Truck driving has long been thought of as a profession made up mostly of men, and statistics support this idea. More than 90% of truck driving jobs are held by men.
However, truck driving is essential to the supply chain in the United States, and ensures people can buy everything from groceries to clothing at their local stores.
Truck driver shortages will inevitably affect how other industries operate, so it’s important for the industry to attract as many people as possible, including women. Here are some of the ways gender diversity is changing the trucking industry overall.
Creating a More Diverse Trucking Industry
For women truck drivers, personal safety consistently comes up as a major concern. Women tend to worry about their safety at truck stops, especially at night when they need to sleep.
Many women make choices to always carry flashlights with them, avoid dark areas that someone could be hiding in, and carefully lock their doors to prevent intruders.
Aside from personal safety concerns, there’s also the question of driving safety. Insurance rates and conventional wisdom have long suggested that in general, women are safer drivers than men.
According to the American Transportation Research Institute, women are also safer commercial drivers than men. Men are 20% more likely to be involved in an accident than women. Women were also rated higher in terms of safety in every category, with options ranging from lane changing to reckless driving.
Meeting the Need for More Truck Drivers
Americans rely on truck drivers to reliably keep stores stocked and carry goods from shippers to their destinations. About 70% of goods in this country travel to their destination by truck.
There’s often a shortage of qualified truckers to take jobs and transport goods around America. According to a report from the American Trucking Associations, the industry needs to hire almost 60,000 more drivers to keep up with increasing demand from customers.
The job has a high turnover rate, because it’s a uniquely demanding job. It asks employees to spend long hours alone, out on the road.
Many in the trucking industry hope to attract women to the profession to fill in the gaps left by men. If women become truck drivers at a higher rate, the industry can fill important jobs and keep the supply chain running.
Investing in Same-Gender Training
Truck driving has traditionally been almost entirely made up of male drivers. The Women in Trucking organization asks that people make some adjustments to how things are done in order to make women more welcome.
For example, a same-gender training policy can make women feel more comfortable in the profession.
During the training process, the new driver and trainer will drive together for a long period of time, from days to weeks. Since the trip will extend over such a long period of time, the two drivers will have to sleep in the designated area in the back of the cab, possibly even at the same time.
To avoid discomfort and the potential for harassment, WIT asks that women be given the option to ask for same-gender training. Since gender is a protected class, this policy is currently considered in violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Addressing the Pay Gap
In many professions, women tend to earn less than men while working at the same job title. This phenomenon is called the pay gap.
In trucking, companies have made an effort to attract women with better pay and benefits. The job pays either by the mile or by the load, offering an easy, objective way to measure what your wages should be.
Some women are attracted to the clarity of this no-nonsense pay structure.
Creating Vehicles Designed for Women’s Comfort
On average, women tend to be shorter than men. Most truck cabs are designed with men in mind, so they are large, with a high step to get into the cab. The seats and cab interior are all designed for someone about 5’10”.
This might not be a big deal during short-term situations, but many truck drivers spend hours on the road for days at a time. Over the course of an extrtrip, an uncomfortable cab can become a serious burden.
One major trucking company has designed a cab specifically catered to shorter women, with ergonomic seats, adjustable armrests, adjustable seatbelts, and even an optional security system designed to protect the sleeper berth.
Trucking companies can incorporate some of these adjustable features into future designs, so that men and women alike can enjoy a more comfortable ride as they settle in for a day of work.
Looking Into Trucking Programs for Women
As the industry has noticed the lack of women driving trucks, it has created several programs to address the issue and train more women to do the job.
One such program is called Train Your Spouse, and it’s targeted at men who want to train their wives to become truck drivers. Couples get the satisfaction of working together, and the trucking industry gets to increase the number of women who are qualified and experienced in truck driving.
Scholarships exist to help women enter the profession, and they can be found through the Women in Trucking group. These help women pay for their commercial driving license training to become truckers.
Protecting Women Drivers at All Times
Over the past decade, from 2010 to 2020, the number of women driving trucks professionally has increased by 68%. Even with that huge jump, women make up only a total of 6.6% of truck drivers in the United States.
However, this significant increase in women drivers means that companies now have to start taking women’s comfort and needs into consideration.
Women truck drivers are bringing plenty of innovation with them into the industry. As trucking companies continuously meet customer demand and increase diversity in the workplace, comprehensive insurance for truck drivers ensures that these new changes are sustainable.