Trucking Industry

Engage: Support Platform For Women Creates Sense of Community

If you’re a woman working in the trucking industry, the Women in Trucking Association wants you to know you’re not alone.

In an effort to create opportunities for more peer-to-peer support, WIT recently announced the launch of its online community platform for members – Engage. The platform encourages mentoring among its members, while fostering a sense of community through collaboration in various core community groups and providing opportunities for education and career advancement. Members will have the opportunity to join community groups based on their fields or occupations within the trucking industry – such as professional drivers, business leaders, operations professionals, sales and marketing professionals and human resources/talent management personnel.

Through these various groups, members can ask questions, share ideas and experiences, discuss challenges and offer each other solutions through best practices. Ellen Voie, president of the 4,000-member Women in Trucking Association, said Engage will empower members to create invaluable knowledge hubs and networks. The platform will also help WIT to better understand its members and their needs and develop ways to provide them more value, she added.

The platform offers an opportunity for the trucking industry not only to attract, but also, and perhaps more importantly, retain the women who have joined the ranks of professional truck drivers. The most recent count of female drivers stands at just above 6% of the trucking industry’s 3.5 million drivers. That’s a 1.1 percentage point improvement over 2016, which saw that percentage drop to its lowest since 2011. In an op-ed column published on Trucks.com in 2016, Voie explained how the percentage of women involved in the trucking industry has hovered at between 4 and 6 percent for nearly two decades. She also offered some reasons as to why the number of women in trucking dropped in 2016.

Why the drop in the percentage of women drivers in 2016?
While some hurdles are created by the regulatory environment, Voie pointed out that some are created, sometimes inadvertently, by the industry itself. Problems such as:

  • Truck cabs built and spec’d to fit the larger physical size of a man;
  • Requiring trainers of female driver trainees to be female so a trainee shares bunk space while out on the road only with another woman. Such policies were enacted to prevent potential sexual harassment issues;
  • Expecting female driver recruits to share sleeping facilities with men during their training.

Voie recounted how she created a poll on the Women in Trucking Facebook page after hearing about that last problem from a recruit who has signed up for training at a trucking school. After looking at the poll’s results, she discovered to her surprise that 10% of respondents said they were also required to share sleeping facilities with men during their training.

Embrace the differences between Martians and Venusians
“Instead of ignoring the fact that men and women are physically and emotionally different, let’s embrace the differences and work on making the environment better for all drivers,” she wrote.

It’s clear that WIT intends for the Engage platform to embrace the differences by offering women opportunities to share their experiences and draw strength and wisdom from each other. Voie quite rightly pointed out in her column, WIT’s mission – to increase the percentage of women employed in the trucking industry, will continue to help solve the industry’s shortage of drivers. Without actions like WIT’s establishment of a professional support group for women, the shortage may only get worse. After all, with freight volumes accelerating, there were 50,000 more drivers needed at the end of 2017 than there were available in the labor market. That shortage grew by 37% from 2016 and is expected to triple in 10 years, according to ATA chief economist Bob Costello.

Industry’s efforts to make trucking more appealing may stem the tide
If the shortage were to hit 100,000, Costello warns of the potential for product shortages, delivery delays and other serious disruptions to the nation’s supply chain and economy. Motor carriers are working to address the issue through driver incentives, pay raises, easing the transition to trucking for returning veterans and reducing the age limit requirement through a graduated licensing system.

Efforts to make trucking a more appealing opportunity for young people, returning veterans and women and to provide a professional support group for women may help avert the problems Costello has identified.