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For those of us in the trucking industry, we are well aware that the four-wheeler causes most crashes involving a commercial truck. It’s frustrating for all of us that student drivers to senior drivers are unaware of the blind spots, stopping distances and the massive weight of a tractor-trailer.

Every time the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) creates (or changes) regulations that affect professional drivers, I hear complaints that they are the safe drivers and someone needs to educate the motoring public. These drivers feel as if the rules should apply to all drivers and not just those in 18-wheelers.

What they don’t understand is that the FMCSA CANNOT regulate cars. They were designed to regulate trucks and busses, and that’s why they have “Motor Carrier” in their name. The states have more authority to regulate automobiles, but the only federal agency that creates rules to govern cars is the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

However, the FMCSA, and in particular, Administrator Ray Martinez, is focused on safety, and in response to drivers’ concerns about the vehicles around them, they created the “Our Roads, Our Safety” campaign.

Their first step was to find partners that have a deep understanding of the safety issues related to operating on our nation’s highways. The Women In Trucking Association (WIT)  is one of those partners, but the group is very diverse. The America Bicycling Education Association, the American Motorcyclists Association, Choose Outdoors, Teens in the Driver Seat and the American Bus Association are a few of the groups represented.  From trucks to buses, bikes to cycles and everything in between, there is a common thread that runs through each meeting.  How do we educate the motorists sharing our roads?

The next step was to design the campaign which would include public safety announcements, billboards, TV and radio commercials and most importantly, materials for our industries to use when speaking to those who share our roads. 

The FMCSA wisely understood the need to use real truck and bus drivers as well as motorcyclists, bicyclists, student drivers, and others who share the roads with commercial vehicles. Since the Women In Trucking Association has an Image Team prepared to share their stories, we suggested owner-operator, Ingrid Brown, to represent professional drivers.  We are also thrilled that Dick Pingel, a charter member of WIT, was also selected as one of the featured drivers for the campaign.

Ingrid and Dick, along with the other transportation representatives were filmed, photographed and interviewed.  Ingrid talked about how much she loves being a truck driver and how safety is important to her.  Her four million miles give her credibility and the fact that she’s a minority in a career dominated by men helped us share the message the women can do this job and are valued and needed in the trucking industry. 

The FMCSA created the campaign, “Our Roads, Our Safety,” to give us the materials to share with our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our schools. Everything you need is available at no charge on their website (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/ourroads). You can download radio spots, television commercials, social media content, tip sheets, infographics, and even postcards.  

The agency is taking its message on the road and will be attending events across the nation to share these resources with those of us in the industry as well as those outside. 

So, what can YOU do? Share the messages in your Twitter feed, your Facebook page, and add a link in your email signature. Take the tip sheet to your local school and offer to talk about safety. The tip sheet is a two-page document with instructions about a truck’s blind spots, stopping distances, wide turns and more. It’s surprising how many people really don’t understand why a truck has to make such a wide turn at an intersection because of the length of the trailer behind them. 

The next time you hear a driver complain about the motorists around them, tell them to visit the FMCSA “Our Roads, Our Safety” website and download the materials and help educate the public. We’re all sharing the roads, and we need to understand how to make our highways safer for everyone.  Thanks, FMCSA for creating this campaign.

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I was recently reading a trade journal when I found an article titled "The Seven Percent."* It was about the lack of women in the industry and how the numbers aren't moving fast enough.

The statistics showed that there is currently a significant operator shortage, and more than 320,000 new operators will be needed within the next ten years. To add to the deficit, the average operator is about 46 years old, and more than forty percent are over the age of 50.

The article described the lack of women in the profession is crucial. Although women accounted for nearly 13 percent of students, only seven percent of them ended up working in the field. 

Sound familiar? At first glance, you could assume that this data is about the trucking industry, but you're wrong; it's about pilots.

There are some glaring differences between pilots and professional drivers, but it appears that they are needed, wanted, and valued in both industries.

Let's look at the similarities. Women make up just under eight percent of professional drivers. For pilots, that number is an overall seven percent but can be broken down into commercial (airline and business jet) pilots who make up only 4.3 percent and private pilots, or general aviation pilots who do not earn a living flying an airplane who make up 6.1 percent. Female pilots in the air force are six percent of the population. The figure that drives the total percentage up is that nearly 13 percent of student pilots are women.

In the trucking industry, we don't count "student CDL holders" in our percentages, but student pilots could take years to turn that status into a sport or private pilot certificate, so they are considered in the totals.

There is a massive turnover for professional drivers who have completed their CDL training and have been hired by a carrier. One study found that 77 percent of new drivers leave the industry in the first three months. These drivers are not considered students anymore, as they have finished their schooling and have been hired by a trucking company.

In the air, eighty percent of student pilots drop out of training. That's pretty close to the trucking drop out (turnover) rate, but the pilots had not attained that final certification.

For professional drivers, time away from home and lifestyle changes are often the reasons cited for leaving. Lifestyle includes the driver's relationship with his or her carrier and the expectations each side has of the other person that isn't being met.

For pilots, it's often a lack of money or time to complete training, but for some, it's the inability to overcome the things you need to learn in the event of an emergency, such as learning stalls and avoiding spins.

For both pilots and professional drivers, medical problems stop many from proceeding. Both require physicals from FAA or DOT approved medical examiners who are looking at your health as a transportation operator using the highways or airways.

In the article I referenced earlier, "The Seven Percent," there were numerous interviews with women who described harassment and assault from their male colleagues as deterrents. In trucking, there are also tales of women being harassed from their male peers as well. It's unfortunate that in 2019 we're still dealing with (a few) Neanderthal men working in transportation careers.

The first female professional driver, according to Wikipedia, was Luella Bates, who obtained a driver's license and drove a truck in 1920; however, the first woman to receive a commercial driver's license was Lillie McGee in 1929. The airlines were right behind, as the first woman to earn her pilot's license was Mary Nicholson, who passed her certificate in 1929. Helen Richey was the first woman in the United States to fly for a commercial airline in 1934. She was later pushed out of the union!

I'm always intrigued by the similarities between women in various modes of transportation. Female pilots and female professional drivers have a great deal in common as both continue to remain under the ten percent mark.

At Women In Trucking Association, we're working hard to change this and will be watching for higher numbers in the years ahead as we advance our mission to increase the percentage of women employed in our industry. For more information or to join, visit www.womenintrucking.org

*AOPA Pilot Magazine, April 2019

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This week I traveled to Australia to speak at a conference. On my flight from Sydney to Perth, I was pulled aside for additional screening for explosives. The agent passed a wand over my luggage, my shoes and my hands. He then put the wand into a reader before he let me go. I thanked him for doing his job and went on my way.

On my return flight, I was again “selected” for additional screening and went through the process again. I made a point to thank the agent for doing his job. 

Many people would feel inconvenienced for being pulled aside for additional screening. However, these people are only doing their job. They are asked to pick travelers at random and check them for explosives. Did I enjoy the process? No. Did I appreciate the delay? No. However, I did appreciate the fact that these people were helping to keep us all safe by looking for potential explosive material.

Sometimes we take these people for granted. In the trucking industry, we need to appreciate the person doing the random check for hours of service violations, or for faulty brakes or any other of the numerous potential violations that occur at a roadside inspection.

These people are hired to keep you legal and to keep our highways safe. They’re doing their job; If you honestly thought about their perspective, you would appreciate what they are doing to keep you and your family safe.

Instead of having an “attitude” at a scale or inspection site, what if you put yourselves in their shoes? They are hired to check your truck, your documents, and your company’s safety record. They are there to make sure you and your fellow drivers are in compliance.

Think about their perspective. They don’t hate you. They understand the value of your time. They know you’re doing your job to deliver your load. They don’t want to see you lose income because of time constraints. They don’t know you personally, and it’s not about you.

Have you ever noticed someone doing their job and wondered how they could get up and go to work each day? What about the person who cleans the restrooms at the airport or the showers at the truck stop? Have you ever thanked them for a clean shower or toilet?  

A few years ago my colleague, Char, and I decided to thank at least one person each day for making life better by cleaning, serving, or waiting on us. The first person we saw was a woman who was cleaning the mirrors in an elevator. We thanked her for making the elevator spotless. The look on her face was priceless. It was apparent that she wasn’t used to being noticed, much less appreciated, by the folks staying at the hotel.  

Now, when I see someone working hard to keep something clean, maintained or by serving me, I thank them. Everyone needs a smile and an acknowledgment (and a good tip!). Don’t you wish more people recognized how hard you work to serve them? 

What if we started a trend in thanking people for doing their jobs? If you have followed my blog, you’ll know that at Women In Trucking Association we’ve started a project called #SteeringTowardKindness. I share many of these stories on our weekly show on SiriusXM’s Road Dog Channel 146 (10 am central to noon each Saturday.) 

Feel free to send me your experience at #SteeringTowardKindness (president@womenintrucking.org) or post it on our Facebook group, and I’ll share the story with others. 

We could probably all be more understanding when we are inconvenienced by people who are merely doing the job they were hired to do. Next time you’re pulled over at a scale or roadside inspection, in an airport for additional screening, or for any other delays on your time, thank the person for doing his or her job. You might surprise them, and maybe you’ll start a trend in thanking people for doing their job.

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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.

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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.  

Who’s looking out for you?

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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

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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

Ellen

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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.

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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?

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!

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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).

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