Trucking (WIT) was created by Ellen Voie in 2007 with three main goals: 1) Encourage women to become truck drivers and encourage trucking companies to hire them, 2) promote women’s accomplishments and 3) reduce any obstacle a woman in the trucking world might face. Today there are over 2,500 members (16% of them men) from carriers to drivers to students and other industry businesses and professionals.
As trucking companies across the nation are searching for the light at the end of the driver shortage tunnel, the number of women entering the trucking career field is slowly but steadily rising, partly because of the effort and work WIT puts forth. In 2010, 4.6% of the total drivers on our nation’s roads were women. That number has grown since then and was up to 5.8% by the end of 2015, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report.
Derek Leathers, the Chief Operating Officer of Werner Enterprises, says he expects to see women making up 10% of the 9,000 drivers at Werner by the end of this year. What’s more, he says, is that women have been outperforming men behind the wheel, at least at his company. National safety numbers are divided up be gender, but as his company, Leathers can see a difference. Women are getting in less accidents than men and score better on inspections and compliance matters as well. “It’s important to kind of rebuff the myths,” Leathers said during an industry conference held in Dallas. “They are winning in multiple categories across the fleet.”
Chief Executive Officer David Parker of Covenant Transportation Group Inc. in Chattanooga, Tenn. echoes Leather’s opinion. He said women are more cautious and remain more attentive while on the job. “They do a great job,” he said of his female truckers, which make up 16% of his total drivers, many who drive is pairs.
The trucker shortage is supposed to grow to a whopping 400,000 shortfall by the time 2017 rolls around. Many companies are creating recruitment campaigns aimed at women, touting overall higher pay and fancy new fleets with larger sleeping cabs and other trucking luxuries. Leather’s company is one of them. “We want to cast the net as wide as we can cast it,” Leathers said, “It’s an opportunity for the industry.”
Werner is working on a job recruitment effort to encourage more women applicants that will run in printed ads and radio commercials. Leathers said that to attract and keep female drivers working in the trucking industry, they need to be offered cleaner terminals and safer truck stops, trucks with automatic transmissions, and flexible schedules that would guarantee time at home. “Most of us are looking for any viable source of new talent,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve done a good job marketing to women.”
WIT has noticed that shippers, freight companies and truck makers are learning to pay more attention to the needs of women. Membership director for WIT, Char Pingel said, “Women don’t know they can do the job,” Pingel said. “It used to be burly truckers who endured without all the modern conveniences.” Pingel noted that some of these changes include allowing truckers to bring their pets along in the cab, creating seats that more adjustable, and making “no-touch” cargo so women aren’t required to do as much heavy lifting.
Leathers hopes to see more women entering the industry, as does WIT members, and it seems as if they both might get their wish. Now, where in the cab can we add a built in pedicure machine?