More Women Truck Drivers: A Solution to Many Industry and Gender Challenges
I recently attended a national transportation conference, where a featured panel included a high-level discussion with leaders from three prominent trucking fleets. As they candidly discussed the challenges present in the industry, the driver shortage took center stage. I noticed as they discussed ideas around recruiting and retaining drivers, they didn’t refer to any drivers as women. “He,” “him,” “men,” “guys,” “the boys” – not a single reference to females. While I’m certain the phrasing wasn’t intentional, it does speak volumes about what’s missing in our industry – more women.
Addressing the Driver Shortage
According to the American Trucking Associations, trucking currently is about 50,000 drivers short, a number expected to more than triple by 2026. Despite comprising 50% of the US population, women only hold about 6% of truck driving jobs. This leaves a massive pool of untapped human capital to address the driver shortage.
It’s hard to be what you can’t see, especially when most recruiting advertisements feature men. I asked an agency specializing in driver recruitment advertising why that is. They stated that many fleets don’t request advertising geared toward females because the cost per hire increases for women. However, it’s important to assess the total value of a hire over an extended time.
According to Ellen Voie, President and CEO of Women in Trucking, women tend to stay with fleets longer, engage in less risky behavior, and value team collaboration and goals. Considering the whole picture, the return on investment of hiring a safe, goal-oriented, team player that prefers to stay with the same carrier for as long as possible should be very high.
Closing the Pay Gap
On average, women earned 28% less than men in the United States in 2017 according to the Pew Research Center. While the gap is closing overall, trucking represents a great avenue for closing the disparity even quicker. With most trucking compensation plans using per mile rates, productivity rules. Additionally, transportation wages are increasing, with driver pay up about 12% year over year. Trucking provides a fantastic avenue for women to earn equal wages in an industry with increasing compensation trends.
Women as Entrepreneurs
The US is home to 11.6 million women-owned businesses worth $1.7 trillion in revenue and employment for 9 million people. Women-owned businesses are growing at five times the national average. However, more than 50% of female business starts are in the health and human services sector. Logistics has been identified as a high-growth, high-wage industry where women aren’t aggressively starting businesses. In a market desperate for additional trucks, independent contractors and owner-operators hold the flex capacity shippers need. Many of today’s largest US fleets started with a single truck. Women as independent contractors provides a new avenue for entrepreneurs with high market demand already established.
Women historically haven’t entered the industry in large volumes because trucking hasn’t always supported raising a family or being a care provider. Equipment also hasn’t been designed with women in mind. Those things are changing. Shippers are redistributing networks to create more daily runs. Carriers are working to provide nightly or weekly home time to their drivers. Equipment manufacturers also are modifying truck designs to be more inclusive for all driver types and builds. Automatic trucks also have become prevalent in the industry.
More women also are looking for second careers. As Boomers continue to enter retirement, they average just $15,000 in savings. They also are living longer on retirement benefits as costs continue to rise. Retirement benefits are typically lower for women as they often earn less during their careers. According to an article published in The Atlantic, Social Security replaces only 40% of an earner’s income when they retire, when 70% is required to live comfortably. With more fleets offering no-cost or low-cost CDL training programs, trucking provides an easy-access alternative career for women. Hitting the open road and seeing every part of the United States while being paid seems like a retirement plan worth some consideration.
Breaking Down Barriers
Technology providers like FreightRover also help lessen the barriers preventing more women from joining the industry. FreightRover’s CarrierHQ pay-as-you-go insurance program offers upfront capital cost savings of more than 80%. Paired with per gallon fuel savings, low factoring rates, and business formation in under 48 hours, launching a fleet has become much quicker and more efficient. FreightRover’s partnership with Urgent Care Travel also offers reduced-cost medical access for drivers and their families at multiple locations throughout the US. Women can better care for themselves and their families while still being on the road.
Trucking needs more women. They represent one of the most viable solutions to truly address the capacity crunch. And, women need trucking. Equal pay, entrepreneurial opportunities, and a different career for evolving lives – trucking supports efforts to create better equality for women. When I attend the next transportation conference, I hope to hear a lot more mentions of “she,” “her,” and “women” when it comes to drivers and other careers in transportation.