Are Female Truck Drivers the Answer?

Clearly there is a worker shortage in many fields and as truck drivers are a crucial link in the struggling supply chain of goods to customers, there is a huge need for truck drivers in general. As an industry they are trying to hire ten thousand drivers immediately.

Even before the global pandemic logistics companies were being squeezed and they were running out of drivers. One reason is the number of accidents caused by tired drivers, or those suffering heart attack or stroke while behind the wheel. As a result, new health standard made trucking an industry likely to retire you at an earlier age. While the average nurse is over 50 the average truck driver is now 46.

New Truck Drivers

The average age of someone becoming a truck driver is 35, and a number of them are women—more than ever before. It seems many men have left the profession before the pandemic have yet to return. ZipRecruiter says that 83% of drivers are men probably because women don’t consider it a good industry for them, but this may be subject to change.

It isn’t just men leaving that creates extra demand for drivers. Home delivery is up as much as 43% over pre-pandemic days.

One of the main reasons that women might be attracted to the job is that it is fairly well paid. While many careers still require a college degree in order to achieve a well-paid position driving truck falls more into the category of a trade, where a short time of special training and a couple certifications can get you started and additional certifications along the way will open doors to increased opportunity. In other words it can be a faster change than say joining the medical field.

Another reason is that traditionally female dominated industries, like supermarket, retail jobs, and restaurant jobs were hit hardest by the pandemic which put a lot of women into the job search right when trucking needed to hire. The economic instability created a good environment for many people to consider a change of industry.

Yet another reason for women to switch to truck driving is that women already filled a bigger percentage of other CDL (commercial driver’s licence) positions. For those women who already drive minibuses or coaches, a truck isn’t that big a leap.

Short Haul vs Long Haul

Traditionally, male and female workers have shown different priorities in job selection. For example, women doctors are sometimes hesitant to pursue medical specialties, like plastic surgery, instead choosing to stay with family medicine, in order to leave the door open for family planning.

So as women enter trucking driving they are opting for short haul jobs, which keeps them near their families. It’s also a more competitive arena.

Long haul, or OTR for over the road as it’s often called, can make more money and is better suited to Owner Operators. The downside is that your are gone from your family most of the time. In other words because it’s lucrative but difficult and uncomfortable so it attracts drivers willing to buy their own rig instead of working as an employee.

The net effect is that it’s unlikely for women see the most money in their industry. Situations like this are what skew the statistics and make the pay gap between men and women seem larger than it may actually be.

It’s not just family consideration at play in their preference for local routes. While many women are adventurous and tough female truckers rated their safety as 4.4 out of 10 (which may be thought as the equivalent to “fairly unsafe”) in a recent survey. Long haul routes carry a greater potential risk and may be less desirable to anyone who is motivated by security. We’re not saying women are risk averse as a gender, actually statistics indicate it. Women get in fewer accidents which is attributed to a more cautious approach to driving, which is correlated to a lower tolerance for risk in general.

While there is no reason a female truck driver couldn’t do the OTR work they may not find it worth the money.

The Bad News for Any Driver

The bad news is that driving all day is a sedentary lifestyle, sitting in one position all day may lead to blood clots. It can also lead to injuries and fatalities due to accidents of some sort. Not everyone is well suited to driving for ten hours in a 24 hours period, and it’s easy to lose focus. Not that the truck driver is to automatically blame. Driving carries the risk of getting in a wreck so the more you drive the more likely you are to be involved in one, and the more likely you are to be injured in one.

Less drastically, It’s also quite a lonely job with irregular hours. Drivers are more likely to smoke or be obese but there are fitness companies out there which market themselves to truck drivers.

Still the Trend is Changing

In most employment fields, women are growing in numbers and trucking is following suit. Sexual harassment may be a problem since they are still a minority and it’s been a male dominated occupation for a long time. A smart trucking company would implement some training and policies to insulate themselves from potential actions taken by their employees.

A smart female truck driver who became an owner operator or one who took on OTR routes consider taking some self-defence.

Most female truck drivers we’ve talked to tell us it’s not too bad if you have a thick skin and set boundaries. They do not feel they are treated the same as men but acknowledge that it is getting rapidly better.

The practicalities of driving a cab for women is a trending topic of discussed online. It’s no longer difficult to find decorations that might appeal to women to customize the cab. Many designs can be seen on TikTok and Instagram.

As a side note, women are also applying for jobs such as driver managers and have excelled as CDL trainers. Some female truck drivers do earn an income north of six figures.

Time will tell if they take on training for specialty endorsements like hazardous waste or oversized loads in larger numbers, but it’s it’s likely that the trucking industry as a whole is heading toward a 50/50 workforce.

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