By Al Muskewitz
Opportunities for women in the trucking industry have grown substantially over the past few years – both inside the truck and in the office.
The number of women professional drivers is at an all-time high. Last week’s Women In Trucking “Accelerate!” Conference and Expo in Dallas drew a record number of participants. Both segments increased by about 30 percent over the previous year.
Positive signs all, but the key is to keep the needle moving. As the number of women in trucking increases, so does the health of a vital industry as a whole.
“I’ve been in the industry for 16 years now and just watching the opportunities that women have now, it has grown exponentially,” said Natasha Hammack, Wright Media’s vice president of sales who attended the convention. “Women drivers are accounting for more of the (trucking) population.
“More folks are wanting women in their fleet. They tend to be responsible, prompt and organized. I love the fact we have organizations like Women In Trucking that help accentuate what a woman needs to be successful in the business.”
More than 1,100 transportation professionals and 75 industry exhibitors participated in the conference, which is designed to elevate issues of gender diversity and leadership development among women. There were more than 60 education sessions offered on critical transportation issues and trends throughout the industry.
A study commissioned by Women In Trucking earlier this year showed women make up more than 10 percent of over-the-road drivers, up from 7.89 percent documented in the group’s 2018 industry-wide survey and nearly four percent higher than recent Department of Labor statistics. A study by the American Transportation Research Institute that same year strengthened the debate for more women in trucking, concluding women are not only adequate drivers, but in most cases safer than their male counterparts.
That growth is not just limited to behind the wheel. There also has been an acceleration of women in the marketing, advertising and recruiting side of the industry, with women trucking executives climbing to nearly 24 percent. This year’s WIT survey revealed women make up one-third of the executive teams at for-hire carriers.
Moreover, women make up 43.5 percent of the overall non-executive workforce in trucking companies across the board. That segment includes recruiters, driver managers, dispatchers, sales personnel and administrative workers.
“It goes back to just the recognition of the organization and leadership potential of women,” Hammack said. “With the digital revolution, more and more females are coming out that are tech savvy, they have digital experience, they have graphic design experience. The ways that we have had to come to market have changed. The whole advertising side of this industry has evolved, done a complete fruit-basket turnover in the last 15 years – a 180.”
In conjunction with the convention, Women In Trucking released its list of the 86 top companies for women to work for in transportation. There are 13 Wright Media clients among them – America’s Service Line, Artur Express, Bennett International Group, Carvana, JB Hunt, Landstar, Melton Truck Lines, Roehl, Saia LTL Freight, TLD Logistics Services, Total Transportation, Trimac Transportation and US Xpress.
“These companies had to be nominated by other people within the industry, so I think it speaks volumes to their being innovative and a great welcoming place for women to work,” Hammack said. “I would hope in the next five to 10 years we would definitely see the gap lessening between female and male drivers because the ability and the capabilities are there.”
The key to getting more women in the industry is just getting out there. See and be seen. The recently released ATRI survey of critical issues in the trucking industry indicated nearly a quarter of the respondents listed expanding recruiting of women and minorities as a top strategy to mitigate the driver shortage that some estimate could be 100,000 in the next five years.
“Representation, that was kind of the theme,” Hammack said. “You can’t be noticed if you’re not represented and the industry as a whole needs to look at the branding of the trucking industry.
“If we want to attract and maintain women drivers, they need to be represented in the recruiting department, represented in all the materials that go out for the trucking companies. They need to have a base, because if you don’t see what you’re looking for in these branding opportunities you’re not going to apply, so representation is key for women in the trucking industry.”
It’s not secret the industry isn’t getting any younger, either, and those demographic challenges cross gender lines. More than 55 percent of all drivers are 45 years of age or older and only five percent of drivers entering the workforce are between 20 and 24.
“It’s just incredible we can’t get drivers in when the average income for a driver is $73,000,” Hammack said. “We have to engage the younger demographic and we’ve got to rebrand the trucking industry and the evolution of technology within the trucking industry whether it be automation or anything like that and make it more lucrative to the younger generation because that’s what’s going to move us into the next level of trucking.”
This was the second year in a row Hammack attended the conference. She noticed a big difference this year – and a surprising difference in one segment in particular.
“There were a lot more men there this year than last year,” she said. “Last year I made the comment, ‘Wow, this is interesting; it’s all women,’ and there were a ton of men there this year.”
Next year’s conference is Sept. 23-25 in Dallas. WIT president/CEO Ellen Voie is hoping it draws more than 1,500 attendees – men and women.
Al Muskewitz is Editor-in-Chief for Wright Media. He can be reached at email@example.com
By Al Muskewitz