To continue our discussion from Part 1, I’m interested to know which women are driving in the industry today and how to encourage more women to sign up. Currently women make up less than 6% of truck drivers in North America. In the face of a looming driver shortage, I’m concerned that there aren’t more women entering the workforce. The trucking lifestyle is not for everyone, but is it more difficult for women to buy into the lifestyle and make a career of it? Are there challenges inherent to women that keep them from considering trucking as a viable profession? I’ve had the opportunity to converse with a number of women truck drivers. I’m always asking how they found their way into trucking and it seems that many of them share similar experiences.
There is definitely a contingent of women who simply have trucking in their blood. Some said their dad drove truck and a few of the ladies I spoke to said that most of the men in their family drove truck going back a few generations. They grew up fascinated by trucks and admiring those in their life who drove and took pride in their ride and profession. I’m not sure if it’s the same today with all this technology occupying young minds, but back in the day, I can see how a girl in a trucking family could be intrigued and hope to someday emulate those in her family who drove. Some of these women even started their careers by teaming up with dad or an uncle when they were old enough to get their CDL. It’s a lot tougher to start out in trucking on your own, so having someone close to you to show you the ropes and mentor you for the first couple of years can really make a difference.
Another group of women expressed how they grew up on a farm and learned how to drive and operate a tractor and farm machinery at a young age. Driving truck can be a daunting proposition, so I understand how these women might feel more comfortable with the notion of driving a big rig and not having the same hang-ups as those who have never operated heavy equipment. Traditionally, farm work was said to be “man’s work” although a lot of women who grew up on farms worked just as hard and got their hands just as dirty as anyone else. Many have had the same sentiment in terms of trucking, albeit not so much in the present day, but with trucking being considered a male profession, perhaps women who grow up on farms aren’t as concerned by the idea of working in a male dominated profession.
Some of the women I know started driving truck with their spouse and this is something we see more often in the industry today. A portion of these ladies have a husband who drives truck and once their kids were grown and responsibilities at home changed, it was a great option to join their hubby on the road. Perhaps that’s why the “average female truck driver is 52-years-old” (roadking.com). Driving team together can be a lucrative choice for couples since they have shared expenses in life and have twice the earning potential by driving
together. I’ve even heard of a husband and wife team who started out driving together as a young couple, and as children came into the picture, they would trade off driving and staying home until their kids were grown. At that point, they went back on the road together as a team. They drove hard for the next 10 years, retired, and now spend their winters vacationing in Mexico!
Picture courtesy of roadking.com
There is also a category of female drivers who simply took a chance on trucking as a new career. They were ready for a change and maybe worked in a male dominated field already and didn’t shy away for reasons like that. Again, based on the average age of women truckers, you can surmise that some women looked to trucking once their children were grown and they had the flexibility to be on the road and perhaps earn better money than before.
Now I have a better sense of which women are more likely work as a truck driver, but what is the next step? What should the industry be doing to usher in the next generation? We’ll discuss that in part 3 of Asphalt Cowgirls.