Adding women to the mix

by Mike Millian

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.”

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  • It’s great to try and recruit woman drivers and just wanted to give some feed back on the ” recruiting woman truckers” but I feel some are not getting the whole stor and the reality of the job being a woman.. I have been driving truck for many years when woman were rarely seen out on the open road. I spent 3 years doing the reefer triangle and another 2 hauling flatbed on east coast. Then I raised my kids and while doing this did dispatching saftey and compliance and had my own business load brokering for 9 years. Went through a divorse and hit the road not thinking or knowing the dangers of a single woman in trucking. Packing a few clothes in my car and heading to the oil patch in alberta in 2006 spent 3 years doing camp rotations. Then I hauled logs in revelstoke BC for 6 months. I’ve hauled asphalt, propane bullets, over size camp shacks to name a few. What my honest advise is to a woman who is thinking of becoming a class 1 driver is to think about being tested daily at some jobs. Dont ever be ambitious and say I can work any where be away for how ever long cause kids are grown and dont have a husband or boyfriend, because some not all think that’s perfect to RIP you off from.your pay, give you the crappiest truck and routes because they think you are desperate for a job. Babied at others or put on the hardest runs to see what you are made of. I would say when I was younger I put up with a lot more and now not so much. With a perfect saftey record and clean abstract I dont have to and inspite of what some men have to say after I tell them to go **** yourself I have nothing to prove and know my trucks so dont tak to me like I’m retarded. What my gut tells me. Always listen to that and I believe my intuition has saved me a few times. Have ” thick skin” so you can take the ridicule and comments like” put your lockers on going down the hill especially around the muddy switch back” (LOL) really I thought and this was told to me by the boss himself. I did what I know and I Geared down from 4th to 3rd with no lockers on and let off my foot off the fuel pedal and glided around the muddy corner beautifully as all the trucks were waiting as I was loaded and had road rights. I smiled at all the guys gave them the big ole middle finger and kept trucking. My steady 12 years out on the road in different seasonal or contract positions All over north America has taught me this: I am always cautious and always listen and smile and then check my truck over from front to back before I jump in it. But that’s just me and came to do that picking up a truck from the shop that just had a saftey done I was behind in loads that day so checked the oil jumped in and went only to be broke down on my 1st load by something that should have not been passed in an inspection. It’s taken me years to realize that there are many that give thumbs up but a few that have a problem with a woman driving truck and taking jobs away that need to provide for their families. We can’t ignore that working out on the road has some other problems and companies need to be aware of those. I’ve been told to go back to the kitchen. Ive had comments that I am the mother trucker that gets.***** well if I didnt have sisu” and the attitude I do I would have probably quit years ago I’ve cried when I was told I was a joke on the radio because it was dark and pouring rain and I was doing 80 in a 90km zone. The trucker behind me asked what my problem was I told him nothing and that he could.pass me anytime and I would even tell him.when it was clear. He didnt and neither did the 5 trucks behind him. I said.i have 26 years of safe driving did he.? That’s when he commented I was a joke. No not a joke a truck driver and a safe professional truck driver. Its not easy for women out there and that’s the Cold hard fact. The fact is it’s not all Rose’s and ice cream. And I feel woman need to know before they go so they can be prepared. That’s all. It’s a great professional if some would just let you do your job. One more thing women dont need to swear and curse at men on the radio nothing sounds worse and if your not happy with your comapny dot tell the whole world on the radio either. Happy trucking! Smiles from Flatbed Annie from BC