TORONTO, Ont. – Anyone in trucking will tell you that without drivers and technicians, the industry would cease to exist.
So it was only natural that at Trucking HR Canada’s second annual Women with Drive Leadership Summit a panel was dedicated to those female truckers and technicians who keep the industry on the road and moving. The panel, titled “Women on the Road” allowed real Canadian drivers and techs to express their views on the trucking industry today.
Panelists included Jennifer Duval a driver at Kriska; Helen Thorpe, a corporate trainer at Seaboard Transport; Samantha Sharpe, a mechanic apprentice for Nova Truck Centres; and Alison and Katrina Theriault, team drivers for Clarke Road Transport.
Truck News’ James Menzies moderated the panel.
Because the industry is looking for more female drivers and technicians, Menzies asked the women on the panel how they believe trucking companies and shops today can be more attractive to women looking for a fulfilling career.
All the women agreed, above all else, if you want to attract more women into your company, make sure you treat them the same way you’d treat any other employee.
“Kriska never made me feel any different being a woman in the industry,” said Duval of her employer. “If anything I felt more welcomed for being a woman in the trucking industry.”
Similarly, Sharpe, who worked for nine years in child care before being a mechanic apprentice, said what attracted her to Nova was how welcomed she was as a woman.
“There was never any special treatment and I was immediately welcomed with open arms,” Sharpe said.
Alison on the other hand, said she was turned off my companies who refused to employ her simply because she was female. When she first began in the industry in 2007, she applied to almost 300 driving positions and was turned down from almost all of them.
“Starting out I didn’t get hired because I was a woman and they told me so,” she said. “They would tell me I could find a nice man, I could marry him and then I’d be allowed in the truck with him. I was screamed at.”
Alison said she still keeps those companies, who turned her down because she was a female, in mind and often sees their trucks rolling down the highway to this day.
Other than making your company known they are open to accepting and willing to work with female drivers, the panel said they are looking for a company that has things that every driver – even males – are looking for: good equipment, fair pay and flexible hours.
Duval said above that, she’s stayed with Kriska because they motivate her to be the best driver she can be, and that is something she values in her job.
“I’ve worked for Kriska from day one, they took me out of driving school,” she explained. “Kriska is like my second family. They inspire me and they make me feel good about what I do. The pay rate is competitive. They have safety bonuses. There are a lot of things to strive for month by month to get that reward.”
Duval and Thorpe added that having a female trainer in your fleet is also important in the effort to recruit more women.
“When I joined Kriska, I know I was more than thrilled to be getting a female trainer myself. It made me feel more comfortable,” she said. “And now when I do get a female trainee I know when she leaves me, I boosted her confidence up.”
Though Alison is not a formal trainer at her company, she said she is single-handedly trying to recruit more women into the trade by reaching out to people on the Internet. She said she scours online forums and personal advertisements to e-mail with females who are curious about driving professionally.
In the same way, the women on that panel expressed that nothing will make them run from a company faster than if there are pay discrepancies, if the communication between management and drivers is non-existent, and if the equipment is less than satisfactory. (All of which male drivers are also looking for in potential employers.)
Thorpe said that in addition, not only do individual companies need to change their policies, but the industry as a whole needs to change to attract drivers. She said some drivers she trains are completely unaware of the reality of the industry and are naïve to what trucking entails. She said this could be solved by trucking changing to adapt to the newer lifestyles people want these days.
“So I think the industry does need to change to accept these younger people by giving the option of shorter hauls and pre-scheduled trips,” she concluded.
Sonia Straface is the assistant editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. She graduated from Ryerson University's journalism program in 2013 and enjoys writing about health and wellness and HR issues surrounding the transportation industry. Follow her on Twitter: @SoniaStraface. All posts by Sonia Straface