Image, respect a stumbling block in recruitment of women drivers, study finds

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Screenshot 2024 06 20 At 7 16 09 AmIf trucking is going to make any headway in its ongoing quest to attract more women, the industry has its work cut out for them. According to new research from the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), the negative perception of the industry tops a list of six challenges trucking faces in onboarding more female drivers. 

Last year women drivers made up just less than 7% of the trucking fleet, hitting its lowest point since pre-pandemic 2019. 

A 2022 survey conducted by Trucking Moves America Forward found the public generally holds trucking in high regard. However, ATRI's research suggests it's not the public's perception of trucking that is the barrier; it's, at least in part, trucking's perception of women. 

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ATRI's 2022 update of its Predicting Truck Crash Involvement showed that female truck drivers were safer than their male counterparts in every statistically significant category, yet more than 31% of responses to ATRI's most recent query pertained to attitudes other drivers, motor carriers, shippers and the general public have about women drivers or general disrespect of women. 

ATRI’s research included input from thousands of truck drivers, motor carriers and truck driver training schools through surveys, interviews and a women driver focus group to identify the underlying factors that generate challenges, as well as strategies for navigating and overcoming these barriers to success for women drivers. The research found that women are drawn to driving careers for the income potential, highlighting the fact that pay parity for women and men is much more prevalent in the trucking industry than in other fields. 

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ATRI analysis found that carriers that implement women-specific recruiting and retention initiatives have a higher percentage of women drivers (8.1%) than those without (5.0%), and the report details how fleets can put such initiatives in place.

What could be perceived as a lack of respect took two of the six spots on ATRI's list. An motor carrier company culture was No. 2, including unclear and inconsistent communication with drivers, and an absence of recognition and appreciation initiatives.

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Overall, women ranked lack of respect higher (by a wide margin) than personal safety (12.6%), restroom access (12.2%), and their physical ability to perform the job (11.6%).

Jason Cannon has written about trucking and transportation for more than a decade and serves as Chief Editor of Commercial Carrier Journal. A Class A CDL holder, Jason is a graduate of the Porsche Sport Driving School, an honorary Duckmaster at The Peabody in Memphis, Tennessee, and a purple belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu. Reach him at [email protected].