Carriers need to find new ways to recruit and retain talent as the trucking industry anticipates a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2028 and distribution demands continue to rise. Laura DeVries, a current driver with Gulf Relay, connected with enVista to speak about her experience as a woman in trucking. After almost a decade of driving, Laura eagerly encourages other women to pursue the career.
Safety in Trucking
According to Women in Trucking, “Females still comprise just seven to 10 percent of the country’s driver population, primarily because many women still don’t feel that the industry’s conditions are safe enough for their participation.” However, Laura believes that career-searching females should not be troubled by safety concerns in the trucking industry.
Q: Do you feel that safety is a concern for women in trucking?
A: It is a brotherhood and a sisterhood out on the road where everyone helps each other. Never have I felt a lack of safety while on the road, at rest stops or at any accommodation. An added perk is that the facilities I use are typically clean.
Wage Gaps in Trucking
The male-dominated nature of the trucking industry has resulted in the stereotype that it is more difficult for women to excel within it. However, the trucking industry uniquely focuses compensation on experience metrics, which has led to closing the wage gap significantly based on the 2020 U.S. average of women earning 84 cents for every $1 earned by men. Laura alleviated some concern regarding wage gaps and unfair treatment in the trucking industry.
Q: Women generally earn less than men in almost all occupations. Have you experienced a wage gap between you and your male counterparts?
A: I don’t think there is a wage gap present in the trucking industry that negatively impacts women. Wages have always been based on years on the road. Since my husband was in the industry, I have been able to benchmark my wage against his and a disparity at equivalent levels of experience has never been identified.
Q: Do you feel that you are treated differently because you are a woman?
A: An industry in which you are a minority does not always have to be negative. My experience has probably been better than most males because I’m a female. When running into issues under my hood or unloading, there is always someone willing to assist if needed. I’ve never had a bad experience in the nearly 10 years I have been truck driving due to being a woman in a male-dominated industry.
Future Talent in Trucking
Laura was able to corroborate her experiences on the road with studies that highlight women truck drivers as 20 percent less likely than male counterparts to be involved in a crash and less likely to be involved in severe crashes. Given that trucking companies typically self-insure, this further drives the business case for encouraging women to enter the trucking industry. As the impacts of the driver shortage worsens, Laura believes that there is a key demographic carriers should aim to recruit into the industry.
Q: Looking into the future, who do you think the industry should target for talent?
A: I was led into the trucking industry by my husband. Since he was on the road a significant amount of time, I took it upon myself to get my permit and learn how to drive right beside him. At that time, I was in my 40s and my kids had grown up, so nothing was holding me back from being on the road. Based upon these factors and my experience, I believe that middle-aged women are the best demographic to target. Attracting the younger generation is a challenge with higher risks, but more mature women really understand the safety component and think about others that are on the road.
Trucking in the Pandemic
COVID-19 opened the worlds eyes to the necessity of drivers in our economy. While the pandemic sent many workers home, truck drivers experienced a heightened need as they transport essential goods to their end consumer. With a 120 percent increase in job openings in the industry, it is obvious that trucking has proven to be a reliable occupation.
Q: Has COVID-19 impacted your job as a driver?
A: Not in the slightest. As a matter of fact, in a sense trucking saved me during an uncertain and devastating time in my life. At the beginning of the pandemic, my husband passed away due to cancer. If I had a job that was deemed non-essential or forced me to work from home, I would have lost my mind. Going back to work and being on the road allowed me to keep busy and stay sane. Additionally, the pandemic opened my eyes to see that we are highly essential workers, and that ensures me that I am in an industry with job security.
Driving Women Toward Trucking
There are several key takeaways from our conversation with Laura. Companies need to satisfy the increasing need for drivers by developing unique strategies to recruit women. With proper education, training, mentorship and recruiting, it is the hope that more women will be encouraged to enter the industry. Numerous groups and associations have been founded in recent years, all serving a similar purpose: promoting gender diversity in the trucking industry.
Visit the following links to learn more about organizations that help women succeed in the trucking industry: Real Women In Trucking; Women in Trucking; Women in Trucking Foundation, and Women in Trucking Advisory Board.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS