Could women be the solution to the truck driver shortage?

It’s no secret that the trucking industry needs answers for its very real driver shortage.

The American Trucking Association noted last year that the trucking industry is short 50,000 drivers… and the need for drivers isn’t letting up anytime soon.

The problem is that with the economy booming and unemployment sitting at a low 4.1 percent, trucking companies must compete with other entities like the construction industry and factories in widespread hiring efforts.

“Everybody’s hiring at this point. We’re not the only industry that talks about a labor shortage,” said Kevin Burch, immediate past ATA chairman, last month at the 2018 Recruitment & Retention Conference. “There’s lots of competition out there.”

In fact, the trucking industry needs 100,000 more new drivers per year for the next 10 years to address the industry-wide driver shortage, Burch said.

So, what’s the answer to this very real problem? Could it be better training for drivers? Better pay?

Burch thinks women could be part of the solution.

Think about it: when it comes to hiring efforts, if the trucking industry is facing so much competition from typically male-dominated sectors, why not seek out women?

Here are some statistics to consider:

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So what’s it like being a woman in today’s trucking industry?

Donna Dobbs of DMC Services is a minority when it comes to trucking. She belongs to the six percent of women truckers.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a truck driver,” Donna said.

As for being a female working in a male-dominated profession, it’s important to “look the part,” according to Donna.

“You have to wear the boots to fit in. If you fit in, you’re fine,” she said. “I dress the part. I don’t go out to a job site looking all girly. I try to be professional.”

Also, Donna has worked exclusively in flatbed trucking, which requires more physical labor than other trucking jobs.

“I have to do a lot of strapping, tarping, and chaining. It’s not like I’m a box van driver where all I’ve gotta do is back up on a loading dock and let somebody load my cargo,” she said. “I’m out there with the hard hat on, with the boots on, climbing up on the trailers.”

The best part about being a truck driver? The travel opportunities, Donna said.

“I love getting to go everywhere, wherever I want to go…the scenery of the driving,” she said. “There’s only three or four states I haven’t been to.”

Aside from being truck drivers, women fill other important roles in the trucking industry, like dispatchers or owner/operators.

Lisa Evans works as a dispatcher for Touch of Class, a company she and her husband own.

Lisa said the company is “a baby of her husband’s.”

“It was his dream,” she said.

When it came to getting started as a dispatcher for the company three years ago, Lisa said she was nervous because she didn’t know if she could do it.

“It was a lot that I had to learn, and I’m still learning,” Lisa said. “I didn’t think I could dispatch, because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

However, now that Lisa has some experience under her belt, she loves her job as a dispatcher.

“I love it because I love talking to people and I love meeting people. Anytime you have a personality like that, you’ll do good in business.”

Lisa said she doesn’t face too many issues as a female dispatcher working in a male-dominated profession like trucking (most of the time, at least).

“I can say this, 90 percent of the men I can deal with. But the other 10 percent, they don’t wanna deal with no female,” she said. “I don’t have any problem with my drivers, but some of the dispatchers seem to think that since I’m a female, I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Looking ahead

Women currently comprise six percent of the of the truck driver population, up three percent from five years ago. Will the trucking industry follow Burch’s suggestion and look to women to fill the driver vacancies? If so, what will it take to attract women to the trucking industry?

Something has to happen to solve the driver shortage, so why not women?

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