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What Keeps Women Out of Driver’s Seat

3 min read

One way the trucking industry can combat the ongoing driver shortage is by recruiting more women into the workforce.

Many women seem interested in the job, too, although they have some concerns about the industry. Six of those concerns were detailed in a recent report issued by the American Transportation Research Institute, a nonprofit group covering the trucking industry.

Those six challenges, the ATRI said in its June study, “Identifying and Mitigating the Challenges Faced by Women Truck Drivers,” include a negative perception of the industry, harassment and discrimination, and shortages of safe parking and clean restrooms.

The ATRI surveyed 1,500 drivers in January with the gender makeup approximately 50-50, and the group also surveyed motor carrier company personnel. The report summarized the top “core challenges” for women as truck drivers.

Determining exactly how many women are part of the truck driving workforce is difficult. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics said 6.9% of truck drivers in 2023 were women, down from 8.1% in 2022.

The ATRI said the BLS numbers include noncommercial truck drivers, and it estimated the percentage of women serving in the commercial field was between 2.6% and 3.2%. Pumping up those numbers would benefit everyone, and not just because an ATRI report in 2022 found that women are safer truck drivers than men in “every statistically significant category.”

“The discipline and patience that women bring to trucking are invaluable assets for motor carriers and roadway safety initiatives,” the report said.

So why is trucking having trouble attracting women? It is an industry that should appeal to women because driver pay is more equitable. That’s because a driver gets paid based on experience, miles driven and the load delivered.

Women drivers said competitive pay (55.3% of respondents) was the most important factor for them, followed by flexible hours and routes (35.4%). In a disconnect with companies, only 9.4% of women drivers consider getting home every night important, but 48% of companies thought it was an important issue for women.

Finances, though, make becoming a driver difficult for many women, and many men as well. Driving schools can cost several thousand dollars, and the report said many women struggle with paying for driver education. A lack of knowledge about trucks also hurts.

Interviews at driving schools revealed that women are considered excellent students: They are more likely to ask questions and ask for assistance.

The women surveyed, when asked what problems they faced daily, said lack of exercise facilities (42.2%), parking (41.1%) and restrooms (39.1%) were most frequent. Those three issues were high among men, too, although at a much lower percentage overall.

Parking is a national concern, of course, for every truck driver. The ATRI said a 2019 survey found that there was just one parking spot for every 11 drivers on the road.

The federal government is working to ease this problem. U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, recently got $200 million in funding for parking put in a bill that goes up for a vote this month. The Arkansas Department of Transportation opened a $6 million, 84-spot parking facility in West Memphis a year ago.

Women told ATRI they struggle finding places to park and use the restroom, which the report said was a sign that women use the restroom where they park. Illegal truck parking — for example, on an exit ramp — can be dangerous from an accident or a personal-safety point of view.

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