PLOVER, Wis. - If you were to ask someone to create a list of industries that have been historically male-dominated, no doubt the trucking industry would almost always find its way to the top. The lis...
PLOVER, Wis. – If you were to ask someone to create a list of industries that have been historically male-dominated, no doubt the trucking industry would almost always find its way to the top. The list would be essentially correct as well, with an estimated 90% of truckers presumed to be men.
Though there is still a fraction of female drivers who have spent years fighting to earn respect in the testosterone-heavy world of trucking – not to mention the dedicated group of women working in numerous other positions in the transportation sector – trucking has remained, for the most part, “a man’s job” in the eyes of both sexes.
With the constant need to recruit and retain qualified drivers, one would think more effort would have been put forth to attract more women to the industry. But with no formal association backing the cause, serious efforts to raise the female population in the transportation sector have never really gotten off the ground.
So after years of simply talking about starting an association, Ellen Voie finally took the initiative to create an outlet to encourage more women to join the industry, promote their accomplishments and help minimize obstacles: Women in Trucking.
“Mostly it’s to let women know that there are great career opportunities in the trucking industry,” says Voie, chairwoman of WIT, and manager of recruiting and retention programs at Schneider National. “I think a lot of women don’t realize that they could work for a trucking company, either in the office or as a recruiter or as a dispatcher and also as a driver. A lot of women have just never considered the trucking industry as a career option.”
Voie recently put together a board for the association, consisting of a “very progressive group of women” who have each already made their mark on the trucking industry. WIT was incorporated as a non-profit group shortly after and officially launched at the Truckload Carriers Association’s (TCA) annual convention in Las Vegas in early March. Including Voie, the board consists of many well-respected women from the industry, including representatives from TCA, American Trucking Associations, and Canadian Jayne Gunn from Challenger Motor Freight.
“I am honoured to have been elected to work with WIT and represent the organization on this side of the border,” said Gunn after her appointment. “The number of women entering the transportation industry is continuously increasing and we need a platform in which we can be heard.”
Though the group has only been operating a short time, it has already attracted some 200 members from across North America. Benefits for members, include networking opportunities and “knowing that there are other women out there facing the same challenges you face both in the truck and outside the truck,” as Voie says. “We’re going to be trying to educate women more on safety, opportunities in the industry, some of the things that carriers and OEMs are doing to help women.”
One OEM that is doing its part to help women overcome any physical barriers associated with driving a truck is International Truck and Engine, also an inaugural corporate sponsor of WIT. Dr. H. Lenora Hardee, International’s manager of human factors and ergonomics, and also treasurer for WIT, measured more than 2,000 drivers as part of her ergonomics research at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky. Her findings will be used to develop new truck designs, though past findings have already been put to use.
For instance, the new International ProStar incorporates several design features that assist women and other drivers, including a closer dashboard and lower shelving in the bunk. “We need the data to continue to improve our tractor design for women and smaller drivers, and we also can help grow membership in Women in Trucking,” Hardee says.
Voie says the group will also be approaching truck stops to do their part for women, even if it’s as simple as having more female toiletries or smaller-sized clothing available for sale in truck stop shops.
In addition to OEMs like International, other companies involved in the trucking industry have been joining, including KRTS Transportation Specialists in Caledonia, Ont.
“This is brilliant. One in 14 workers are women who are employed in jobs in the transportation industry. That is a big number,” says Kim Richardson, president of KRTS.
“With the increasing need for professionals at every level of our industry, WIT can play a major role in the positive advocacy of our industry.”
Though on the surface it might seem as though WIT is branding itself a “girls-only” group, Voie says it’s actually far from it. Men have been encouraged to join the group and many have done so already.
“I’ve often thought this industry is just wide open with opportunities for women, whether it’s driving or dispatching or working in the office or owning a trucking company, and I’d like to help promote that,” says Billy Vaughn, WIT member and owner/operator in Grapevine, Texas. “I don’t think there’s as big a stigma about women driving as there used to be. It’s still male-dominated industry, but it’s a lot more accepted to have women driving and a lot more respectful and appreciative of their abilities.”
For more information about WIT membership visit its Web site: womenintrucking.org.