It will take more than just active recruiting to increase the number of women truck drivers, which has become a higher priority because of a growing truck driver shortage.
To attract more women to truck driving, it is essential to also provide the best training, offer family friendly benefits, make trucks more comfortable and easier to drive, and promote a safer working environment, says John Kearney, president and CEO of Advanced Training Systems.
“The industry as a whole wants to become a better place for women to work,” Kearney said. “There’s a lot more to do, but we are committed to making trucking a profession a woman can successfully start with and stay with.”
More than 70 percent of the nation’s total freight moves by truck, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA). Industry experts say there is currently a shortage of around 60,000 truck drivers.
- The ATA estimates that 160,000 driver positions will go unfilled in a decade.
- Long-haul truck drivers are the most needed, with the average driver is 46 years old and workers are on the road for weeks at a time.
- Women make up less than 7 percent of truck drivers, according to industry trade organizations.
The shortage has already led to delayed deliveries and higher prices, and the ATA says it will get worse.
In Kansas, Sen. Jerry Moran is crafting a bill that would promote more women in the trucking industry. The bill proposes the creation of an advisory board within the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to provide training, education and recruitment of female truck drivers.
Women are safer drivers
Advantages to having more women in trucking may go beyond reducing the trucker shortage–it would also improve highway safety overall.
A report by the American Transportation Research Institute found that women truck drivers are:
- 20 percent less likely to be involved in a crash;
- 45 percent less likely to participate in logbook violations, and;
- 60 percent less likely to commit hours-of-service violations.
Kearney says that simulator training will play a key role in readying these new drivers for the road.
“The emphasis on simulator training bears out what we’ve been saying for a long time: it should be mandatory for the whole industry, just as it is for pilots,” Kearney said.
The median annual wage for U.S. truck drivers is $44,500, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, some companies are paying much more to try to fill jobs. Walmart is paying truck drivers an average of more than $87,000 annually.
Despite the alluring income for a job that doesn’t require a college degree, it’s a tough sell, especially for women.
Trucking companies are starting to offer more family-friendly benefits, in part to attract and retain both male and female drivers.
- Prime Inc., a trucking company, offers passenger permits that allow drivers to bring family and pets along, a video system embedded in the truck for drivers to connect with their families from the road and guaranteed time off.
One issue that has been an obstacle is safety, but companies are beginning to address this with sexual harassment awareness training and self-defense classes.
- Women in Trucking, an organization dedicated to encouraging females to become truckers and providing resources for women on the road, has offered free self-defense courses in light of the #MeToo movement last March.