Although trucking has traditionally been a male-dominated industry, more and more women are answering the call to become professional truck drivers. Between 2010 and 2019, the number of women truck drivers in the U.S. increased by a whopping 68%.
With an unprecedented high demand for truck drivers to combat the truck driver shortage and the industry's lucrative pay packages, now is the perfect time for women to embrace trucking as a career opportunity. Some perks of the profession include an unparalleled level of autonomy compared to other industries and the chance to travel while still earning a paycheck. However, low female representation and discrimination are a given concern for women who want to get in the trucking industry, which is why we’ve created a guide to help you get started on the right foot.
Women in Trucking: Concerns & Challenges
Before getting into the trucking industry, you may wonder what it’s like being a female truck driver. To become a truck driver is to become a part of something great, a chance to make a difference and serve as the lifeblood of our nation’s supply chain. However, there are many concerns women in trucking have, such as representation and safety, due to it being a traditionally male-dominated field.
Representation of Women in Trucking
Commercial trucking offers excellent career and growth opportunities. Many truck drivers, including many female truck drivers, have gone on to start their own trucking companies. Earlier, we’ve stated that women truck drivers have increased by 68% between 2010 and 2019, but this still only accounts for 5.8% of total truck drivers. It is a growing number that can expand in the future, but issues with concerns over safety is what keeps this total number at bay.
Is it Safe to Be a Female Truck Driver?
Is it safe to become a female truck driver? This is a common question and a valid concern for many women thinking about becoming truck drivers. We first would like to point out that, unfortunately, the truck driver occupation has consistently ranked among the top ten most dangerous jobs in the U.S. for decades.
However, this ranking is independent of gender and reflects the hazards of operating large commercial vehicles. That being said, the industry regulations and technology used on today’s trucks make the truck driver’s job in the 21st century much safer than before. Unfortunately, even with these strides towards safety, other concerns about trucking being less accommodating to women such as the following make it more difficult to enter the field:
- Trucks not designed for women: Trucks are less accommodating to female height where reaching to step on the pedal is difficult.
- Heavy cargo weights: Truck driving deals with carrying heavy loads, and though women are more than capable to lift heavy cargo, discrimination towards picking men over women for heavier loads can occur.
- Work-life balance as a truck driver: Similar to men, women must deal with imbalanced schedules which result in less flexibility to care for family and personal life.
- Potential harassment in the workplace: Especially with driving alone at night, women in trucking are more susceptible to inappropriate behavior from men.
Safety is always a priority, whether it be in the trucking industry or elsewhere.
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the essential element for safe operation of a big truck is the truck driver. Following safety guidelines and operating your commercial vehicle while observing best practices is crucial for your on-the-job safety. Let's look at some essential truck driver safety tips to visualize this better:
- Keep your doors locked
- Don’t open your door to strangers
- Avoid parking overnight on highway ramps, road shoulders, and other isolated places
- Truck stops, rest areas, and customers who permit overnight parking are your safest options
- Check rest stop reviews for safety (and cleanliness) ahead of time
- When walking to and from stores, remain in well-lit areas
- Keep your eyes and ears open. Listen to other drivers and the news about unsafe areas within cities and towns, and take note of them to avoid parking overnight in these areas
- Be aware of your surroundings and watch for suspicious individuals
CloudTrucks drivers can make up to $6,000 per week (Averaging $204,000 per year or $17,000 per month) with the flexibility to drive as little or as much as they want.
Getting Started: Women in Trucking Mini-Guide & Tips
1. Join Women in Trucking
All women drivers should look for professional support. Women in Trucking is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging female drivers and eliminating the obstacles many women face in the workforce. The company is an excellent resource for women starting in the industry, providing a ready-made community and offering mentorship for those who need it. As you gain experience in trucking, you can even become a mentor to other female drivers.
2. Start Training
Once you’ve joined Women in Trucking the next step is to obtain your commercial driver’s license (CDL). There are several avenues available for training to become a truck driver. Many large trucking companies feature training programs that take you from obtaining your CDL to putting you to work driving one of their trucks.
Another option is a community college or technical school with a truck driving program. There are also specialized truck driver training schools. The costs differ depending on the program you select.
The trucking company programs are often free but in exchange you are often contractually obligated to work for them for 1 - 2 years. With the community college/technical school route, you may qualify for federal assistance to offset your tuition costs, otherwise, the cost to train at these institutions and at private trucking schools can range upward of $5,000.
To learn more about what is involved with training be sure to check out this article on training to become a truck driver.
3. Focus on Networking
Truck drivers are part of a strong community, and you will find plenty of members willing to help, guide, and support you. It is crucial to find a professional network of supportive coworkers and people you can trust. Building a network is like building a professional family or community, and in the trucking industry, you can never have too many friends.
4. Maintain Personal Relationships
While having support on the job is vital to your professional success, drivers also need support at home. You spend a lot of time away from your house, family, and friends, so a solid personal network is helpful as well. From watering houseplants to checking in on your children, building your community when at home can give you peace of mind when on the road. Pay special attention to personal relationships and do whatever you can to keep those bonds healthy.
5. Plan Your Routes
Route planning is an essential part of a truck driver’s job. Understanding where you are going and how to get there alleviates stress, makes you safer and ensures you remain compliant with hours of service regulations. CloudTrucks Schedule Optimizer can help drivers organize their workflow and route up to 10 days in advance.
6. Purchase and Install a CB Radio
Despite the prevalence of cell phones, the CB radio remains an essential tool for truck drivers. Having a CB radio can make a big difference in contacting help in areas with poor cellphone reception. The CB radio is also helpful for learning important information from other drivers, such as road hazards, traffic conditions, and other situations. Be sure to set your CB to channel 19, as this is the standard channel for CB communications among truck drivers.
CloudTrucks Schedule Optimizer can help drivers organize their workflow and route up to 10 days in advance.
Future of the Trucking Industry
This nation continues to grow, and the trucking industry grows with it. Better pay and greater flexibility in your schedule and day-to-day working habits are just some of the perks you can find only in this profession. And don’t forget, the high demand for drivers and the high pay that comes with the job make it an outstanding opportunity for women to step onto a level playing field.
If you want an employer who judges you for your willingness and ability to do the job rather than your gender, look no further than the trucking industry. As a bonus, we would like to point out that thanks to advances in trucking technology, the life of a truck driver has never been more comfortable, safer, easier, and enjoyable than today. To learn more about becoming a truck driver and how CloudTrucks can help you reach your career and life goals, be sure to read more in our FAQs.