No room for glass ceilings in truck cabs

John G Smith

In an industry that continues to cry about a truck driver shortage, the number of women at the wheel is appalling. While representing about half (47.4%) the Canadian workforce, they account for a mere 3.5% of the driver pool.

Say what you will about the causes of the wider driver shortage – and there is plenty to be said about challenges with pay structure, barriers to licensing and insuring youth, the isolation of long hauls, an aging workforce, and misguided images about careers in trades – but none of these issues explain the disparity.

Are there still those who insist that trucking is “man’s work”? Do recruiters consciously count chromosomes in their hiring practices? I have a hard time believing that fleets would so willingly pass by any qualified candidates. But there are clearly barriers that exist. For proof, look no further than the limited number of women who even bother to darken the doorway of a driving school, job fair, or fleet recruiting office.

I’m not convinced the related answers are found in something like female-friendly truck spec’s. If anything, suggestions that women would be more likely to take a job involving automated transmissions and comfortable cabs is insulting. Almost every new driving candidate will look for such things. Most of the female truckers I know have no trouble matching their male peers gear for gear, either.

The solutions are not quite as simple as that. The answers will instead be found through open and honest conversations with women who are already in the industry. They’re the ones who will offer the best insights into unique challenges on the road – the places they feel unsafe, the hidden barriers that make women in the office question career paths. Ultimately any reason that would keep them from recommending a trucking career to a mother, a sister, a friend.

Every step to promote women in trades will make a difference of its own. Each young woman who benefits from a scholarship program at a training school can identify a path for peers. Recruiters who include images of women in their ads help to challenge the notion that trucking is a man’s world alone. Each visit by a female truck driver to a classroom might engage a young girl thinking about a future job in the trades.

It’s all about planting seeds rather than attempting to solve systemic issues overnight. But a trucking industry that ignores these steps will do so at its peril. There are plenty of other trades that are more than willing to recruit women into career paths of their own.

The good news is that gains are being realized. Several industry associations and programs have emerged in recent years specifically to address the barriers that are unique to the women of trucking, and shine a spotlight on those who have succeeded. Trucking HR Canada’s annual Women with Drive leadership summit is an example of that.

We’re also looking to play our own small part at Today’s Trucking. On March 8, coinciding with International Women’s Day, those who visit trucknews.com will find a wide array of articles exploring industry demographics, successful recruiting strategies, women-focused programs at local and national levels, and the success stories of female drivers and trucking executives alike.

Indeed, there are success stories to be found, even if we need more of them. Each is a sign of another crack in the glass ceiling. And there’s no room for a glass ceiling in a truck cab.

John G Smith

John G. Smith is the editorial director of Newcom Media's trucking and supply chain publications -- including Today's Trucking, trucknews.com, TruckTech, Transport Routier, Inside Logistics, Solid Waste & Recycling, and Road Today. The award-winning journalist has covered the trucking industry since 1995.

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  • Im not a woman but as a male trucker i hated the lack of facilities on the road especially Canada.
    I would not recommend this industry to any one let alone a woman because of lack of infastructure and facilities. I feel bad for the ladies who are driving out there.
    I been in this industry for a long long time over 45 years and covid made it even more difficult.
    As a male driver its crazy out there especially Sask. and Manitoba and Northern Ont. BC can be bad in certain situations.