While it’s still not a profession many women think of for themselves (or one the industry necessarily thinks of for them), more and more women are giving trucking a shot. Traditionally thought to be a masculine occupation, trucking is, like many other professions, seeing an uptick in representation by women.
Still, only about 5 percent of truckers are of the female persuasion, which makes them a small but potentially important minority in the truck driving community.
If you ask female truck drivers, they will tell you the transition isn’t easy. Chris Kiser was a truck driver for Werner Enterprises for 8 years and is a former trainer, so she knows a little about being on the road and the trucking lifestyle. While she says truck driving is “long, tedious hours,” she says it’s “an honest living, and with time can not only be self-rewarding but provide you with a decent income,” she said.
Kiser offers tips for women who are looking to get into trucking. Her advice includes as much guidance for handling time off the road as on, though she recognizes the importance of keeping your attention on your job.
Be safety focused: Life on the road (and off) can be frightening for the burliest of men; for a physically smaller woman, it can be pretty hairy. “I was never afraid because I knew how to stay safe,” she said. “I didn’t walk the truck stops in the middle of the night, I didn’t take chances driving at full speed in bad weather, and I obeyed all the rules of driving.”
Have a thick skin: As much progress as we as a society have made, the fact remains that there are still drivers who feel threatened by women. “The CB’s are full of “anonymous” guys who have a comeback for everything,” Kiser said. “You must be able to take criticism and stand up for what you believe is right,” she said.
Focus on the work: Always remember you are out on the road to do a job, and remain focused on that job. Getting sidetracked, off course, or otherwise delayed will only make the job more difficult. “Whether you are working the docks or inspecting your rig for safety issues there are no shortcuts,” she said. “You have to be able to know your capabilities yet challenge yourself to do better the next time.”
Don’t be afraid of getting dirty: “Trucking is not for the type of woman who is concerned with staying clean, looking pretty or breaking a fingernail,” Kiser said. “She has to be of strong mind, be able to maintain focus at all times and have self-confidence.”
Know your tools. If you think you’re not physically strong enough to drive the truck and move your freight, Kiser has good news for you: most of the “heavy lifting” can be overcome simply by knowing how to use your tools. “Puling the fifth wheel or tandem bars can be tricky, especially if they’ve become stuck by rust or grease, or the load is heavy,” she said. “But it’s all a matter of knowing how to do it and utilizing the tools we carry, like hammers, knives, tandem pullers, and silicone sprays.”