A Female Driver’s Experience

The mission of the Women In Trucking Association is to increase the percentage of women employed in the trucking industry. While we represent all careers in transportation, much of our work focuses on the professional driver’s challenges. Specifically, we look at obstacles that might keep women from considering a career in transportation.

Many carriers’ representatives have bluntly stated that they don’t care about the gender of their drivers’. They remark that they hire men and women and treat them equally. If that is true, then why are there twenty men to every woman behind the wheel?
Instead of ignoring the fact that men and women are physically and emotionally different, let’s embrace the differences and work on making the environment better for all drivers. This means we need to look at our hiring and training practices more closely.
One carrier felt that a same gender training policy would address harassment issues by allowing women to be trained by a female trainer. Unfortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) determined that the longer waiting period for women to be assigned to a female trainer constituted discrimination. Now, women are assigned to the next available trainer regardless of gender.

This means that men and women must share bunk space while out on the road. Private activities such as changing clothes, personal hygiene and other intimate routines are no longer private. This could create a very uncomfortable environment for a woman who is struggling to learn how to drive a tractor-trailer in heavy traffic, shift gears and back into tiny loading docks.
If the woman is married or has a close relationship with someone who might not understand the situation, this could create even more stress during her training.

Recently a new female recruit contacted me about her training experience at a school. She was expected to sleep in a bunk house type environment with the male students at the training facility. She was not told about this in advance. Instead, the school recruiter told her she would have lodging during her stay.

When she arrived at the school, she was shown her bunk in the sleeping quarters occupied by all men. She offered to stay in a hotel at her own cost but was told this was not an option. She left the school and found another place that didn’t expect her to sleep in a room with men. “The importance of allowing female trainees to obtain a private hotel room for themselves, even if it means paying out of pocket without reimbursement is important.”  She added, “If I was given this option before arriving or once I arrived, I would very likely have stayed for training and be currently employed there despite the vague description of boarding that I was given”.
While I was familiar with opposite gender training while on the road, I was surprised to hear that some schools treat all of their students the same to the extent that they have to sleep in the same room.

Are we really attracting women into the trucking industry with policies like these?

The Women In Trucking Association Facebook page has nearly 10,000 folks who share their expertise when asked. I created a poll and asked the female drivers to respond to the following question. “Did any of you have to share sleeping space with males during training (not in the truck, but at the school or carrier’s facility)?”

I was surprised to learn that ten percent of the respondents were provided a shared sleeping facility with men. Some of the drivers stated the names of their training provider. Many of these companies are members of the Women In Trucking Association.

This is truly unacceptable and could be a reason some women won’t succeed as professional drivers. Even the men agreed. A male driver commented about sharing a space with anyone because he’s ‘nervous (about) them stealing his belongings’. Another male driver said his wife would not have accepted the arrangement.

We have a long way to go before we’ve addressed the challenges women face as they consider a career as professional drivers. Personal safety and privacy while in training should be the gold standard for all drivers.

Men and women are not the same and carriers that ignore gender differences are not creating a positive environment for the demographic they are trying to attract. If you are a training facility that expects all of your students to share sleeping quarters, we ask you to consider whether this would be acceptable if that woman was your own daughter, wife, mother or sister. If not, then change it.
To learn more about the award and related events, please visit www.womenintrucking.org.

Ellen Voie
President/CEO/Founder of
Women In Trucking, Inc.

Women In Trucking Association, Inc. is a nonprofit association established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry. Membership is not limited to women, as 17 percent of its members are men who support the mission. Women In Trucking is supported by its members and the generosity of Gold Level Partners: Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, Daimler Trucks North America, BMO Transportation Finance, Great Dane, J.B. Hunt Transport, Ryder System, Inc., U.S. Xpress, and Walmart. Follow WIT on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. For more information, visit http://www.womenintrucking.org

About Ellen Voie, President/CEO

Ellen Voie founded the Women In Trucking Association in March of 2007, and currently serves as the nonprofit organization’s President/CEO.