Women are making trucking safer, but many road blocks prove challenging.
The American trucking industry is currently experiencing an all-time driver shortage with the highest turnover rate since 2015. Women make up nearly half of the American workforce, so why do they account for only 6% of truck drivers?
1. Trucking can be dangerous. Truck driving was listed as one of the most dangerous occupations by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017. That same year, sadly 840 truckers lost their lives on the road – the highest it’s been in almost thirty years.
2. Tough lifestyle. Some women fear that an already dangerous working environment is heightened when everyday risks that female drivers face are taken into account. Lengthy walks across poorly lit parking lots to use truck stop showers with lax privacy are an all too common scenario. When nonprofit organization Women in Trucking asked female truck drivers to rate 1-10 how safe they felt, the responses averaged a shockingly low 4.4.
Aside from lack of personal safety, truck driving can make for a lonely industry with demanding shifts up to 12-14 hours in length, long stretches away from family and friends and a lack of consistency in work schedules.
3. Lack of representation. Studies show that only 14- 24% of management roles are occupied by women and there’s also a noticeable lack of female trainers in the trucking industry.
Additionally, women aren’t seeing themselves reflected in companies’ promotional and recruiting materials, which further perpetuates the narrative that trucking is a male-dominated industry.
Making the industry safer
Despite the hurdles, women are rising to the challenge. Though small, the number of women in trucking is growing (it was at 7.13% in 2016) and women are excelling within the industry.
In a study conducted by Omnitracs, female truck drivers tend to drive more cautiously on average, receive fewer warnings, and get into fewer preventable accidents.
According to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute, male drivers were more likely than women to engage in risky, reckless driving behaviors, and committed more violations (like unfastened safety belts, failure to obey traffic signs, speeding, HOS violations and more).
More women in trucking could make roads and the trucking industry itself, safer. However, in order to recruit more women into the industry, necessary changes need to take place.
All eyes on the road ahead
While the trucking industry has progressed over the years, there still remains ample room for growth.
Fleet owners must put a greater focus on inclusivity. Featuring women on their promotional and recruiting materials is a powerful way to appeal to more women, or in other words more drivers.
Putting more women in influential positions of power, as managers and trainers, is another impactful way for women to feel supported and represented and – considering the safety behaviors women possess on average – a perfect way to pass on safe driving habits to new drivers.
A greater emphasis must be placed on the safety of all drivers every step of their career, whether they’re training, out on the road, or at a truck stop. No matter who you are, while at work, safety should never be a concern.