TruckRight Insight

This International Women's Day, Choose To Challenge

In 1918, Luella Bates placed herself behind the wheel of a Model B truck for Four Wheel Auto Drive Co., making her the first known female truck driver. When trucks were viewed as something that men should strictly drive, Bates was seen by the industry as unconventional; after all, women were typically charged with running the household – not the road.

While Bates – and the many women that have since followed in her tracks – have proved beyond a doubt that they are more than capable of handling an 18-wheeler just as well as the best of them (if not better!) they continue to face hurdles when it comes to finding their rightful place in the driver’s seat.

And the numbers prove it. To date, only about 10 percent of truck drivers are women, demonstrating more needs to be done to make the career more appealing to female drivers.

Bringing About Change

Ellen Voie, president of CEO of Women in Trucking, is helping to lead the charge, raising awareness and bringing about change in a male-dominated industry that often discounts the abilities of women and the valid contributions they make.

In an interview with TruckRight last year, Voie pointed out that women bring a different perspective to the workplace, whether in the cab of a truck or the corner office.

"First, women are more risk-averse," she explained. "This means that women are safer commercial drivers because we avoid risks such as speeding, distracted driving or unsafe operation. In the board room, women explore each decision with risk in mind and are less likely to rush into a decision such as an acquisition or other activity involving risk.”

Not only this, said Voie, numerous studies have proven that a more diverse workforce is a more profitable one, so bringing women's voices to the table, allows decision-makers to gain broader perspectives.

As you seek to hire people with talent, dedication and a proven safety record, what is your company doing to attract and retain female drivers?

Below, we look at a few ways to help ensure your driver pool has an equal balance of males and females. After all, the time is now to help women mark their place in an industry that continues to be overwhelmingly male-dominated.

Are you in? 

Provide Good Medical Coverage

Kelly Kersten – a professional driver for two years – knew her chosen career path was the right one. She was referred by a friend and had his experience with the company to go on.

Her advice to carriers seeking to hire female drivers? It starts with good medical coverage. With that in mind, consider how your carrier's benefits package sets itself apart from others in the industry. Be sure to take an all-encompassing view into mind, bearing in mind health, dental and vision packages and how they serve both men and women.

Consider Female-Friendly Trucks

Kersten also says it’s just as crucial for carriers to provide female-friendly trucks and to have an understanding of women’s issues and feelings. “Trucks are designed for a man from the seats to the mirrors, to the visors, to the steps getting into the trucks,” she says.

Typically, women are shorter than men (the average height of men in the U.S. this year is 5'9, while the average size of women is 5'4). Because of this, they have a more challenging time reaching controls and finding a seat position they find comfortable for long stretches on the road.

Keep Safety and Well-Being Top of Mind - Always

Safety is also a factor many female drivers deliberate over. “Women considering the professional are often afraid of, “What would I do if something happened?” explains Leslie Andersen, recruiting manager with Fortune Transportation.

During a one-on-one conversation with Kersten, Andersen found that Kersten feels the industry could attract more women if trucks had some safety features such as OnStar-type emergency buttons, with one in the front and another in the sleeper.

“She also thinks there should be a secondary deadbolt-type lock inside the truck," explains Andersen, adding that additionally, women don’t want to be walking across a parking lot in the dead of night to use the facilities.

The takeaway here is this: the well-being of all your drivers matters; don’t be afraid to think outside the box a little to offer as many ways as possible to ensure the safety and peace of mind they all deserve.

Make Job Adjustments

To accommodate a diverse and well-rounded team of drivers, it's important to consider how your carrier could adjust the job's aspects to make it more attractive to female drivers.

This could mean scheduling, for example, or route predictability. “Without giving away too many secrets, let’s just say that Fortune builds individual dispatch plans for our drivers, and that includes scheduling and route predictability,” says Andersen. “For women drivers, knowing what to expect throughout the day and week helps them to plan accordingly.”

Her advice to women looking to break into the industry? Take some time to think carefully and consider riding along with another driver before committing. It's not just a job, after all, it's a lifestyle.

“I would suggest [women] ride along with someone for a week to get the full experience before making a decision,” she says.

Celebrating Together

As the world comes together on March 8 to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and pollical achievements of women and girls and to raise awareness of the work left to be done, we encourage you to take this opportunity to #ChooseToChallenge.

To learn more about Women in Trucking, be sure to visit their website. There, you’ll find a helpful list of resources designed to bring gender diversity to transportation.

To learn more about International Women’s Day, click here.

Finally, spread the word on social media! Use hashtags #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021 and do your part to help forge a gender-equal world.

Fast Facts:

  • Women make up over 10 percent of over-the-road (OTR) truck drivers;
  • While roughly 10 percent of truck drivers are women, only 4 percent of diesel technicians or mechanics are women.

Source: 2019 FreightWaves and Women in Trucking Association Survey

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The true cost of an accident can be staggering. Besides direct costs, indirect costs like poor publicity, lost clients and lost productivity can take a toll. The average cost for a truck accident is $148,279, not including litigation. It would take an additional revenue of $7,413,950 to pay the accident costs, assuming an average profit margin of 2%. A study of over one million lines of data on truck violations discovered that over 28,000 trucking companies, representing over 200,000 trucks, operated with safety violations. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association’s (FMSCA) settlement for non-compliance was $36,262,097 in 2014 with an average fine of over $7,000 per case.