Recently the Department of Labor held a “Day of Action” to promote safety and address these issues in the trucking industry. Since our inception in 2007, our mission has included the goal to address obstacles that might keep women from entering the trucking industry, or from succeeding in a transportation role. For over fifteen years the Women In Trucking Association has already been addressing the subject of sexual harassment and sexual assault against professional drivers.
We feel the time is way overdue for the government to support our efforts to address sexual harassment and assault in the trucking industry. In June of 2011, we met with Lynn Rosenthal, who was the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women and Judge Susan Carbon, who served as Director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice who both agreed more needs to be done to address harassment against our professional drivers.
In 2011 WIT partnered with J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc. and created an Anti-Harassment Employment Guide which we offer as a resource to our corporate members.
In 2017 the FMCSA initiated a project to research harassment against female and minority drivers (renewed in 2020) called Crime Prevention for Truckers. This was a result of our request to the agency to help us identify and address safety and harassment issues against female drivers. We are awaiting the results of this campaign to be released soon.
To better understand the prevalence of harassment against our female driver population we initiated a survey late in 2021 which collected the responses of 437 professional drivers. When asked if the respondent felt that trucking was a safe industry for women, 54 percent agreed, and 18 percent disagreed.
One of the concerns expressed by drivers was the training situation when it involves opposite-gender trainers. More than half (52%) felt that a same-gender training policy would encourage more women to pursue a career as a driver (only nine % disagreed).
The Women In Trucking association advocates for a same-gender training policy OPTION for motor carriers. Currently, trucking companies who do not have sufficient female trainers are unable to provide this option due to an EEOC ruling against a carrier that provided male trainees more opportunities to work for them due to a delay in securing female trainers.
The trucking industry is the only mode of transportation that does not allow separate sleeping and living quarters for opposite genders. Unfortunately, this has led to an environment that could lead to harassment or assault, as reported by the survey respondents. More than 67 percent of the drivers reported being subjected to verbal offences, with 52 percent reporting the comment as threatening. Over twenty percent of those in the survey reported being threatened with a weapon and 46 percent said they had experienced unwanted physical advances.
We have created a series of White Papers based on research conducted with our members which is available to the media, trucking companies and government entities. Our White Papers are available on our website.
To educate our members on personal safety we offer sexual harassment training at our events by the Survive Institute. Hundreds of our members have been trained in personal safety and how to avoid being a victim of assault through our programs.
As an industry, we need to protect the personal safety of our drivers, particularly our more vulnerable female drivers. Our board of directors has agreed to invest in a partnership with RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. We have committed to supporting research to be conducted by RAINN to determine the extent of harassment against professional drivers. Our goal is to create a toll-free hotline for transportation workers to call if they experience sexual harassment or violence.
In our survey of drivers, we asked them where they felt least safe, and the top response was in rest areas (85.5%) and truck stops (86.8%). We approached the truck stop industry to help us create an awareness campaign called, Hear Something, Say Something,” to educate drivers on bystander awareness. This project is still in the initial stages until support from the truck stop industry is secured.
The Sexual Assault and Prevention Month Day of Action is a project that we feel strongly about supporting, but more importantly, we feel it will benefit our efforts to provide a safer environment for all professional drivers.
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
Ellen Voie founded the Women In Trucking Association in March of 2007, and currently serves as the nonprofit organization’s President/CEO.