Women in Trucking
Women make up 47% of the entire United States workforce. When it comes to women in trucking, the figure appears to be small by comparison. According to government statistics, the number of women drivers has seen a significant drop and is teetering on the lowest percentage since 2011.
Contrary to what the government claims, real-life, on the road, and behind the wheel women of trucking don’t feel the statistics accurately represent what they see in their daily lives. Actually, the American Trucking Associations, which is directly linked with the pulse of trucking, states that more than 28,000 women have joined the trucking industry since 2014. Still, in a very male-driven industry, women in trucking are definitely the minority. Should women head into trucking? What’s it like to be a woman trucker in a “man’s” world? What does a truck driver do? Find out some answers to these questions and more.
Note: trade school programs are not just a man's world either!
Women in Trucking: A History at a Glance
Trucking has been around a lot longer than those 18-wheelers we see barreling down roads. Many types of vehicles were called trucks until 1896, when Gottlieb Daimler invented the motorized vehicle.
Back in the medieval times, women took ox-driven carts to market. They may be considered the first female truck drivers!
As people drove cross country in horse-drawn wagons, women often had to grab the reins and successfully drive their families and possessions to a new land.
“Stagecoach Mary” Dobbs, a slave who was freed in 1865, is considered to be the pioneer for women in trucking. At 60 years of age, she joined the U.S. Postal Service and drove a team of six horses and a mule named Moses through rain, snow, sleet, and hail to bring mail to the people.
Around 1920, during the time of the suffrage movement and WWI, Luella Bates was believed to be the first known woman to get her commercial truck driving license. She brought on a few other women to work with her while their husbands were away fighting. They tested automobiles and drove freight across the United States. Not to mention, this woman was also a master mechanic, proving women can do anything they set their minds to, even during a time when women were still trying to be heard.
Here's a fascinating fact for you. During WWII, Queen Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in England, where she learned how to fix and drive trucks for the British forces.
Women, we still have a lot of history to make in the trucking industry, but we are doing it, even if it’s in small steps.
Can Women Be Truck Drivers?
"Why trucking? Because I've been looking for a job where I can get good benefits, actually good pay."Judy Sanchez, a trainee in California
The short answer is a loud YES, of course women can be truck drivers! Contrary to a somewhat popular belief, trucking isn’t just a man’s world anymore. Women are equally as capable of manning a massive vehicle as their testosterone-filled counterparts. In fact, you know that saying “anything men can do, women can do better?” OK, maybe it’s not those words exactly, but please, humor us. It’s actually documented: women can outperform men in trucking. Now, don’t let that ruffle your feathers, fellas. There are some legitimate reasons why women are perfectly fit for sharing the trucking space with you:
Women are more cautious when they are behind the wheel. This means less trucking accidents occur, and if they do, they are usually at slower speeds.
When it comes to paying attention to detail, women do a great job. This is important, as truck driving is part paperwork. Truckers have to manage bill of ladings and fill out truck log books, which document mileage and time spent driving. They need to manage time, watch routes, and update dispatch—all things that take awareness and focus.
Women find challenges exciting, like to prove themselves, and are apt to even ask for more challenging tasks personally.
With the alleged increase in women joining the trucking industry, the supporting industries have taken steps to alleviate any aggravations ladies might face. For example, truck stops are amping up the parking lot lighting to make the area safer for women. The technology in trucks is advancing, and what was once difficult for anyone to use is now not challenging for any gender. Truck manufacturers are designing the trucks to be more adaptable for women drivers—easier access, closer pedals, and better positioned seat belts.
Things were so different in the trucking industry in the latter part of the 20th century, especially for women. But now, since our country is facing a driver shortage, and there are more women wanting to test the waters in an unorthodox career for women, times are changing. And the trucking industry is being forced to evolve along with it.
What It's Like to Be a Woman Trucker
"There's still drivers out there who think women shouldn't have a place in the trucking industry. They're few and far between, but unfortunately, they're vocal."Ellen Voie, Women in Trucking president
As of 2014, there were 3.4 million truck drivers on the road moving 9.96 billion tons of products across the country. Out of that, only 5.8% of those truckers were women. So it is not without some hesitation that women enter the trucking industry. The trucking industry is notoriously known as a sort of “good ‘ol boys club” riddled with sexist stereotypes. Women are treated with kid gloves or sexually assaulted, harassed, or discriminated against. With all that being said, men no longer have a great advantage over women when it comes to the trucking industry. The playing field is becoming more even, making a trucking career even more attractive to women.
Because of the growing shortage of drivers, many companies are starting to shift pretty heavily toward recruiting women, a group that many other trades are eyeing as well. So, if trucking is something that you are considering, jump in full force. It’s a great time filled with fantastic opportunity.
But what is it really like to be a woman trucker? That depends on whom you ask. Women choose to become truckers for so many reasons. You may want to add to your life experience, or you need a career that is quick to get into. Most women truckers report a high level of career enjoyment, but you do have to tread with some caution as females make up such a small portion of the trucking population.
Still, with the trucking industry changing, great news comes for the ladies. Women in trucking are starting to be better represented. Based on our own data of over 500,000 truckers and trucking students, 22% of people looking for a CDL school are women. Not only that but, our CDL trucking job board shows that 17% of all people looking for trucking jobs are women.
It’s not only young women who are looking to start a CDL career. Based on the information in the chart below, women of varying ages are looking to become truck drivers. There are women searching for trucking schools as well as women truckers looking for jobs whose ages range from their early 20s into their 60s:
One last interesting tidbit: There is not a wide age gap between the women with CDLs looking for trucking jobs compared to those looking to start a career in trucking. Ladies, no matter your age, if you can drive and deliver, you can have a successful career in the trucking industry.
Tips for Women Going into Trucking
"As a truck driver, you make the same amount of money as your male peers, because you either get paid by the mile or the load of the percentage. So gender is not an issue in pay in the truck industry for drivers."Ellen Voie, Women in Trucking president
There are so many opportunities available to women in trucking. There are also some obstacles because it’s been such a male-driven industry for so long. But as more women enter the trucking workforce, the call for resources and organizations catering to women have been answered, making trucking a more female-friendly industry. If you’re a woman considering trucking as a career, here are some tips for you:
Go forth with confidence
Trucking is male-dominated. So what? Women can rock the trucking industry with their heads held high. The thing is, you must stay confident. If you aren’t, fake it until you make it. Go after those opportunities that seem hopeless for women: It’s been proven that the females who compete in a man’s world are equally as successful.
Resources are your friend
We mentioned the rise of women-trucker organizations and resources. Use them. They will be your allies and help you to succeed in the trucking industry. Some large organizations for women truckers that you should familiarize yourself with are Women in Trucking Association and its related foundation, and REAL Women in Trucking. Another site that is very informative and women-trucker friendly is Trucking Truth.
Real Women in Trucking is a grassroots, non-profit advocacy group. It was formed by a seasoned female commercial truck driver to provide information and resources for fellow drivers and those thinking about it.
Women in Trucking Association was founded in 2007 and is focused on encouraging female employment in the trucking industry, as well as minimizing the obstacles women may face as truckers.
All three sites are chock-full of helpful information to steer you toward success in your industry.
Check it out
When you begin researching for CDL courses, find out which programs are female-friendly. Women in Trucking Association and REAL Women in Trucking both have plenty of information to guide you in making the right decision. Find out if the programs you’re looking at have any female instructors and women in leadership roles. If the answer is yes to either or both of those, then you know that you’d be making a good choice in programs.
Remain a bit cautious
Unfortunately, discrimination and sexual harassment are all too common in the trucking industry when it comes to women in trucking. While they are NOT the norm, these issues are still being reported. Never go into a situation if your internal red flag is waving in full force, whether you’re being paired with a male while you’re in training or already driving on your own. Always keep your wits about you.
A Career for Women
The trucking lifestyle can be tough, without a doubt. But as more women head into trucking careers, the types of support for women on the roads will only continue to increase. Trucking is only as hard as you make it so going in with your eyes wide open, your expectations realistic, and your perspective clear, you will find that trucking is a rewarding, and an oftentimes lucrative career choice. Even for women.
More reading: How To Get Your CDL And Become A Truck Driver