The Women In Trucking Association is a non-profit organization focused on the transportation and logistics industry. Their mission is to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.
March is Women’s History Month, so I thought this blog should be about the history of the Women In Trucking Association through my experience as the founder. I am repeatedly asked the question of why I started the organization, so here is my story.
First, I’ll go back many years to “set the stage.” I was one of the lucky people whose mom told me I could do anything I wanted, and there were no “girl” careers. She encouraged me when I took shop class instead of home ick (okay, home ec). I learned woodworking, welding, drafting and auto mechanics.
This was in 1975, shortly after Title IX of the federal civil rights act was adopted to create a level playing field in education for girls as well as boys. Until then, girls studied home economics, and boys took shop class.
Girls were finally able to play basketball, volleyball and track and field in my small high school. When the boys got new uniforms, so did the girls, which was unheard of in those days, as most teams gave the girls the stinky old jersey’s from the boys' teams after they received new ones. No longer!
Shop class was so much fun, and my instructor insisted I was the best welder he’d ever had! I loved the auto mechanics lessons, and when I wanted to use the family car, I disconnected the distributor cap so my older brother couldn’t get it started! These were more valuable to me than cooking, baking or cleaning!
In 1978 I was hired at a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin where I worked in the drafting department, designing material handling equipment, such as steel pallets, bins, and racking. It was fun, but not very exciting.
In 1979, my mom passed away, and I was ready to move on, but my bosses asked if I wanted to transfer into the Traffic Department instead of drafting. I didn’t have a clue what was involved in “traffic,” but they doubled my salary and sent me to school for “Traffic and Transportation Management.” After completing the course, my boss left the company and I was promoted to the position of Traffic Manager.
We had three plants creating steel products as varied as material handling, fireplaces, and jacks. I was responsible for bringing the raw materials into the plants and for shipping the completed products out to our customers. We also had three trucks of our own, and I was in charge of hiring, firing and managing the three drivers.
This occurred before deregulation and all freight rates were regulated by tariffs, so the carriers tried to sell the customer on service, or sometimes bribes. Yes, I was offered everything from dates with NBA players to illegal drugs. This was in the late ’70s.
I was twenty years old.
I ended up marrying a professional driver, and we started our own trucking company. I also did free-lance work as a transportation consultant while I ran our small carrier, raised two children and attended college to earn my bachelor’s and then master’s degree in communication. I was offered numerous writing opportunities in various magazines. My monthly columns were about family life in the trucking industry. I completed my Master’s Thesis on “The Complex Identities of Women Married to Professional Drivers.” I later published a book filled with some of my most popular articles called, “Marriage In the Long Run.”
After twenty years, my marriage ended, and my children were nearly grown. I was hired for the position of Executive Director of Trucker Buddy International (www.truckerbuddy.org) where I led the program for six years. Then, I was recruited by Schneider National to lead their retention efforts. My job was to initiate corporate level programs designed to attract and retain non-traditional groups, such as women!
At the time, I was completing my pilot’s license, and I belonged to an organization for female pilots. It struck me that there wasn’t a similar group for women in the trucking industry; so I started one.
That was in 2007 when the Women In Trucking Association was formed. I copied a lot from the female pilot’s organization, but tapped into the people who supported this mission. I had a great team who shared my passion, and we put together a fantastic staff, board and support group. Here we are, nearly twelve years later, with a success story I could never have imagined.
So, that’s my story and in a way, the story of Women In Trucking’s beginning.
This blog is a little more personal than most. This morning I learned a first cousin passed away, alone, in his apartment. He was divorced, and his children had moved on. He was found by a colleague who was concerned. He died alone. The details are still sketchy, but it’s still a sad story.
What makes this more tragic is that another one of my first cousins, on the other side of the family, passed away in the same way only a year ago. He was younger than me, but he drank heavily and made a lot of bad choices when it came to relationships. In fact, he had been separated for decades, but never made an effort to get a divorce. Yep, you got it; the ex-wife inherited everything, including the house and what little savings he had accumulated.
I don’t know how long my cousin who passed away recently was dead before he was found, but I can tell you my cousin who died last year wasn't discovered until a week later. Yes, an entire week, if not longer. Someone decided to call the police to do a welfare check, and they found his body. It wasn’t a pretty sight.
Although I felt so sad about losing my cousin, I felt so much more remorse in the fact that no one checked on him for days! No one missed his calls, his emails or even his company! No one worried about him when he didn’t show up for work, or to stop in at his favorite pub. No one cared enough to find out how he was doing until a cop was called to check on him.
How many days would it take for someone to find you? Who is looking out for you? Are you estranged from your family members? Have you called your children or your parents or even your siblings lately? If you died in your sleep tonight, would someone be concerned?
We’ve all heard of drivers who are found slumped over the steering wheel of his or her truck….dead. The truck stops have too many stories of checking on trucks that haven’t moved in days. Even if the driver died during the night, did someone wait by a phone to hear a call each day? Did someone become concerned when the call wasn’t made?
My dad was a very independent man and insisted on living in his home as long as possible. For Christmas one year we (my siblings and I) bought him a new recliner. I told him that my biggest fear, but my biggest hope, would be that I walk in one day and find him lifeless in his recliner.
That may sound a little cold, but you need to understand that my father and his father, as well as my uncles, were all undertakers. We talked about death easily and we’d all been assigned our cemetery plots since we were children. We’d hang out with dad at the funeral home after school. Dead bodies didn’t bother us. My parents just reassured us that the bodies were left behind and the person didn’t need it anymore because the soul has left it.
I was pretty close to my dad, and if I didn’t call him or email him consistently, I would stop in and check on him. One day, he didn’t arrive for lunch with some friends. I tried calling, to no avail, so I got the keys and drove the 25 miles to his house. A neighbor happened to be out getting his mail, so I asked him to walk in the house with me. The TV was blaring, but my dad didn’t answer the door, so we entered.
We found him in his new recliner. He had died during the night. The coroner estimated that he’d been dead 16 hours. Less than a day.
How long would it take for someone to find your body?
Maybe it’s time to set up a check-in schedule, not only for you but for your parents, friends, children and other family members. If you passed away tonight, would someone wonder about you and try to find you?
It’s a new year and time to make some changes, so if you haven’t checked on those who are dear to you, do it now.
As we close the calendar pages on 2018, we wanted to take the opportunity to look back at the amazing growth and successes for Women In Trucking (WIT) Association this past year.
In January, we started the weekly Women In Trucking Show on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Channel 146. Every Saturday, WIT President Ellen Voie interviews guests on topics as diverse as self-defense, drones, trade show and so much more. This has given us the opportunity to reach an even great audience and to interact with current and potential members on the air.
We were also thrilled to announce a new platform on our website for our members to meet each other virtually and to interact online. The Engage platform is fast becoming a way to share best practices, find solutions from other members and to just meet others with the same concerns or challenges. We recently launched the Engage App as well to reach even more of our members.
Since ten percent of our members are in Canada, we launched our first Canadian Image Team at Truck World in Toronto in March. We’ve also held two Canadian “Salute to Women Behind the Wheel” events in Canada in 2018.
After years of searching for a way to introduce young girls to careers in trucking, we finally came out with a Clare, the truck driver doll. Created by HABAUSA.com and sold through the manufacturer as well as Amazon.com and in TA and Petro Travel Centers, the doll was an immediate hit. She even has her own “Where’s Clare” Facebook page and Twitter Feed. Drivers are taking their Clare dolls all over the world and posting photos of her making deliveries, enjoying vacations and helping out in the truck!
In March, we had the exciting opportunity to give away a Volvo VNL, thanks to Arrow Truck Sales. Tiffany Hanna, a driver for Prime, Inc. was handed the keys to the tractor after submitting the winning essay on why we need more women in trucking. We’re planning another truck giveaway in the future, so watch our website for information.
Michelin joined WIT as the newest Gold Level Partner, which means they participate at a much higher level, both financially and through the involvement of Adam Murphy, who now serves on the WIT board of directors. Michelin joins Arrow Truck Sales, Bendix, BMO Transportation Finance, Expediter Services, Freightliner, Great Dane, J. B. Hunt, and Walmart Transportation as Gold Level Partners.
To continue our quest to reach the next generation, we created a supply chain activity book called, “Scouting for Cookies.” The book follows a young girl as she learns how the grain from the field is transported to the bakery on a truck, then to the packaging, warehouse and distribution sites via trucks. Finally, the scout is the final mile delivery. Our goal is for children to have a personal connection to the trucks they see on the road and perhaps, think about their own milk and cookies that could possibly be on the truck.
In September, we also started the 150 Challenge with Expediter Services. This was our goal to create 150 women owned businesses by helping female drivers purchase her first truck or expand her fleet. By the end of the year, we were halfway to our goal, but plan to expand this opportunity throughout 2019.
In November, WIT’s Ellen Voie was named the National Association of Small Trucking Company’s “Person of the Year.” She was recognized for her, “vision, energy, and forward thinking,” by NASTC President, David Owen at their annual conference.
WIT’s own 2018 Accelerate! Conference and Expo was held in Dallas, Texas in November and a record breaking audience was on hand to learn, network, and enjoy the opportunity to have fun at an event comprised mostly of women! Over 830 people registered for this 4thannual event, and we’re anticipating more than 1,000 at next year’s conference.
You can be a part of this forward thinking group of 4,000 men and women who support the organization’s mission to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments, and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the industry. Find out more at www.womenintrucking.org.
This year, we’d like to share our hopes for the coming year with eight ways to support the Women In Trucking Association mission to increase the percentage of women employed in the trucking industry.
1. More carriers will start monitoring their percentages of female drivers and will set targets to increase those levels. They should hold recruiters, dispatchers, and everyone in management accountable for not only hiring more women, but retaining the ones they already have. Ten years ago, carriers insisted they didn’t care about the age, gender or race of their drivers. Now more and more companies are understanding why we should focus more on diversity. The WIT Index tracks progress in the percentage of over the road female drivers and although it’s increased to 7.89 percent in 2018 (up from 7.13 percent in 2017), we still have a long way to go.
2. Companies will also appreciate more diversity in their management team. Women comprise only 23 percent of leaders in trucking companies in 2018. While this is slightly higher than in the past, we still have a long way to go. For publicly traded trucking companies, only eight percent of women are promoted to the executive level, and ten of the sixteen publicly traded carriers have NO women in management.
3. More women will serve on trucking company boards of directors. California recently passed a law that requires publicly traded companies to place at least one woman on the board. While quotas seem so gratuitous, we do know that more women should have a seat at the table, especially in trucking companies. Of the 17 publicly traded trucking companies, four of them have NO women on their boards. Women comprise only 15 percent of directors in our industry, compared to over 22 percent for women serving on the board of Fortune 500 companies.
4. Recruiting ads will be more inclusive. In a recent DriverIQ survey, 35 percent of carriers reported that they did not have ANY programs aimed at attracting female drivers. Only nineteen percent said they had recruiting ads specifically targeting women. The old ads showing a wife and two kids at home with a picket fence is long gone. It’s time to start using graphics and words that target female drivers.
5. With the help of Women In Trucking Association and Expediter Services, more women will become owner operators or will expand their small fleets. The 150 Women Owned Business Challenge is a collaborate program to help women buy their first truck or to buy more trucks. As of the end of 2018, we were halfway to our goal of empowering 150 women. By the end of 2019, we’d like to increase those numbers to include more women as business owners. Nearly every large carrier today started with a “man and a truck” and now, we want to push toward the future by creating more companies started by “a woman and a truck.”
6. In 2014 the Women In Trucking Association held its first conference and attracted over 300 attendees. This past November, our fourth annual Accelerate! Conference and Expo, included over 830 registered attendees. We are anticipating a record setting audience again this year, as our after-event survey showed that 94% said the conference fulfilled their reason for attending (with 55% of these saying “Yes, absolutely!”)
7. We’d like to see more regulators, legislators and industry media professionals go on ride-alongs with our Image Team members. We want them to see the road from the cab of a truck and to better understand what our female (and male) drivers face on a daily basis. The people who create the laws that affect our drivers should take the opportunity to see it for themselves.
8. Each Saturday you can hear the Women In Trucking Show on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Trucking channel 146 at 10 am until noon central. We would love to hear from more of you about what topics you’d like to see covered or what guests you’d want to hear from. This show is to expand our network to give more exposure to the challenges and opportunities for women in the trucking industry. Be sure to tune in and more importantly, call us!
These are only eight of our goals for 2019 and the years beyond. If you’re not a member of the Women In Trucking Association, consider joining us. We’re looking forward to a very successful and rewarding year! Find us at https://www.womenintrucking.org.
The government defines a nontraditional career as one where over 75 percent of the workforce is of the opposite gender. We’ve always known that the trucking industry has been a nontraditional career choice for women, but we often point to diesel engines, time away from home and loading and unloading as reasons women aren’t interested.
If that is the case, then why do women only comprise twenty-six percent of jobs in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. These jobs typically pay higher wages and have low levels of unemployment. Despite the efforts of groups like “Girls in Tech,” “Women in Technology,” and “Girls Who Code,” the number remain stubbornly low.
So, how can a company that relies on tech workers in the area of supply chain diversify its labor pool? One way is to find girls from disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in technical careers and support and encourage them into a career in coding.
That’s the model for Amous International Fleet and Transportation Management Services. Mark Shevchuk, co-founder of the organization has partnered with Women In Trucking Association to create more opportunities for women in the supply chain who focus on the technology that drives this industry. “We have created sponsorship programs to help women who came from disadvantaged backgrounds into becoming professionals in logistics through education and mentorship,” said Shevchuk.
One of the success stories is of a young woman in Ukraine who entered a boarding school as an orphan. The school focused on using sports to give the children an opportunity to compete and to flourish. At the age of 12, Liuba entered the school and started running. She competed in triathlons and won numerous gold medals in Ukraine and Europe. Shevchuk and his partner learned of Liuba’s success and determination they invited her to join their team, and they taught her how to code. Today, Liuba trains others and manages new hires for Amous International.
“We wanted to see more success stories of women in the world of logistics and coding, which led us to sponsor more women around the world,” said Shevchuk. “With the help of Women In Trucking Association, we hope to be an example for others to follow as well,” Shevchuk added.
Currently, Amous International is working with Oksana, a distance runner for the Ukrainian National and Olympic Team who also came from a boarding school for the disadvantaged and is training for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Amous is giving her the support necessary to not only get the proper training but to be a mentor and to support her athletic career while she transitions to become a full-time developer for the company.
“All it takes is a small step for someone like Oksana to leave the comfort of a small village and to go beyond expectation and break the barriers for bigger things to happen for her,” said Shevchuk.
“The combination of mentorship, supply chain and diversity aligns exactly with our mission to encourage and support women in transportation,” said Ellen Voie, Women In Trucking’s (WIT) President and CEO. We admire the passion Amous International has in giving these girls the guidance as well as the financial means to become successful in the area of technology and supply chain, but more importantly, to provide them with new opportunities in a nontraditional career.
Amous International, Inc. (https://amousinternational.com) is a technology company that offers Transportation Management systems (TMS) for customers in the supply chain AT NO COST. Their goal is for smaller companies to be able to compete with the larger ones by using the latest technology to manage their logistics needs. The cloud-based service has no user fees, but customers can upgrade to additional services if needed. They also offer website design and email hosting.
Amous International is using its resources to diversity its technical team by focusing on one young girl at a time. We find the approach refreshing and heartwarming; we hope you will too.
Every day the admins on the Women In Trucking Association Facebook group scan the posts for negativity, profanity and just plain nastiness. Every day someone is banned from the site because they can’t seem to keep his or her comments civil.
Why can’t we show more kindness, empathy and just be nice?
Believe it or not, there are biological reasons why our brains lean toward negativity. It goes back to the Stone Age and our tendency to be more concerned about survival than kindness. Avoiding a predator was crucial, so staying away from a tiger was more critical than petting a friendly dog.
Another study found that we are less likely to be mean toward someone who is physically close to us, and since the internet separates us physically, we’re not thinking of the targeted victim as someone nearby. There is also research suggesting that communication without the nonverbal component (gestures, body language, etc.) increases an adverse reaction to the “perceived threat” from another person.
I cannot handle mean people. I refuse to tolerate people who call someone names or make threats or just post unkind things about the person’s inherent traits instead of focusing on a behavior.
We’ve all been taught to “fight fair,” which means we should address what the other person said or did, and NOT who they are. Instead of saying, “You’re a jerk,” which only puts them on the defensive, how about saying, "I don’t appreciate the comment you just made about me.”
On the internet, people attack one another’s character, not their comments. When this happens, there is no chance of working through the dissention. How do you defend yourself from an assault on your character? You can’t.
As I write this, we are approaching the mid-term elections in the United States, and the attack ads are very disturbing. Why can’t the candidates focus on how they are different from their competitors and what they will do if elected? Instead, they smear their opponents and in the process, offend us, the voters.
Apparently, attack ads work because they tell a story and create empathy. Every story needs a component of conflict, and the attack on the other person gives voters the conflict to want to empathize with the “hero” in the ad. However, if the attacks are found to be false, it doesn't allow the victim to be a hero, but rather a liar, which will backfire on them instead.
So, let’s go back to why we can’t seem to get along. Wouldn’t it make more sense to stick together and support a greater cause than to intensify the conflict between ourselves? In the trucking industry, we have company drivers versus owner-operators, Teamsters versus non-union drivers, one carrier against another, private versus for-hire fleets, and the list goes on. Drivers often feel that their counterparts get a better break, maybe earn more or have better loads or preferential treatment at a shipper or any number of reasons to resent a fellow driver.
For every person out there who drives a truck, you have so much more in common than you realize. You’re all doing the same job, for the same reason. Can we start there?
Try a little kindness. Try some empathy, and maybe your life will change. In fact, your life could be longer. A negative outlook has been proven to shorten your lifespan. Is it worth it? Many studies have connected longevity to personal happiness and a positive outlook.
You’ve probably heard the adage, “If you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all.” I have, and although it prompts me to bite my tongue often, I’ve learned just to let it go. It’s not worth my time or energy to respond to negative people, and it’s not worth yours either.
My mom always reminded me to, “consider the source,” which meant that a comment from someone I didn’t admire wasn’t worth contemplating.
Think about this the next time someone posts a negative or nasty comment on social media. They are NOT worth your time or attention, and happier people will ignore them and go on to live longer. That works for me!
Mark Harter has always loved trucks. As a teenager, he was intrigued by how trucks move aerodynamically, and he set up a wind tunnel in his parent’s garage. He entered the project in a science fair and won the Central Indiana Regional competition which took him all the way to the International Science and Engineering Fair in 1993.
When Mark turned 21, he earned his commercial driver’s license and began his career at a flatbed carrier. Later he delivered high-end cars for Horseless Carriage for many years. In fact, he has nearly one million accident-free miles behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer.
Tragically, an accident in 2005 left him legally blind and his driving days were over. Mark combined his passion for trucking with his quest to promote eyesight healthcare and vision safety to professional drivers by creating a program called “Eyes On The Road.” Mark contacted the Schepens Eye Research Institute in Boston with his idea to reach out to truck drivers to prevent and cure blindness. He wrote a proposal and was later contacted by Melanie Saunders, director of annual giving, to learn he would receive the funding and “Eyes on the Road” website was created. This nonprofit earned the WRTV6 Leadership Award in 2007.
The effort is no longer funded, but Mark’s friendship with Melanie is intact. In fact, Melanie knew that Mark was a lifelong Cleveland Indians fan and wanted Mark to have the opportunity to throw out the ceremonial opening pitch at the Women In Trucking event held at Progressive Field in Cleveland each year. The opening pitch is auctioned off a month before the game, and this year Melanie had the highest bid when it closed.
Mark was thrilled for this opportunity and made plans to travel from his home in Milwaukee to attend the Indians (versus Red Sox) final home game September 23rd. Melanie flew in from Boston with her mother, (a Red Sox fan!) Mark’s dad drove up from his home in Tennessee to be part of the event.
The Women In Trucking event began in 2013 and has become an annual event. This year, nearly 100 Cleveland area fans gathered in the terrace level, which overlooks the ball diamond at Progressive Field. Program Transportation, Inc., Travel Centers of America and Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems sponsored the event and invited their employees and customers to attend and to cheer for Mark.
Everyone was excited for Mark. He had spent time practicing his pitch with the help of his cousin, a softball coach. However, once the MLB learned of Mark’s blindness, they were concerned for his safety on the field and almost denied him the opportunity. When they realized Mark has a limited amount of vision and could get to the pitcher’s mound safely, they gave the go-ahead.
Mark was escorted to the field, and the announcer gave his name and told the audience he was with “the Women In Trucking group.” Mark executed the pitch across home plate flawlessly. He and Melanie and their parents joined the group in the Terrace and were greeted with applause by the attendees.
“I can honestly say it was one of the greatest moments in my entire life to this point," Mark said, “Melanie is one of my closest and best friends, so to be able to share this experience with her made it one of the greatest days in my life,” he added.
The next day, when Mark headed home, he arrived at the airport wearing his Indians cap. The reservation agent asked him about his visit to Cleveland, and when Mark told him he had thrown out the opening pitch, the agent said he had been at the game and had recognized Mark as well. He said, “You were wearing the Vaughn jersey and were from the trucking organization!” Mark then pulled out the baseball he had thrown and let the agent hold it. The agent smiled and gave Mark a drink ticket to use on the flight home!
This was one of the most memorable Indians game thanks to Melanie and Mark and an amazing guy who was able to turn his dream of throwing out the opening pitch at an Indians game, into a reality.
For your chance to bid on the opening pitch next year, watch the Women In Trucking website for information (www.womenintrucking.org).
This week, Women In Trucking Association was honored to feature Image Team member Deb LaBree on the Megyn Kelly TODAY show in honor of Truck Driver Appreciation Week. Although the segment is only a few minutes long, Deb had the opportunity to be chosen to represent female drivers in the trucking industry on a nationally televised program on NBC.
Megyn Kelly’s video crew followed Deb and rode with her during filming last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They even interviewed her husband and co-driver, Del (LaBree) and her good friend, Pam Kays. Del choked up when he talked about Deb as his best friend. Pam shared her experiences with Deb as a mentor and friend.
We arrived in New York City Sunday evening, and Deb experienced delays in her flights due to the weather, which did not help to quell her nervousness about appearing on the show. Deb’s mom and stepdad live in the New York City area, and she was able to connect with them and even invite them to join us backstage at the show.
Monday morning was rainy and gloomy, and the eight block walk didn’t help make the short, and very wet, trek enjoyable. Deb and I and her parents were ushered to Deb’s dressing room, where she was greeted by the wardrobe and hair and makeup team. We watched the monitor and Megyn Kelly interviewed her first guest and waited to be called. Breaking news forced Deb’s segment into a taping AFTER the show, for viewing later. Deb notified her friends, family members and the staff at Landstar, where the LaBrees are Business Capacity Owners, who were waiting for the segment to air!
Deb’s parents and I were able to sit in the audience and they moved me to the front row to provide support for Deb during her segment. Finally, Deb was ushered out with Megyn Kelly and took her place on the stage. I gave her a thumbs up, but she was doing great.
They started the segment with the videos the crew had filmed in Oklahoma. We were thrilled to see the Women In Trucking Facebook page mentioned, as Deb is active as an admin on the page and is recognized for her hard work. They showed Deb checking the truck and interviewed her in and out of the cab. Deb had not seen the final cut and was holding back the tears as she listened to the kind words from her husband and her friend.
Deb’s sincere passion for the industry was evident and came through during the program. Megyn Kelly asked Deb how she ended up in the trucking industry. Then, Megyn made an announcement that shocked us all. Shell Rotella is a sponsor on the show and had reached out to us to provide a female professional driver for the segment. She and her husband use Shell Rotella, and they were recognized for their loyalty.
You’ll have to watch the program to see the surprise!
Before satellite radio became a reality in 1990, professional drivers and anyone who traversed the country had to either listen to their cassettes (or eight tracks!) or they would be forced to change channels as the moved across the nation. Satellite radio allowed the listener to maintain one channel for hours without losing a signal.
Sirius Satellite radio originated in Washington DC and was launched in 2001, just following the debut of XM radio in 2001. In the early years, subscribers had to choose between Sirius and XM. Most drivers seemed to prefer the trucking-related content of XM which featured hosts from America’s Trucking radio network such as bill Mack, Dave Nemo and the Truckin’ Bozo (Dale Sommers).
In January 2009, Sirius and XM merged into one service, and today, all content heard on Road Dog Trucking channel 146 is a SiriusXM exclusive product. That same year, Freewheelin's Meredith Ochs and Chris T invited Women In Trucking’s Ellen Voie to have a one hour segment devoted to the organization. Ellen and Marge Bailey, one of the original WIT board members, were on the last Wednesday of each month for the next nine years.
This year, SiriusXM invited Women In Trucking to host its own call-in show, and the date was scheduled to begin Saturday, January 20th at 10 am central and would last for two hours. The first guest was Keera Brooks of Sawgrass Logistics, who had completed the WIT “Best Practices Study” about carriers with a higher than average percentage of female drivers.
The calls came in from both men and women across the continent.
Now, every Saturday on SiriusXM Road Dog Channel 146 (with the replay on Sunday) you can listen to Ellen interview men and women with very diverse views on subjects related to the industry.
In the past, we’ve had the opportunity to interview such varied guests as Debbie Gardner with the Survive Institute, Valerie Alexander, author of “How to Succeed In the Workplace Despite Having Female Brains,” and Elba Pareja-Gallagher, founder of ShowMe50.org. We’ve interviewed Congressman Mike Gallagher, who rode with a female professional driver and shared his insights. There’s even been a show about drones with Sharron Rossmark, of the organization, Women and Drones.
More recent shows have focused on research about attracting and retaining drivers, some fun information about your favorite trade shows and even a show on how to increase your fuel economy. A favorite guest was Margot Genger, who wrote a book about her driving experience in the 1970s called, “Shift Happens.” We had her back to finish telling her story.
We’re always looking for entertaining guests as well, so if you would like to be on the Women In Trucking show on a Saturday morning, please let us know. If you’re listening, please call in and share your story or ask a question. The number is always the same, 888-876-2336 or 888-8ROADDOG.
The guests might surprise you, and the insight should enlighten and entertain you. Watch our e-newsletter for upcoming show information, or visit our website and click on “WIT Show.” If you don’t currently subscribe to SiriusXM, you can find information on obtaining a 30-day free trial to see if you’d like to continue the service on your radio or via the app on your computer, tablet or smartphone.
The show is geared toward both women and men, and the majority of our listeners are professional drivers, who call between their loads, breaks or on downtime. These drivers ask questions, offer advice and sometimes just want to share a story. They are all very engaged with the guests.
This is just one more way we can share our story about the Women In Trucking Association. Our goal is to help educate, enlighten and empower you. This is just one more way we can communicate with you, our members, and get our message out to future members. We are genuinely thrilled to be a part of the SiriusXM radio “Road Dog” family.
Ten years ago, when I would stand in front of trucking company executives to talk about Women In Trucking (WIT), their comments were typically dispassionate. “We don’t care if the driver is male or female,” was the usual response. “We just want good drivers.”
I would try to make them understand that women wanted different things in a carrier as well as the industry as a whole. Women often had the same challenges but would prioritize their significance differently.
Safety was always an issue. Women looked for a carrier that was concerned about their personal safety on the road as well as how well they maintained the tractor and trailer. We knew that women are more risk averse than men. Even the World Health Organization called “masculinity” hazardous to health due to risky driving.
It was hard to quantify safety data for female commercial drivers, however, as women were said to be, “statistically insignificant” due to the low numbers for data collection. We knew that the National Association of Insurance Commissioners claimed female automobile drivers were less likely to get into accidents, more likely to wear their seatbelt and less likely to drive under the influence. We weren’t comfortable claiming the same for commercial drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Administration reported only 95 fatalities in commercial trucks in 2015 where the driver was female. Out of a total of 3,883, this meant that women were the drivers in just in two percent of truck fatalities while comprising six percent of all commercial drivers.
We knew that women were not only safer drivers but were often reported to be better with customers, took better care of their equipment and were much better in completing their paperwork.
Many carriers still didn't feel the need to focus on attracting and retaining women. To quantify the actual percentage of female over the road drivers, we partnered with The National Transportation Institute to survey carriers on their female driver population. We were surprised to learn that many companies didn’t even KNOW what percentage of their fleet was women. This year, the number of carriers tracking this data increased by 19 percent!
We were also pleased to see the number of female drivers increased from 7.13 percent of all drivers in 2016 to 7.89 percent in 2017. This data is significant and promising. We then partnered with Sawgrass Logistics to conduct a best practices study to determine WHAT carriers were doing to increase their female driver population.
Sadly, only 11 percent of carriers answered “yes” to having a separate marketing campaign geared toward women. A recent study by DriverIQ found that 35 percent of their carrier respondents had no programs aimed at recruiting female drivers. The remainder felt that their ads were gender neutral.
Misperceptions continue to drive recruiting, which is unfortunate, as this industry still hasn’t figured out what women want. The most common concern I hear from company officials is that women are focused on home time more than men.
They are wrong. A recent Stay Metrics study found that the top turnover predicter for men is dissatisfaction with home time. For women, it’s their equipment (safety). How could this be? In our best practices research, we learned that 83 percent of women enter the trucking industry at the urging of a family member or friend. This means women are well aware of the anticipated change in lifestyle. We also know that women ask a lot more questions before they made a decision, so they are better prepared for the career change.
Safety has always been this industry’s top priority, yet we need to be more aware of personal safety as well. On a scale of one to ten, we found that women reported they felt safe an average of 4.4 when asked if they felt unsafe or very safe in their job. We’ve challenged truckstops to increase lighting, surveillance cameras, and fencing. We’ve asked manufacturers for personal safety alarms in the event a driver is sleeping and someone tries to enter their truck. We’re monitoring the security at shippers through the Dock411 app as well.
We were so excited to learn that the American Transportation Research Institute included gender when researching crash causation. They reported what we'd known all along. Women are safer commercial drivers. Men were found to be twenty percent more likely to be involved in a crash than women. In every category, from reckless driving to improper lane changing, women were found to be safer drivers.
Our challenge to this industry is to stop trying to ignore the data and start looking at ways to make our roads safer by attracting and retaining more women. This is our mission at Women In Trucking Association. We hope it will be yours as well.