In the past few years, more and more trucking companies have started to deal with a major driver shortage. The downside is that these shortages hurt the industry. They make the current drivers work overtime and sometimes they can end up losing efficiency. According to the American Trucking Associations the industry is facing a shortage of 48,000 drivers. This is due to, and increasingly because, baby boomers are starting to retire and the economy is on the upswing.
To fix this shortage companies have begun boosting pay, offering 401(k), and even tuition reimbursement programs. The effect has not been enough. Women only make about 6% of the driver workforce. This number is up from 4.5% just a few years ago. However, with nearly 50% of the total workforce in America being female, there is an obvious gap here.
Benefits for drivers and employers
And that’s where the need for female truckers comes into play. There are several benefits to recruiting more female drivers as well as marketing to them. Many companies are trying to put forward a more “female friendly image.” The macho-man truck driver image has permeated the industry for decades. However, in terms of long-haul drivers, the physical aspect of the job is not that high. The job is driving, will little to no heavy lifting required. The only physical aspect that may hinder some women driving big rigs is the average female height in America is 5’4”. Smaller women may not be able to get up into the cab or reach all the controls. Some companies such as Ryder System have “began leasing a female-friendly vehicle package.”
Some physical aspects are where the differences end. Since drivers are often paid by the mile or by the load, women drivers are paid equally. In a major company, a driver can make between $50,000 to $60,000 in their first year. Many companies also offer great benefits packages. On top of good pay, truck driving comes with a lot of freedom and the potential to see all 48 contiguous states!
There are many stories all around the country of women that successfully managed to fill truck driver gap. In some cases, women are more economical drivers. Female drivers statistically tend to have fewer accidents. When they are in accidents, they are less costly. This may be because women take less risks on the road or they are more attentive or possibly more focused than their male counterparts.
Team driving is a great opportunity for married couples. When working in teams, each driver can take turns driving for 12-hour shifts. This allows the truck to stay moving legally for 24hours a day. Although many women still face surprised truck drivers every day at truck stop, the cultural shift is slow but steady.
The changes are happening slowly. Women are still only a small fraction of the driver workforce. However, companies like Ryder Systems and Werner are already seeing the benefits. Making some small changes to marketing and making cabs slightly more female friendly (for very little cost) will help the industry fight the driver shortage. The long-term payoff is one that the trucking industry cannot risk passing up!