The trucking industry has always been a male dominated field. As driver numbers continue to decline, women are looking to the industry for a career.
“We have a Women in Trucking Index and we’re actually monitoring the percentage of female drivers that companies had – at least in the U.S. we’re doing that – we’re monitoring it ourselves because the government data is kind of a grey area because they include delivery drivers like UPS and parcel delivery, things like that,” said Ellen Voie from the Women In Trucking Association (WIT).
WIT just concluded a best practices study on the trucking industry and what they found was that women make up about 8% of all truck drivers in the United States and just under 3% in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.
“Our best practices study came out with the research that said we can do a lot better job in attracting women into the industry and this is how we do it. We have a recruiting retention guide on what do women look for in recruiting ads, what words attract women, why do women come to a carrier, why do women leave a carrier. We have all that information that we’ve done so that we can provide it to our member companies,” said Voie.
There has been a steady increase in female truck drivers as more and more women are making themselves known in the industry and are becoming more vocal.
“We’re actually being more vocal and visible so that other women can see that there are women who are doing this job,” said Voie.
The average age for a female truck driver is 50.
Voie noted that 12 years ago when she started in trucking, companies would not focus on gender, age, or ethnicity of the driver so as not to “segregate.”
“We’ve been pushing them to realize that women actually make better drivers. Women are safer, better with customers, better with equipment.
“So, we’re actually saying to them, ‘You need to be more progressive in how you’re recruiting women,’” she said.
About 83% of women enter the trucking trade because they have been introduced to it by a family member or a friend and for the high wages, whereas men enter through an advertisement. The average salary for a truck driver is more than $21 an hour regardless of gender.
“The cool thing is that they can make the same amount of money as men. In fact, research has shown that women actually make more money because they’re running more efficiently. Women will turn down fewer loads – women will take more loads.”
The biggest reason women are finding satisfaction in trucking, aside from the high wages, is the sense of independence the trade provides and the opportunity to see different parts of the country.
Voie said a woman will leave a company if she feels the corporation doesn’t care about her safety whereas men will leave over time lost at home.
“Safety is a much higher priority (for women). A woman will leave a company if she feels they don’t care about her safety. And when I say safety there are three areas: one is how is the equipment maintained so that they don’t have breakdowns; two is do they send them into areas that are unsafe; and three, do they expect them to drive in unsafe conditions?”
As for the future of trucking, Voie said reaching out to the next generation is a priority for WIT. The organization has created a female truck driver doll that can be purchased on Amazon, an activity book, and has worked with the Girl Guides in developing a transportation patch.. .“We’ve worked really hard to get young girls to consider careers in transportation at an early age,” she said.