According to the American Trucking Association, only 6.6% of truck drivers are women. That number is up 68% since 2010, but at Roane Transportation, we don’t believe that’s nearly enough. Transportation is one of the only truly equal pay industries—truck drivers are paid by the mile or hour, regardless of gender. But many women still have concerns about their safety while travelling alone on the road or about entering a male-dominated field. Below, we address many of these concerns and provide some tips to help women truckers stay safe.
Women in the Trucking Industry
While women traditionally make up a mere pittance of America’s nearly 3.5 million truck drivers, their numbers are growing. Multiple non-profit agencies, including Women in Trucking Association and Real Women in Trucking, are trying to attract women to the industry to solve a real, growing problem: the truck driver shortage.
The transportation industry has been reporting a truck driver shortage since 2005. The latest data estimates there were upwards of 70,000 more driving jobs than there were drivers last year. While there has been real progress made in automated truck driving in the last 5 years, most industry insiders don’t anticipate artificial intelligence replacing truck drivers any time in the next decade. The industry sees women as a real growth area because they are so underrepresented in trucking.
Most of the women entering trucking are between 39 and 59 years old, and there are many women older than 60 who still drive. Stature does not usually affect a driver’s ability to control the vehicle, but women should note that the truck cab was designed for men (not-so-fun fact: so are all automobile safety standards).
Trucking is an Equal Pay Industry
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median salary for truckers at $47,130, making it one of the highest paid jobs that doesn’t require a degree. Some drivers are paid hourly, and experienced owner-operator truckers can charge a percentage of revenue from the load. Usually, entry level truck drivers are paid cents per mile (CPM), however.
Take note that legally you can only drive 11 hours per day and up to 70 hours per week. If you’re paid by CPM, you won’t be compensated for parts of the job like:
- Cleaning off truck bed or inside trailers before they’re loaded
- Moving tailer tandems to comply with state bridge laws
- Counting freight
- Waiting for shippers/receivers
The good news is, in an effort to attract more drivers, some fleets are offering incentives like:
Per Diem Pay: to cover expenses like meals
Detention Pay: to cover time lost for shipper or receiver delays
Accessorial Pay: to compensate for non-driving tasks like wrapping pallets and loading/unloading freight
Stop Pay: to compensate for loads that require multiple stops
Fleets are also providing safety and efficiency bonuses, as well as benefits packages.
The Challenges of Being a Woman Truck Driver
If being a female truck driver were easy, there would be more out there. The industry is making great strides to address areas in need of change, but new women drivers should be aware of a few challenges:
Truck Cabs are Designed for Men: The average American man measures 5 feet 10 inches, and the average American woman measures 5 feet 4 inches. According to Women in Trucking, female truck drivers weigh 25% less than male truck drivers as well. These differences in stature can make truck cabs more difficult to maneuver or less comfortable for female drivers.
The good news: Some fleet companies, like Ryder System, offer vehicle designs customizable to better meet female drivers’ needs.
Lack of Facilities on the Road: Truck stop facilities also center around men, and it can be difficult to find safe, private showers for women on the road. Many women prefer to avoid truck stops all together.
The good news: Truck stop services are improving. Travel center and fueling companies see the potential and the need to attract more truck drivers, and they are upping their game on safety and cleanliness.
Sexism and Harassment: We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that as a male-dominated field, there can be quite a bit of sexism and harassment in truck driving. Women trucker drivers report anything from teasing over cab radios to sexual misconduct in training programs and on the road.
The good news: Female representatives like Women in Trucking’s Ellen Voie are advocating with transportation executives to be aware of male-oriented workplace bias. The industry is moving away from co-ed training bunks, and emergency alerts and GPS fleet management software offer real-time safety tracking and response.
How to stay safe on the road as a female (or male) truck driver
Trucking organizations are increasingly offering counseling about how to stay safe, along with mentorship programs and forums where drivers can discuss things like health, safety and work-life balance. Women drivers aren’t the only beneficiaries either. These services improve a demanding yet rewarding job for everyone. Some safety tips for all truckers include:
Always Lock Your Doors: Even when you’re driving. Even if you just step out of the cab for a minute, lock your doors. It’s too easy to get distracted and put yourself at risk and too easy a safety tip not to make a constant habit.
Keep the Cab A Safe Space: Meeting and greeting with other truckers or folks you encounter on the road is one of the perks of long-haul trucking. But experienced women truckers caution: keep socialization out in the open. Don’t invite anyone into your cab, and don’t go into theirs.
Stay in Lighted Areas: This safety tip runs across the board for all travelers, but especially women. Always take routes to and from your truck that are well-lit and choose the parking spaces directly underneath lights when you can.
Park in the Pack: Always park in the front or middle of the lot if there are available spaces. If you drive with a large company or fleet, try to park near your co-workers to gain some safety in numbers.
Bring Your Own Food: This isn’t possible for every long haul, but when you can pack your food in a cooler (or even minifridge in some newer cabs), do so. It’s not only safer than late-night diners, it’s also healthier…though sometimes not as delicious.
Plan Your Stops: Any trucker worth their salt will be planning their route well ahead of time, but don’t forget to research the truck stops along the way and read reviews—specifically reviews from women—about their safety and cleanliness. Cutting your day an hour or two short for a more restful stop can definitely be worth it.
Make it Look Like You Aren’t Alone: Simple tricks like putting a team driving sticker on your truck or keeping the bunk curtains pulled can make shady characters think twice about whether or not you might be alone.
Join an Organization: We mentioned a few earlier, including the Women in Trucking Association, Real Women in Trucking and American Trucking Association that can offer advice, support, comradery and resources.
Truck Driver Jobs at a Transportation Company in East Tennessee
With the right preparation, skills, and support, female flatbed and CDL drivers are enjoying safe, thriving careers. The transportation industry is ready for them and is on a journey to change old norms and welcome a new wave of women truckers.
Are you ready to start a career with high pay and great benefits with a supportive, empowering company? Roane Transportation is a transportation company in East Tennessee, and we are always looking to hire passionate, dedicated flatbed truck drivers. Currently, our top areas where we need to hire are East TN; Nashville, TN; Atlanta, GA; and Charlotte, NC. We offer industry-leading pay and excellent benefits to all of our truck drivers, plus guaranteed weekly home time. Our equipment is state-of-the-art to ensure the safety of our drivers and the loads they carry. With our national, regional, and local fleets, you are sure to find the perfect fit with our company. If you are interested in becoming a part of our flatbed trucking team, give us a call today at 865-354-3288 or apply online.