As the truck driver shortage continues to plague the industry, many trucking companies are banking on one demographic that we all look to when a crisis hits: women.
When the economy took a nosedive in the 1929 stock market crash, it was women who went out and got jobs to help support their families while their husbands were unemployed. And now, in 2022, with the truck driver shortage at an all-time high, it’s once again women who are being looked to as a solution.
So, what’s the current status of female drivers in the trucking industry? And what are truck companies doing to attract more women to the field? Let’s take a look.
Women in Trucking Today
Statistics show that almost half (47%) of Canada’s workforce is composed of women. However, in the trucking industry, that number drops to only three percent.
In the past, this low number might have been accepted as the norm as, historically, trucking has been a male-dominated industry. But now more trucking companies are taking a closer look at their hiring practices and are asking themselves: why aren’t more women driving trucks?
The answer to that question is not a simple one. There are a number of factors that play into why women are underrepresented in the trucking industry—from cultural norms to a lack of family-friendly policies. But whatever the reason, trucking companies are starting to sit up and take notice. In fact, the number of female truck drivers has risen steadily in recent years in Canada & the US. Since 2010, there has been an 88% increase in the number of women getting their commercial driver’s licenses (CDL).
However, the industry still has a long way to go in terms of attracting women drivers. With 23,000 vacant truck driver positions in Canada that need to be filled in, it’s clear that the industry needs to start making some changes to get women behind the wheel.
So, what’s being done to address this gender gap? We explore the initiatives that trucking companies are taking to bring more women into the industry.
Women in Trucking & Women’s Trucking Federation Of Canada
Two such organizations, Women in Trucking (WIT) and the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada (WTFC), are making strides in creating a more inclusive industry for women and helping break down the barriers that are preventing them from joining the field.
These organizations work to promote women’s employment in the trucking industry and support female truck drivers through networking, education, and advocacy.
The Women in Trucking Association is a non-profit organization with the mission to encourage women’s employment in the trucking industry. It also supports the advancement of women in the industry and minimizes obstacles that might prevent their success.
Meanwhile, The Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada is a national organization created for women to empower, expand and retain employment of — and shift attitudes about—women in the industry and beyond. This includes supporting the industry with issues around training, safety, career progression, education, mentoring, and more. Established in 2015, the group aims to promote personal growth and responsibility whether women are “in the office, under the hood or behind the wheel”.
Programs That Encourage Women in Trucking
Aside from the work of organizations like WIT and WTFC, there are also many programs in place to help encourage women to enter the trucking industry. Here are a few of them:
Alberta Government Supporting Women In Commercial Trucking Careers
Alberta’s government has earmarked $3 million to help support women who are seeking job opportunities in the transportation sector. As one of the five pillars of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, the province is strengthening the workforce with skills training and employment grants. This funding is part of a $10-million investment in the 2022 budget to help reduce labor shortages in the commercial trucking industry.
Driving Back To Work Grant Program
Unemployed Albertans have an opportunity to start careers as commercial truck drivers through the extension of the Driving Back to Work Grant Program (DBTW). Unemployed Albertans can access funding to take the Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program to earn a Class 1 driver’s license. This grant will help to fill an expected shortage of commercial drivers, forecast to be more than 12% by 2023, putting the province’s supply chain at risk.
Women With Drive Leadership Summit
The annual Women with Drive Leadership Summit has become the industry’s go-to event for leaders across the sector. It works to support and strengthen their workforce through strong diversity and inclusion initiatives backed by action and understanding. Delegates leave this event with new connections, ideas, and best practices in recruitment and retention that foster inclusive workplaces.
“The representation of women in the trucking and logistics industry remains well below their representation in Canada’s workforce as a whole,” says Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada. “The Women with Drive Leadership Summit puts the issue front and center; promotes the sharing of ideas, experiences, and leadership practices while providing richer perspectives on the issue.”
Top Fleet Employers Program
The Top Fleet Employers program is a national program that recognizes the importance of having and implementing sound HR policies and practices in the trucking and logistics industry. Trucking HR Canada rates applicants for this distinction on topics such as recruitment and retention practices, workplace culture, compensation, training and skills development, and innovative HR practices.
Skills Training Project In Ontario
The Ontario government is investing $600,000 in a skills training project in the Waterloo region to prepare 30 women and individuals from underrepresented groups for careers in the trucking industry. This program will provide people with more opportunities to find meaningful, well-paying jobs and address labor shortages in the region’s trucking sector.
YWCA Changing Gears
This is a free truck driver training program for self-identifying women. Participants will have the opportunity to acquire a Class 1 driver’s license as well as the training needed to kick start a career in transportation.
Women Shifting Gears
Women Shifting Gears is a unique program designed to empower women and develop their skills to enter the transportation industry as a Class 1A Professional Truck Transport Driver. The program results from a collaboration between the Saskatchewan Trucking Association, the YWCA Saskatoon, and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Immigration and Career Training.
Women Success Stories in the Trucking Industry
Despite the challenges faced by women in the trucking industry, there are many success stories of those who have persevered and made a name for themselves. Let’s look at several who have blazed a trail for other women.
1) Luella Bates
In 1918, Luella Bates became the first woman truck driver. She worked for the Four Wheel Drive Auto Company from 1918 to 1922. She was a test driver for the company during WWI, traveling across Wisconsin. Luella Bates worked as a demonstrator and driver even after the war, when most women were laid off to make room for returning soldiers. She was a proficient driver and mechanic who took care of all her truck’s maintenance.
2) Lillie Elizabeth Drennan
Lillie Elizabeth Drennan is recognized as being the first female truck driver and owner of a trucking company in the United States. Drennan and her husband took advantage of the oil boom in 1928. They established their own trucking company, which she eventually became sole proprietor of. After the Railroad Commission began overseeing the motor-freight industry in Texas, she obtained her commercial truck driver’s license in 1929.
3) Kitty Liang
Kitty Liang’s narrative is one of passion and creativity, as she uses trucking to discover inspiration all around the US. Liang hails from Sacramento, California, but was born in China and immigrated to the United States in 2007. She received a Master’s degree in English Creative Writing from Harvard University.
Liang realized after graduation that she didn’t want to be tied down in an office and wanted to learn more about the United States, where she had recently become a citizen. Liang decided to become a truck driver with these two things in mind. As a Schneider truck driver, she found the training to be calm and laid back. She also had the opportunity to travel around the country while creating art.
Kitty has always felt welcome in the trucking profession and wanted to share her experiences with others. The job never felt too difficult, and she always felt accomplished, and she hopes that others feel the same way.
4) Molly Sizer
Molly Sizer is a YouTube celebrity and a contestant in the 2017 Most Beautiful Trucker event. There is a lot more to Sizer, though, than her good looks. She is renowned as a tireless worker, driving hundreds of miles and transporting up to 50,000 pounds of frac sand as a professional frac sand hauler. In a feature on FreighWaves, Sizer shared how much she enjoys her profession.
“What was most thrilling was going to these sites and working with these other drivers, and everyone is hyped up because there is a lot of money to be made – the passion and high level of emotion are contagious,” says the driver.
Sizer’s YouTube channel—where she gives people a peek into the day-to-day grind of being a woman in the trucking profession—has thousands of subscribers and views.
5) Susie De Ridder
Susie De Ridder won Female Driver of the Year in 2020. She is the first recipient of the coveted award sponsored by Women In Trucking Association (WIT) and Walmart. She works as a driver for Armour Transportation Systems in New Brunswick, Canada.
“I am always inspiring and encouraging the next generation to join the trucking industry. I promote this in my daily travels with Clare, WIT’s trucking doll. She is proudly displayed on my dash and is a great conversation starter to tell others about my awesome trucking career,” said De Ridder.
De Ridder has been driving for 40 years and has gone over four million miles without an accident. She was named to WIT’s Image Team in 2018 after serving on the board of the Women in Trucking Federation of Canada. Since then, she’s been featured in trucking periodicals in the United States and Canada, giving women in the trucking profession a lot of visibility.
As a panelist and speaker, De Ridder speaks at and participates in many trucking industry events. She regularly visits Girl Gala Events at high schools and community colleges as a mentor.
Ready to Get Started On Your Trucking Career?
The trucking industry is changing, and with it, the role of women within it. Women are now more visible than ever before in this traditionally male-dominated field. And with more opportunities opening up for female drivers, the crisis of the driver shortage may soon be a thing of the past.
If you’re a woman considering a career in trucking, there has never been a better time to get behind the wheel. Contact Gennaro Transport Training today to learn more about our courses and see how we can help you start your career in trucking.