Transportation is one of the nation’s largest industries; without it, the American economy would not be able to function. Currently the transportation industry employs an estimated 8.9 million people in the United States. On average, that is one out of every fourteen people according to the American Trucking Association.
Even as the economy continues to strengthen, carriers are still struggling to hire enough drivers to keep up with the demand of freight. There are many reasons accounting for the driver shortage, but one thing is certain: In order to keep up with demand, the industry needs to expand its recruiting efforts to attract more quality drivers. One underdeveloped area of recruiting is the female population. We interviewed Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women in Trucking Association to find out why transportation is an exciting career and why more women are looking toward careers in this industry.
Why are women so important to the trucking industry?
EV: For drivers, because there is a huge driver shortage. Women drivers can bring a lot to the industry. For example, women take fewer risks and are often better with customers and paperwork. Not always, but I say often. There is huge potential to grow our driver base by utilizing the potential of women.
I would like to also mention that it is not just important to hire more women to fill driver positions, but we also need more women in leadership roles. Currently, women fill only 14 percent of leadership roles within the industry. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, women in “nontraditional” careers often earn as much as 30 percent more than those in “traditional” careers.
So what efforts are being made to bring more women into the industry?
EV: Well right now our big push is to speak with women with careers outside of the transportation industry, about the transportation industry. I don’t think as a child many of us thought when we grew up we would be working in this industry, but now that we are here we realize how incredible it really is. And we want to show other women who may not have ever thought about working in this industry that.
One other incredible thing that I just had the opportunity to work on was an event with the Girl Scouts. It was so fun to show a group of 84 young females all of the cool things the transportation industry does. Watching them really engage and get excited was the best part.
What are some barriers women face when entering the industry?
EV: The biggest barrier is image. They don’t picture themselves in the trucking industry. Our big push is to get them to view the industry as a place that they fit in and they are wanted.
A lot of women think you have to be big and burly to drive, and that is not true. The equipment we now have is so much better than it has ever been, truck stops have taken great steps to become a much safer environment, and time away from home is better than it used to be.
I think that our biggest challenge inside the industry is how to change our image. As a whole we need to work harder at getting a positive image out to the public because people will not want to come into the industry unless we can show that it is a safe and profitable place to work and that it can really be a opportunity that benefits the individual and the whole family.
What advice would you give a woman who is trying to get into trucking?
EV: I would tell them to do their research. If it is a driver, find out what truck driving school is the best. Find out everything you can about the carrier – home time, benefits, equipment, and pay. Doing the research will really help them enjoy the position right away, and they will know what to expect.
For women in an office position, I say go for it! None of us went to school dreaming of working in this industry, but we sort of stubble into and realize how exciting and rewarding this career can be. So I just say go for it!
At Crete Carrier, we have made great strides to encourage female drivers to join our team. We strive to provide an excellent training program for our drivers, and we are a Top Pay Certified carrier with a Gold Standard benefits package. This ensures our drivers and his or her family earn the pay they deserve. In addition, we have weekly fleets that give our drivers more home time options.
Within the industry, there are too many misconceptions regarding drivers. At Crete one of our seven principals is “Lead. Follow the road less traveled.” Our drivers are some of the best in the industry and we want to continue to lead the industry in this area.
One of our female drivers being interviewed during the Mark Willis radio show for SiriusXM.