Take a look. Almost anywhere you look in the transportation industry, you will see some sort of report concerning the projected truck driver shortage. With the trucking industry well on the road to recovery from the recession, 2012 showed some favorable gains. According to the American Trucking Association, truckload activity was up 1 percent, truckload intermodal loads were up 20.1 percent and less-than-truckload tonnage increased 4.3 percent from 2011.
Predictions for 2013 show continued increases, but at a slower rate than 2012.
Overall, though, the shortage of truck drivers still looms. The industry will need more than 96,000 new drivers every year for the next 10 years, according to ATA, to offset lost drivers and older drivers getting out of the business. Fewer and fewer young people are moving into the industry as a way of life. An estimated 20,000 to 25,000 driving positions could go unfilled this year, according to projections.
So, where can the industry turn to fill the void?
According to statistics from 2008, 8.8 million people participated in one way or another in the trucking industry. Of those, only about 15 percent were female, of 1.3 million. That, however, involves the entire trucking industry, from offices to drivers.
There were about 3.4 million truck drivers in the United States in 2008, of which only about 166,000 were women. That comes down to about 4.9 percent of the total driver population.
The trucking industry has always been thought of as a predominantly male-dominated industry. The female presence in the industry, though, has been increasing over the past decade with more women drivers, owner and managers.
Several studies indicate that women are well-suited for leadership roles within companies. Those studies show that women are better at communication, engaging employees and overall planning than men. The same, I believe, would be true for the trucking industry and truck drivers. While the stigma of the industry stereotypically places a male behind the wheel of a big rig, women are well suited and perfectly capable of doing the same job.
The image of men being behind the wheel of big rigs, though, is perhaps the first and most difficult hurdle to clear when talking about women filling the gap. Another issue that could have an impact on women driving is the time away from home. This has also become an issue with male drivers, who want to spend more time with their families. The same would be true with female drivers and may develop the industry to consider shorter routes and delivery schedules to reduce the time spent on the road.
One area that will help in getting women more involved in the trucking industry, though, comes from the Women in Trucking Association. In 2012, WTA formed a separate, charitable organization known as the Women in Trucking Association Foundation, a nonprofit organization designed to provide funds for members seeking training in areas vital to the trucking industry.
After spending a year obtaining funds, the organization is now ready to award its first scholarships. The $500 scholarships will be awarded in four categories: leadership, safety professional, technical skill and professional driver. Applicants for the scholarship are able to submit a request for funding online at www.WomenInTruckingFoundation.org. To be awarded a scholarship, you must be a member in good standing with the organization.
Scholarship applications will be accepted through the end of July and scholarship recipients will be notified in August. Funds will be dispersed to the educational facility of the woman’s choice on behalf of the grant recipient.
It is a good start. Women and the trucking industry are a great fit. It is an employment pool the industry can draw from to overcome some of the shortages that are predicted and would benefit both the industry and women in the long run.
About the Author
Larry Hurrle is the editor of IT Magazine. Hurrle, 51, has been a professional journalist for more than 30 years at both daily and weekly newspapers in the Northwest. He attended Boise State University and has served as editor of the Kellogg Evening News in Kellogg, ID; the Argus Observer in Ontario, OR; and the Independent-Enterprise in Payette, ID.