Truck driving has been a male-dominated field for decades. Women have not flocked to careers in truck driving for a number of reasons, but the last 13 years have seen a welcome shift.
Since 2008, the number of women truck drivers has jumped from 4.9% to 7% of America’s over-the-road truck drivers. Changes in the industry are making careers in truck driving more attractive to women than ever. With unprecedented driver shortages projected to worsen, women are poised to be the future of truck driving. As it turns out, this is a good thing for the industry.
Women Truck Drivers on the Rise
The increase in women truck drivers in the last decade is encouraging even though women still make up less than 10% of over-the-road truck drivers. Women truck drivers are not new, but their increased presence in the field is bringing about much-needed changes.
Although the trucking industry has historically been dominated by men, women have been blazing trails since the 1920s. Lillie Elizabeth McGee Drennan became the first woman to earn a truck driver’s license in 1929. She even owned her own fleet of trucks, the Drennan Truck Line.
In the 1940s, American women were encouraged to enter the workforce as never before while men fought in World War II. This included pursuing truck driving licenses. Despite this, women did not make significant strides in truck driving until the 2000s.
Now that the trucking industry is recognizing women’s role in the future, even the U.S. Congress aims to attract women to truck driving. The bipartisan infrastructure bill currently in Congress includes the creation of a Women of Trucking Advisory Board. The goal of the board would be to draw more women to truck driving through various programs. In many ways, the Congressional program is complementary to the Department of Transportation’s Women and Girls in Transportation Initiative, which is exploring ways to address the truck driver shortage by bringing more women into the industry.
The Appeal of Truck Driving to Women
The last decade’s increase in women drivers is due to changes in technology as well as recruitment efforts by carriers and non-profit organizations. Careers in truck driving appeal to women for a number of reasons that are becoming increasingly apparent.
One change making truck driving more appealing to women is that solo long-haul driving is safer than it used to be. In the case of a breakdown, for example, new apps enable drivers to quickly locate the nearest licensed repair shop from their smart device. Truck stops also have become safer places for women drivers.
In addition to being safer than before, truck driving offers women opportunities to earn a good living regardless of their gender. Unlike many industries in which pay can be influenced by a number of qualitative factors, the criteria for truck drivers’ pay is clear-cut. Carriers set pay based on mileage, hours, or percentage of the load. This leaves little room for a gender-based pay gap.
Carriers and non-profit organizations have also set out to highlight the perks of careers in truck driving to women. Women in Trucking is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2007. Its mission is to support women in pursuit of careers in truck driving as well as to promote their accomplishments. The hope is that increasing women truck drivers’ visibility will encourage more women to pursue the career.
Why Women Are Good for Truck Driving
As more women are drawn to careers in truck driving, the industry is beginning to see unexpected benefits. Many carriers find that women truck drivers are easier to train and even better with equipment and paperwork. In addition to providing one pathway to solve the driver shortage, women truck drivers are improving safety on the road.
Many carriers are looking to women as a solution to the truck driver shortage, which is projected to reach 100,000 by 2023. The driver shortage existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the last year and a half has created new challenges as businesses race to fulfill record eCommerce orders. By showing women the benefits of a career in truck driving, carriers can reduce the shortage of drivers.
Women may help the driver shortage partly because they stay in jobs longer. The retention rate for women drivers is much higher than that for men. Because women are more likely to remain employed at a trucking company for a longer period, carriers avoid more costs associated with turnover.
Statistics also show that women are safer drivers. According to research conducted by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), men are 70% more likely to be convicted of speeding up to 15 miles over the speed limit than women are. Men are also 88% more likely to have a reckless or negligent driving conviction. Trucking companies will want to consider how women truck drivers’ safety records could contribute to curtailing insurance and litigation costs in the future.
Women may make up a minority of truck drivers, but there is no doubt that they are the industry’s future. Truck driving offers women unique opportunities to pursue a sustainable career. With their retention rates and reliable driving records, women truck drivers will help the industry flourish.