Whether you like it or not, trucking is changing. The industry is short about 60,000 drivers, which could double in 10 years as the current generation of truckers retire. The ongoing driver shortage is forcing fleets to think outside the box and attract non-traditional candidates into the driver pool. Historically, truck drivers have been mostly men, but more women have been joining in the industry over the last decade. Attracting “new blood” into a career into trucking won’t be the same as age-old hiring and retention methods, as female truck drivers have different priorities and needs. Here are four ways to appeal to female truck drivers and embed them into your fleet.
Importance of Appealing to Female Drivers
Despite comprising 47% of the population, women hold only about 6% of truck driving jobs. This means there is a massive pool of untapped potential in the workforce which could address the driver shortage.
The data suggest that women alone could fix the driver shortage if those numbers increased
This issue has been so prevalent in transportation and logistics circles, that it was even featured on NPR earlier this year. Having a fleet with female drivers has plenty of benefits. According to Ellen Voie, President and CEO of Women in Trucking, women tend to stay with fleets longer, engage in less risky driving, and value team collaboration and goal achievement.
So how could carriers appeal to female truck drivers? First, carriers need to recognize that women drivers will have concerns which are slightly different from male drivers. Since trucking has been a male-dominated profession for so long, many of the policies, rules, and norms have developed accordingly. Making trucking a more appealing profession for women means questioning why things have always been a certain way and demonstrating a willingness to change them when needed. One of the biggest differences between male and female drivers is their reason for turnover. While men cite home time as the top reason, women cite a few others. Women were most concerned about the quality of equipment, the issue of safety, and poor relationships with coworkers. Let’s see how carriers can address these one at a time.
The concern over equipment is two-fold. First, consider the ergonomics of the cab. Truck cabs are generally built to fit the physical size of a larger man. It can be difficult for some women to reach the controls or get the seats adjusted into a comfortable position while keeping their feet on the pedals. The same could actually be said for a male of smaller stature.
How well the truck cab will fit an average female physique will impact whether women drivers will feel comfortable on the job
Second, there’s the issue of truck maintenance. Women drivers say they want a piece of equipment that they can count on, so that they don’t break down on the side of the road. Carriers can take many steps to address these problems. Apart from investing in newer and better equipment, carriers can also purchase cabin accessories, or make mechanical adjustments in the cabin to better accommodate female drivers. Carriers can also either provide simple mechanical training to female drivers or offer that company mechanics will always walk them through any troubleshooting in the form of real-time roadside assistance.
Another reason which female truck drivers cite for leaving a carrier is that of safety, whether that be on the road or in the truck itself. Research shows that women tend to be safer truck drivers who abide by the speed limits and get into fewer accidents. Meanwhile, technology is making trucks safer and easier to drive, which is good news for any new driver. Some new trucks don’t require shifting, and on-board systems watch the lanes and even apply the brakes automatically. While veteran drivers might be resistant to such technology, women embrace it.
The result is a safer and more comfortable driver behind the wheel.
A second issue of safety is one that women of all ages and backgrounds are aware of. Safety from physical harm or the threat of sexual violence is important for all women but affects female truck drivers in unique ways. A truck driver’s lifestyle is in constant flux since they are always on the road. Female truck drivers may find themselves in unsafe or uncomfortable situations at truck stops, or shipper/receiver locations. People may react skeptically or negatively to solo female drivers and voice this in an aggressive manner. Women in Trucking has been working with several truck stops to make them more friendly to women drivers. Carriers can also aid in this effort, by pointing out which truck stops are safest, and which should be avoided.
Women also tend to leave trucking for reasons of work relationships. Specifically, female drivers stay longer if they have a good relationship with their dispatcher, but will leave quicker if that becomes difficult. Dispatchers and fleet managers are the people that drivers interact with most so it follows that women would cite them. It’s not hard to imagine that female drivers may not be fully accepted into the trucking culture and lifestyle. Similar difficulties in relationships may arise with others such as shippers, receivers, fellow drivers, and even recruiters. The problem is a workplace culture that hasn’t been pro-woman enough in the past and is suddenly facing new changes.
The good news is that carriers can lead the way in changing the culture, improving workplace relationships, and making women feel more accepted
Pairing female recruits with other women drivers during training creates a comfort level that is helpful to integrate them into the job. Similarly, carriers can create a women’s driver social group for female drivers to share advice and advocate for their concerns. Companies can also design pro-woman driver awareness campaigns to emphasize the importance of women to dispatchers, male-drivers, and other co-workers. Small steps like these are not just a good marketing move for carriers, but also signal to the industry and other women that you’re serious about hiring more female truck drivers, changing the culture, and making women feel welcome in trucking.