Improved attitudes towards females and a decrease in physical demands make the trucking industry an attractive occupational choice for women.
In 2009, Lisa Kelly became the first female trucker to appear on the History Channel show “Ice Road Truckers”. The former school bus driver and champion motocross racer decided to become a trucker because it “looked interesting.”
Today, many other women are hitting the roads behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler, and trucking companies are looking for more women to take available driving jobs.
The American Trucking Association claims it has 30,000 jobs available nationwide, and sees that number increasing over time. It is making an open push to attract women to work on the open road.
The specifics of the trucking industry, according to the ATA, are these: The median pay for the driver of a tractor-trailer is just above $38,000 a year. Long distance drivers can make much more than that. The job requires a commercial class A license, but those can be obtained at driving schools all across the country and take no more than three months, sometimes less time than that.
At the Dootson School of Trucking in Arcadia, Calif., there has been a significant increase in female driver applicants.
“In the last three years, there are so many more women coming and obtaining their license,’’ said admission supervisor Erica Arvizu to National Public Radio. “A lot of them are single women trying to support their families, or just trying to help their partner because of the economy – to survive.”
Women in Trucking, a group that promotes trucking as an acceptable occupation for women, believes the percentage of women truckers in America is slightly above the Labor Department statistics of 5 percent. President Ellen Voie says women still face the battles of sexism in the industry, even as the industry fails to fill jobs due to a changing attitude of the American workforce toward difficult travel jobs.
“I still get calls and emails from drivers who feel that women do not belong in the trucking industry,’’ Voie told Millionaire Corner. “Some feel that women aren’t qualified and others just think women should stay at home. However, these drivers are becoming fewer and fewer; they aren’t the majority by any means.
”The carriers are much more interested in what women contribute as drivers,’’ Voie said. “Twenty years ago, the job was more physically demanding and required more unloading, more exertion in driving the truck and less amenities on the road. It’s not the same jobs it was then, and technology has made it less focused on physical requirements and more skill focused. Carriers have also found women to be better with customers, better with the paperwork and often take better care of the equipment.”
In Chicago this fall, 84 Girl Scouts earned a new transportation patch by attending a day at a Chicago college hearing from industry spokespeople, conducting a vehicle inspection, climbing into a semi-truck, and learning details about what it’s like to be a trucker. The event, and the transportation patches, were sponsored in part by Women in Trucking.
“The Girl Scouts who earned their patch in transportation learned about an important segment of our economy while getting an up-close view of a tractor trailer,’’ Voie said. “We look forward to seeing (the transportation patch) expand throughout the United States.”
Voie said the trucking industry does not lend itself to women who are also young parents.
“Many of the women who enter this industry have already raised their families,’’ Voie told MC. “Some women are younger and have not started families yet. There are some who have parents or sisters who help with their children when they are driving.”
In an employment environment where women continue to make inroads in equality opportunity, the trucking industry is ready to take steps forward to increase its employment of female drivers.
“I would venture to say that if we could double the percentage of women working in the trucking industry, we could solve the immediate qualified drivers shortage,’’ Voie said in the NPR interview.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.