TORONTO, Ont. — The Canadian trucking industry is in the midst of a demographic transformation, but it has had limited success increasing the number of women behind the wheel.
Only 3% of professional drivers and technicians are women, despite women being close to half of the nation’s workforce.
With a driver shortage threatening the industry’s livelihood, one common solution put forward has been trying to hire more women.
Many fleets have embraced this, and there is no shortage of benefits to adding women into your workplace, not the least of which is helping ease the effects of the driver shortage.
“The Canadian workforce generally is getting more diverse, and as a society we are more diverse,” said Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada. “As such, our workplaces need to reflect that. Women are still largely underrepresented in our industry, not just as drivers and technicians, which we know is quite low at 3%, however even in management level positions women are still largely underrepresented. We need to do more to reach out to women, in particular.”
According to a Trucking HR Canada business case study for diversity in trucking, the benefits of a diverse workplace include: fewer worker shortages, better retention and lower turnover, better employee health, increased productivity, and stronger branding.
Some fleets are recognizing this, and some are even seeing the many benefits of hiring outside of one pool and identifying diversity as one of their competitive advantages.
There are a number of programs and best practices fleets and associations are executing to help make equal representation in trucking a reality.
Women Building Futures (WBF) is an organization that is dedicated to helping to prepare women get into economically prosperous careers in industries where women are underrepresented. To date, WBF has an employment rate of 90%, and is actively helping women get into trucking careers today.
“At WBF, we train for employment because our mission is economic prosperity for women through training and employment,” Megan Bates, manager of industry relations at WBF said. “We know many women are under- or unemployed and that there have been barriers for them to get into industries like construction and transportation, and some of that is a lack of education and awareness. So, number one, why we exist is to help women become economically stable. From pre-program to first employment with us…the average increase in income is 158%. We are significantly changing lives. We want to make sure women everywhere can be employed in any industry they wish.”
In 2017, WBF launched a pilot program for Class 1 drivers.
“We pulled together a panel of industry experts to help us build it. We really wanted to create something that was of true value to industry and would include things that would ensure success. So, it took about a year of development until we launched,” she said.
The program is an eight-week tuition-paid development training program that assists the student enter the commercial transportation industry as a Class 1 professional driver. The program includes ride-alongs, scale visits, courses on food and nutrition and close to 60 hours of in-truck driver training.
Caron Transportation is one of the carriers that has benefited from the WBF program.
“Transportation as a whole industry – there’s no driver pool,” said Mikayla Kesseler, the human resources generalist for Caron. “Nobody is getting into the industry. People don’t know it’s a great industry to be a part of. So when WBF came to us, we thought this is great, women are an untapped market in trucking. The program has been really good for us.
Seven of the 22 graduates of the program currently work for us. And we have two more trying to work for us. So, by the end of 2018 we should have upwards of 10 ladies from the program working for us. The program really prepares ladies for entry into this industry. They learn all facets of trucking.”
Shelley Uvanile-Hesch, the CEO of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, uses her new white and purple truck to attract women to trucking.
Earlier this year, Uvanile-Hesch revealed her new ride, a Western Star 5700 XE wrapped with photos of women who are a part of her organization.
“The truck is a big eye-catcher,” she said. “I’ve been hitting a lot of truck shows and job fairs especially this summer. What we’re trying to do with the truck, is promote dialogue for women in the transportation industry.”
Uvanile-Hesch said that the federation’s Facebook page works as a dual program for attracting and retaining drivers.
“We find a lot of women reach out to us through our Facebook page asking us how they can get started in the industry,” she said. “They ask us for training schools, carrier recommendations. For new women, they are really focused on company culture and safe equipment. Our major goal is to promote and encourage women into the industry. It doesn’t matter whether they’re in the office, under the hood, or behind the wheel. We feel strongly that the industry would benefit with more women in it, in all the roles that are there. We believe working and socializing together at all levels will make us stronger as an industry. We need to start working together, instead of against each other. We can all learn from everyone.”
XTL Transport is a champion in terms of hiring and promoting women in trucking. Thirty per cent of XTL’s executive group is comprised of women, and it thrives on the belief that when it comes to hiring, quality is the most important factor.
“Our philosophy is to be as open to any candidates as possible,” explained Kamilia Baroudi, director of human resources at XTL. “During the hiring process, we don’t look at age, gender, race, whether they are handicapped or not. For us, it’s about quality. We look at their skills. We look at what they can bring to the company.”
Baroudi added that having so many female executives at the helm has creating a positive domino effect in the office.
“I’ve noticed that having so many women in XTL has just helped recruit other women,” she said. “People are really happy to talk to women and to be managed by women. They’re very happy. We have a few women drivers and they’re really happy to work for us and they’re really happy to refer women for us. XTL is very diverse and we want to make sure we stay that way for years to come.”