Women in Trucking as a Career

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Women make up 47% of the entire United States workforce. When it comes to women in trucking, the figure appears smaller by comparison. According to government statistics, the number of women drivers has seen a significant drop since 2011. 

Contrary to what this statistic claims, real-life, on the road, and behind the wheel women of trucking don’t feel these numbers accurately represent their dedication to the industry. Actually, the American Trucking Association, which is directly linked with the pulse of trucking, states that more than 28,000 women have joined the trucking industry since 2014.

Still, some questions remain. Should women head into trucking? What does a truck driver do? Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more! 

Women in Trucking: History at a Glance

Trucking has been around a lot longer than 18-wheelers have. Many types of vehicles were considered trucks until 1896, when Gottlieb Daimler invented the motorized vehicle.

  • Back in the medieval times, women took ox-driven carts to market. They may be considered the first female truck drivers!

  • As people drove cross country in horse-drawn wagons, women often had to grab the reins and successfully navigate their families and possessions to a new land.

  • “Stagecoach Mary” Dobbs, a woman who was freed from slavery in 1865, is considered to be the pioneer for women in trucking. At 60 years of age, she joined the U.S. Postal Service and drove a team of six horses and a mule named Moses through rain, snow, sleet, and hail to deliver mail to people.   

  • Around 1920, during the time of the suffrage movement and WWI, Luella Bates was believed to be the first known woman to get her commercial truck driving license. She brought on a few other women to work with her while their husbands were away fighting. They tested automobiles and drove freight across the United States. Not to mention, Bates was also a master mechanic, continuing to show that women could do anything men could, even during a time when their voices went unheard.

  • Here's a fascinating fact for you. During WWII, Queen Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service in England, where she learned how to fix and drive trucks for the British forces.

Women, we still have a lot of history to make in the trucking industry, but we are doing it, even if it’s in small steps.

Can Women be Truck Drivers?

"Why trucking? Because I've been looking for a job where I can get good benefits, actually good pay." Judy Sanchez, a trainee in California 

The short answer is a loud YES, of course women can be truck drivers. Contrary to outdated beliefs, trucking isn’t just a man’s world. Women are equally as capable of manning a massive vehicle as men are. It is actually documented that women have outperformed men in trucking.  

  • Women are usually more cautious when they are behind the wheel. Statistically, this means less trucking accidents can occur, and if they do, they are usually at slower speeds, and less serious. 

  • When it comes to paying attention to detail, women do a great job. This is important, as truck driving is part paperwork. Truckers have to manage bill of ladings and their electronic logs, which document mileage and time spent driving. They need to manage time, watch routes, and update dispatch—all things that require detailed focus.

  • Women find challenges exciting, like to prove themselves, and are apt to even ask for more challenging tasks to tackle. 

With the increase in women joining the trucking industry, the supporting industries have taken steps to alleviate any obstacles they might face. For example, truck stops are amping up parking lot lighting to make the area safer for women. The technology in trucks is advancing, and what was once difficult for anyone to use is now more user-friendly. Plus, truck manufacturers are designing the trucks to be more physically adaptable for women drivers—easier access, closer pedals, and better positioned seat belts. Times are changing, and the trucking industry is being forced to evolve along with it.

What it's Like to Be a Woman Trucker

"There's still drivers out there who think women shouldn't have a place in the trucking industry.  They're few and far between, but unfortunately, they're vocal." Ellen Voie, Women in Trucking president

As of 2014, there were 3.4 million truck drivers on the road moving 9.96 billion tons of products across the country. Out of that, only 5.8% of those truckers were women. So it is not without some hesitation that women enter the trucking industry. However, as more women enter trucking, they are finding a playing field that's becoming more even, making a trucking career attractive to them.

Many companies are starting to shift pretty heavily toward recruiting women. So, if trucking is something that you are considering, jump in full force. It’s a great time to do so and filled with fantastic opportunities.

But what is it really like to be a woman trucker? That depends on who you ask. Women choose to become truckers for many reasons. You may want to add to your life experience, you may have always wanted to be a truck driver, or you need a career that is quick to get into. Most women truckers report a high level of career enjoyment.

Women in trucking are starting to be better represented. Based on our own data of over 500,000 truckers and trucking students, 22% of people looking for a CDL school are women. Not only that but, our CDL trucking job board shows that 17% of all people looking for trucking jobs are women.

It’s not only young women who are looking to start a CDL career — women of varying ages are looking to become truck drivers. There are women searching for trucking schools as well as women truckers looking for jobs whose ages range from their early 20s into their 60s.

There is not a wide age gap between the women with CDLs looking for trucking jobs compared to those looking to start a career in trucking. No matter your age, if you can drive and deliver, you can have a successful career in the trucking industry.

Tips for Women Going into Trucking

"As a truck driver, you make the same amount of money as your male peers, because you either get paid by the mile or the load of the percentage.  So gender is not an issue in pay in the truck industry for drivers." Ellen Voie, Women in Trucking president

There are so many opportunities available to women in trucking. There are also some obstacles because it’s been such a male-driven industry for so long. But as more women enter the trucking workforce, the call for resources and organizations catering to women has been answered. If you’re a woman considering trucking as a career, here are some tips for you:

Go forth with confidence

Trucking is male-dominated. So what? Women can rock the trucking industry with their heads held high. Stay confident. If you aren’t, fake it until you make it. Go after opportunities that even seem out of reach. It’s been proven that the women who compete in a man’s world are equally as successful.

Resources are your friend

We mentioned the rise of women-trucker organizations and resources. Use them. They will be your allies and help you to succeed in the trucking industry. Some large organizations for women truckers that you should familiarize yourself with are Women in Trucking Association and its related foundation, and REAL Women in Trucking. Another site that is very informative and women-trucker friendly is Trucking Truth.

  • Real Women in Trucking is a grassroots, non-profit advocacy group. Founded by Desiree Wood, Real Women in Trucking provides information and resources for fellow women in the industry, or women who are considering trucking as a career. 

  • Women in Trucking Association was founded in 2007 and is focused on encouraging women's employment in the trucking industry, as well as minimizing the obstacles they may face as truck drivers.

All three sites provide helpful information to steer you toward success in your industry.

Check it out

When you begin researching for CDL courses, find out which programs are female-friendly. Women in Trucking Association and REAL Women in Trucking both have plenty of information to guide you in making the right decision. Find out if the programs you’re looking at have any women instructors or in leadership roles. If the answer is yes to either or both of those, then you know that you’d be making a good choice in programs.

Remain a bit cautious

Unfortunately, discrimination and sexual harassment are all too common in the trucking industry when it comes to women in trucking. While they are NOT the norm, these issues are still being reported. Never go into a situation if your internal red flag is waving in full force, whether you’re being paired with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable while you’re in training, or already driving on your own. Always keep your wits about you.

Women in the Inudstry

The trucking lifestyle can be tough, without a doubt. But as more women head into trucking careers, the types of support for women on the roads will only continue to increase. Trucking is only as hard as you make it, so going in with your eyes wide open, your expectations realistic, and your perspective clear, you will find that trucking is a rewarding, and an oftentimes lucrative career choice. Especially for women.

Note: trade school programs are not just a man's world either!

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