While trucking has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, more and more women are entering the field and graduating from CDL (commercial driver’s license) programs. In addition to the many benefits of this career, this trend is being driven by the truck driver shortage across the country. If you’re a woman looking to pursue a CDL, here’s what you need to know.
Why Are Women & Trucking Such a Good Match?
Women aren’t just joining the trucking industry because of the driver shortage, which is expected to grow from 60,800 drivers to 160,000 by 2028, according to American Trucking Associations; trucking companies are recruiting women because of what they bring to the job.
For one, women are safer drivers. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, men cause around two million more crashes per year than women do. Additionally, because men are more prone to taking risks and displaying aggressive behaviors, they’re more likely to get traffic tickets and DUIs. Also, women are known for diligently caring for their trucking equipment and being easy to train, according to Ellen Voie, the CEO of the Women in Trucking Association.
Second, female truck drivers are meticulous and pay close attention to seemingly minor details. Thus, they’re successful at documenting mileage and time spent on the road, managing their time, and carefully following their routes.
Finally, trucking companies love the enthusiasm that women bring to the job. They often ask for extra tasks and thrive off of challenging themselves.
Why Are More Women Pursuing Trucking Careers?
High Salaries & Equal Pay
Since pay in the trucking industry is based on miles driven and the load, female truck drivers earn just as much as their male colleagues.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a truck driver was $43,680 in 2018. This is higher than many other jobs that don’t require a college degree, such as a home health aide or food service professional.
Plus, the earning potential is practically unlimited. In fact, owner-operators make over $220,000 on average, according to TruckDriversSalary.com. On top of that, drivers don’t need to pay for a four-year degree, saving them from unnecessary debt.
In addition to high salaries, many trucking companies offer generous benefits, including paid vacation and holidays; health and dental insurance; regular cost-of-living raises; direct deposit options; in-house maintenance; and employer 401(k) match programs.
Trucking offers women a variety of advancement opportunities, and many move up the ranks quickly, becoming on-site supervisors and dispatchers. In fact, according to CDL.com, females hold 23% of management positions even though they make up a relatively small percentage of the industry workforce.
Extra Benefits for Veterans
With more women serving in the armed forces, many female truck drivers can benefit from the veteran programs that trucking companies often offer. For example, they may pay for a percentage of your CDL training or work with the Veterans Administration to ensure you earn extra money each paycheck via the GI Bill.
For many people, the idea of sitting in an office all day can be daunting. Trucking allows drivers to travel, explore the country, and see some of the most beautiful sites in North America. In addition to waking up in a different part of the country every day, the routes can take you anywhere from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Rocky Mountains and Lake Tahoe.
No one understands trucking quite like another driver, as the job and lifestyle are unique. This makes it easy to bond with others in the field and make life-long friends. Plus, with more and more women joining the industry, you’ll have opportunities to connect and build business and personal relationships with like-minded individuals who value hard work.
Tips for Women
While trucking offers many opportunities for women, there are also obstacles. Some female truck drivers lack the confidence to advocate for themselves in a male-dominated industry. For example, men ask for raises and promotions more often. However, women are just as likely to succeed if they ask to move up and make more money.
If you don’t feel confident, fake it until you make it, and don’t be afraid to go after opportunities that come your way.
Unfortunately, the trucking industry isn’t immune to sexual harassment or discrimination. While these issues aren’t the norm, it’s still crucial to take steps to stay safe. Avoid situations that wave a red flag. For instance, if you’re paired with a male driver during training, and you aren’t comfortable, ask for a new partner.
Additionally, always lock your truck doors, avoid confrontations with other drivers, and park in well-lighted areas. Finally, take a self-defense class to protect yourself, and try to only drive during the day; pulling over to an empty gas station or rest stop can be dangerous at night.
While trucking accidents do happen, they can often be avoided by taking safety measures. Always wear your seatbelt, as you’re required to by law, and it will protect you against injury. Also, don’t speak on your cell phone while driving to prevent distractions. Likewise, avoid taking drugs and consuming alcohol, as they can lead to accidents or DUIs, as well as cost you your job. If you take prescription drugs, make sure they don’t cause fatigue or drowsiness.
Be mindful of your truck’s height and width while changing lanes, going under overpasses, and parking. Leaving enough space will help prevent common trucking accidents. Additionally, always follow the speed limit—which is often different for trucks—and drive slowly during inclement weather, such as snowstorms. In particular, reduce your speed when driving on a curvy road or making turns.
To reduce unexpected issues, carefully study your route before leaving, keep track of weather conditions, and pay attention to how many hours you should be driving each day.
Eat healthy options and get seven to nine hours of sleep to ensure you stay alert on the road. Avoid sugary foods and drinks, as they can lead to drowsiness. Instead, stock up on items, such as oatmeal, bananas, and granola bars. Finally, park your truck in a quiet area, use an eye mask, and get a white noise machine to block out noises while you sleep.
The Future of Women in Trucking
With the growing demand for drivers, trucking companies are increasingly looking to women to fill open positions. In fact, the number of females working as drivers grew by 68% between 2010 and 2018, according to the American Trucking Association.
Employers are using several strategies to recruit more women into the industry, including social media marketing and event sponsorships. For example, some companies are targeting events for motorcycle enthusiasts, as female riders are often interested in life on the road.
Many trucking businesses are making it easier for women to succeed in the industry. For example, they now provide truck seats that are easily adjustable to ensure they suit female drivers. Also, new hood technologies make it easy for anyone to open the engine cover; in the past, it took extreme physical effort, forcing some women to ask for help to perform this task.
Updated mirrors and truck designs have improved visibility, making it easier for shorter female drivers to see the road. Finally, women no longer have to worry about loading and unloading their vehicles, as technology has automated these tasks.
Improved truck stops are attracting more women to the industry. Female drivers don’t have to worry about grimy showers, dirty public bathrooms, or poor lighting. Many stops now provide showers with homey touches like flowers, as well as benches to make it easy for women to shave their legs. Plus, newer showerheads offer a more comfortable experience, as do the bath and face towels many stops provide.
Truck stops have also improved the features female restrooms offer, including art on the walls, non-abrasive soaps for wiping off grease, and decorations for the holiday season. Finally, laundry rooms are no longer a rare amenity. Most stops have one that provides front-load machines, areas to fold and hang clothes, the ability to pay with a debit card, and text message alerts.
If you’re a woman looking to pursue a career in trucking, contact Hamrick School. Serving Medina County, OH, they offer training to prepare each student for the CDL tests and entry-level employment in the trucking industry. With passionate instructors, on-site training, and personalized driving instruction, they’ll ensure that you succeed as a commercial truck driver. To learn more about their services, visit their website or call (330) 239-2229.
OH Reg. #2057
ODPS License #1439-2369