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Steering Women to the Driver’s Seat

Posted on the 20 October 2014 by Ryderexchange

Could female drivers end driver shortage?

This is the first installment of a multi-part series regarding women truck drivers. In the coming months we will discuss issues, ideas and solutions to attracting women drivers to the industry. The series will include contributions from several authors. Written by Ellen Voie, Founder of Women In TruckingWomen in Trucking Driver Shortage

As the driver shortage continues to grow in the trucking industry, many companies are looking to women to fill the empty seats. Although the trucking industry has made great strides to accommodate women, there are still obstacles that might cause some to avoid this career opportunity and others who choose to leave.This is why Women In Trucking was formed in 2007, to address the obstacles that might keep women from entering the industry.

One of the first questions often asked is, “What are these obstacles?”
While there are numerous things that might limit the number of women who consider careers in trucking, the most crucial one is about image. From the outside, we don’t appear to be very female focused.

Not only does the trucking industry have a very male dominated culture, with only 5% of CDL holders being women, we haven’t always reached out to women to invite them to join us. Look around you at any public event and then start asking the women there if they would like a job as a professional driver, mechanic, or safety director. The typical reaction is one of disbelief.

We’ve heard comments ranging from, “I’m not mechanically minded,” to “I’m not strong enough,” to “I can’t drive a stick shift.” While men might often have the same response, the goal is to tell women that they can drive, fix, own, sell or dispatch trucks and that the industry wants and needs them.

In addition to getting this message to the potential driver population, we need to show the non-trucking public that women are already doing these jobs – and have been for many years.

How can other challenges be addressed?
Companies need to have a culture that values and appreciates women. Years ago you could walk into a terminal and see more women in the mechanic’s calendars than you did in trucks. There were only men’s restrooms and showers, and the few female drivers who entered the lounge were teased mercilessly.

Fortunately, that has changed, but not everywhere. There are some places that haven’t changed the environment and those are the carriers that have a hard time attracting women to the workforce.

Are there women visible in management roles at the carrier? If so, women will feel welcomed and valued by the company when they see more women in leadership roles.

There are carriers that are becoming more aggressive in their efforts to recruit female drivers because of the benefits women bring. Not just as drivers filling a need, but as well qualified employees who bring a different perspective to the job.

As drivers, women take fewer risks according to Ron Kipling, author of “Safety for the Long Haul.” Trucking company executives often tell me that women are better at completing their paperwork and often treat their equipment better than their male counterparts. Regarding communication, women are often viewed as being better with customers as well.

Companies are also looking at the ergonomics of the trucks to make them more comfortable and safer for women drivers.

As trucks become more driver friendly and the freight is no longer being “fingerprinted” by drivers, the opportunity to become a professional driver extends beyond those who are big, muscular, and mechanically minded. The length of haul is getting shorter and time at home is viewed as crucial in attracting and retaining drivers.

Adding women to the driver pool is not just something we should do to fill a need; it’s something we should be doing because we have an opportunity to utilize under-represented potential.

As carriers, you can attract and retain more women and you should want to be increasing your percentage of female drivers.

Ellen Voie is founder of the Women In Trucking Association, Ellen’s background in the trucking industry began in 1980, when she earned a diploma in Traffic and Transportation Management while employed as Traffic Manager for a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin

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