By John Kearney
The latest figures from American Trucking Associations show the U.S. driver shortage easing somewhat, from 60,000 last year to 59,500 in 2019. Unfortunately, says ATA, that’s a fleeting and temporary bit of good news, partly due to a lull in freight demand, and partly due to the delivery of new trucks that were ordered last year. Longer-term, the trucker shortage is serious and getting worse. To address this problem, many U.S. trucking companies are consciously and actively recruiting from a segment of the population they’ve long ignored: women.
According to ATA, women currently represent a little over 6 percent of the total population of truckers. (That’s up from 4.5 percent in 2003; we’ve been making progress very slowly.) Bringing that percentage up substantially could not only help alleviate the trucker shortage, it could make the profession—and the nation’s highways—a safer place. According to the ATA’s research arm, women drivers significantly outscore men in important safety areas, including likelihood of being involved in a crash and logbook and hours-of-service violations.
If the industry wants more women drivers, the first thing it must do is recruit them: let them know it’s a desirable and welcoming place to make a career. Then once they’re in—this applies to male drivers as well—it has to retain them. Trucking has a turnover rate even higher than retail stores and restaurants, which indicates there are still working condition and pay issues to be addressed.
Furthermore, it must make the industry a more women-friendly place. Several trucking firms, both large and small, are taking steps to do just that. In training, they’re offering increased practice time in simulators, giving new drivers a chance to really feel at home behind the wheel. Firms are also offering training on sexual harassment issues and self-defense, and women trucker support groups.
Trucking represents a real opportunity for women—and vice versa. To make the most of that opportunity, the industry needs to change itself in some ways. We’re in touch with trucking companies and driver schools all over the country. We see it happening, and we’re proud to be able to help.
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