The trucking industry is facing truck driver shortages
This year alone, the US has reported an astronomical shortage of around 80,000 drivers, a number which is only expected to grow. Truck driving schools are advertising themselves to their best potential, offering training to prospective young drivers, while the government is announcing apprenticeship programs and attracting veterans into the industry.
This shortage is never going to be fully addressed if one key demographic is constantly overlooked: women. There is a desperate requirement for recruiters to look outside the traditional, stereotypical pool of job seekers and see other candidates who can fulfill the role of truck drivers excellently.
The unquestioned sexism in the truck driving industry
Truck driving has always been viewed as a 'masculine' job because of the extensive work hours, expansive traveling, and the misogynistic belief that women can simply not be long-haul drivers, handling a huge commercial vehicle and dealing with all sorts of people in business. Because of this bias that employers may not be even aware of, they overlook women as potential employees. Their advertisements and promotions target men. According to the US Department of Labor, women account for slightly more than 8% of all truck drivers in the country, but they constitute nearly half of the entire workforce of the US. That paints a clear picture of the lack of women truckers in logistics.
Now the trucking industry is facing a massive shortfall of truck drivers, especially long-haul drivers, and it is all thanks to high turnover and an aging workforce. The retirement rates are not being offset by new blood coming in to fill the positions. Demand for goods is unruffled by this and is growing at a steady pace post-COVID-19 pandemic. Resultantly, the logistics industry is generating a demand for truck drivers but continually missing to hire women.
Female truck drivers are the pivotal change that can transform the increasingly fragmented industry - that can prompt a fundamental evolution in trucking to make it a prospective, high-quality, and sought-after job once again.
Women can make driving a thriving business
There are a few simple reasons why women can be amazing truck drivers:
- Statistically, women are 20% less likely than men to be involved in a crash, as found by the American Transportation Research Institute.
- Women In Trucking Association's founder and CEO Ellen Voie mentioned in an article with Indeed that she has been informed by carriers on multiple occasions that women take better care of their equipment, are easier to train and have superior customer service and paperwork skills.
- Women are proven to capitalize well on their soft skills in tricky situations and can be diplomatic in dealing with difficult customers.
- Safety is a high priority for women.
As stated previously, women make up just about 8% of the trucking workforce but some are already industry veterans. They have built successful careers for themselves as truck drivers, some even having built fleets of their own.
Benefits to women as truck drivers
Truck driving is a lifestyle, meant for those who like the endless open roads, different skylines every night, and the thrill of cruising through city streets. It is also a solid route to financial freedom because many women truckers have testified that they have been able to make a good living through this job. Let's take a deeper look at why women can be well off as truck drivers:
- Freedom that comes with the job: Truck drivers live a huge part of their days on the road. This makes truck driving a liberating job, to travel through the beautiful landscapes of America. You can travel to different states and take longer routes through the 34-Hour Restart rule of FMCSA, after your 70 hours of the week are completed before the week ends. You can also ask your recruiting companies for flexible work arrangements and make a schedule that works the best for you.
- You don't need a college degree: Truck drivers do not need professional college degrees. What they do require is training from a school listed on FMCSA's Training Provider Registry to get a Commercial Driving License (CDL) to drive a truck. The Entry-Level Driver Training guidelines and regulations are set in place for proficient and thorough learning to become a responsible truck driver.
- Financial independence: Truck drivers with little experience can start off by earning $50,000 a year through placement opportunities provided by truck driving schools. Many women truckers have been able to make even $100,000 per annum, but it depends on which company you get recruited in and if you are an owner-operator, how well you manage your schedule and shipments. Moreover, since truck drivers are paid by the mile in most scenarios, there is no gender pay gap.
- The endless opportunities: Being a truck driver gives you the option to travel across the states while earning your income. You have the option to continue truck driving if you enjoy being on the road, or you can use it as a transitory job to save up for any future endeavors. What more you can do is make your own fleet! You can save to buy a truck of your own, become an owner-operator and later buy more trucks. It opens ways to make more revenue and generate profit.
- Placement opportunities offered at driving schools: Most schools, including Utah Truck Driving School, run placement drivers whereby recruiting companies come to the schools, give presentations on their company to attract young talent, and hire the candidates who can start working for these companies immediately after obtaining their CDL.
- Endorsements for increased pay: If you want to earn more money than a regular truck driver would, getting endorsements to drive different trucks is a great idea. Since you get an additional endorsement - which is similar to a certification to attest that you are capable to drive reefer trucks, trailers, trucks that ship hazardous products, etc. - you will be paid more by the company for driving such vehicles.
- You can have a passenger with you: Some truck driving companies allow drivers to have a passenger or a pet with them while they go on to work, for a week or so. You can have somebody with you to keep you company or for safety purposes. It is not a lonely job like it seems to be. In fact, most women become truck drivers later in life after having accompanied their husbands or boyfriends as passengers first.
- You don't have to handle the load yourself: Truck drivers do not handle the consignment if they don't want to. The consignment is loaded and unloaded from the truck by the company's employees whose shipment is being delivered.
Truck driving schools can assist women in becoming truck drivers
One key factor to get women into trucking is the way driving schools target women to enroll in their CDL training programs. Letting go of traditional advertisements that are more male-oriented is the first step that they need to take. They have to encourage women to be truck drivers, be transparent to them about the pros and cons of being truckers, and tell them how they can make a successful career out of it.
If more women enroll in driving schools, it will potentially lead to the academies hiring women instructors. If there are more female instructors, more women will be emboldened to join truck driving schools. It is a spiral effect that can spur vital changes in truck driver demographics.
Trucking companies need to change their ad formats as well. If their recruiting heads are all men, they will likely employ men also. The unintentional gender bias needs to be realized and corrected, and the unconscious barriers to entry that women face ought to be lifted, so that women who want to become a part of the industry are able to join.
Women can actually drive the change that the trucking industry needs.
The truck driver shortages are expected to double in the coming few years but the demand for goods is never going to descend. Job vacancies for truck drivers can be addressed to a good extent if women are encouraged to enter the industry.
Veteran women truck drivers are inspiring more and more women to join the workforce; the trucking community on YouTube are spreading awareness about the advantages of the industry to prospective drivers while also making sure they know the hardships that also come along. Organizations like Women In Trucking Association have the aim of employing, promoting and celebrating women in the trucking industry.
The Indeed article mentions: "WIT works with truck stops to improve safety, recommending changes such as improved lighting or additional security guards. The organization also hosts self-defense workshops and collaborates with truck manufacturers to equip cabs with safety alarms and ergonomic additions for female truck drivers."
Women are the principal force that can drive any significant changes in the trucking industry and address the pressing issues that affect the industry - driver shortages and an aging workforce. Gender diversity in transportation and logistics is crucial to sustain supply chain systems.
Two essential things need to be kept in mind: trucking is a lifestyle and; your truck is your home away from home.