In a traditional male-dominated trucking industry, women are beginning to take the wheel. Whether or not they dreamed of being truckers, an increasing number of women have found success working in the U.S. trucking industry.
With a huge shortage of truckers, many companies want to hire more women truck drivers to fill the need for qualified drivers. Although the traditional truckers are middle-aged white men, the looming trucking crisis along with advanced technology has helped a small, but growing minority of women become truck drivers.
Many women have found success driving as a team. Whether they pair up with their spouse or another woman, teams can drive 24/7 and make more money. In fact, many teams can make over $120,000 per year. Teams typically earn more because they accept long-haul trips, which can take them on the road for up to three weeks at a time. However, they then receive three weeks of home time. Even working as a solo driver, the average trucker earns $36,000 per year, according to the 2006 Bureau of Labor Statistics. That average salary is more than what some women say they can make in traditional women’s industries back home, such as retail.
With the use of technology, women have been given more opportunities to advance in the physical world of trucking. Power steering and small loads help women do their job with less brute strength. Women also face another benefit from truck driving-less discrimination in salary. Truckers are paid by the mile, so women aren’t paid less than their male counterparts, unlike other industries.
Despite advancements in recent years, women still face challenges as truck drivers. Associations have sprouted recently to help women overcome the challenges of a male-dominated environment, including more safety measures, providing basic needs such as showers and toilets, and a secure sleeping place. Women are still a small percentage of this industry, with 182,000 women working as drivers in 2006, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although that number is only 5.2 percent of the nation’s 3.5 million drivers, that’s an increase from 84,000 women truckers in 1983, which was 3.5% of truckers.
Surprisingly, women have been driving trucks longer than in the 1980s, going back to the late 1920s. Particularly during World War Two, thousands of women took up trucking as men were shipped out to fight. Without those hard-working women, the American industry would have been in trouble. However, the number of women in the industry (and other fields) fell sharply after those men returned from war.
Although the trucking industry is growing, the deficit in qualified drivers could increase to 111,000 by 2014. In 2005, the industry had an estimated shortage of 20,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations (ATA) study.