Of the many professions in America today, trucking stands out as one where gender roles are often defined. Men have been thought to have the inherited traits of independence, strength, and resourcefulness needed in a job that demands long hours, upsetting traffic and road conditions, and days away from home. Truckers today still must possess the traits that were required 50 years ago, however, women have been the single largest group to enter the industry in the last decade. In the last ten years, women truckers have swelled by more than 50% and even more are expected to enter trucking as a career choice. Of the 3 million truckers on the road today, it’s estimated that over 200,000 are women.
The stereotypes of women truckers are disappearing and many of the larger over the road (OTR) freight companies are seeing the benefit in women truckers with few challenges. A recent study showed that women truckers were 3 times less likely to be involved in an accident and 5 times less likely to violate safety regulations compared to their male colleagues.
Coupled with the Bureau of Labor Statistics data that expect a driver shortage of more than 200,000 drivers by the year 2021, it appears anyone who chooses commercial driving as a career will find steady employment. This bears out since many trucking companies are recruiting new drivers. Needless to say, as more women become CDL certified, more companies will pursue them, with higher salaries for experienced and accident free drivers. These new women drivers will be more independent, better trained, and well educated, which all leads to a more professional driver.
OTR driving is a job that empowers the person in the driver’s seat and one can only see the benefits after several years of experience. Poor loads, unrealistic schedules, and long days away from home take a toll on rookie OTR drivers. Like most who enter driving as a career, women should consider a partner driver who already has some experience. This will avoid the extra cost and headache that comes with driving for a living, especially if you’re an independent or less than truckload (LTL) driver. Many women drivers join their spouse or significant other on the road. Aside from increasing the effectiveness of a team driving operation, they have the companionship of each other.
Once CDL certified, the real work of driving begins and women should prepare themselves for the poor behavior that sometimes accompanies a work environment that has little or no supervision on the road. Citizen Band radio and truck stops are the two primary meeting locations for fellow truckers. CB’s are a great tool for understanding construction delays, weigh station delays, and best fuel prices. It can also be a distraction with the constant chatter, insults, and flirtations. The best advice from many women drivers is too simply turn off the radio if it becomes a nuisance. On the other hand, truck stops can be a nice respite from the road that provides a place for a meal and a shower. Eating a healthy diet is becoming easier, with many truck stops and travel plazas offering fare catering to many diet plans and appetites. Also, most truck stops have reward programs for shower use and offer a clean, safe environment. Good truck stops look out for their customers and provide a well-maintained and secure business. Any problems can be addressed to the management, who rely on their reputation with OTR drivers.