It’s not a secret that driving a truck is not a 9-5 job and it’s no party. Especially for women. Making a living as a female truck driver presents many challenges, but the industry is changing, and there’s never been a better time for women to give it a try.
Statistics support such statement indicating that the number of women truck drivers is growing in this male dominated profession. Of the three million truckers in the U.S., some 200,000 are women, which shows a 50% increase since 2005.
However, it’s also true that women struggle with stereotyping mainly because of the perception that they are not strong enough to handle a big rig; condescending attitude coming from their male counterparts, and quite often – sexual harassment.
Despite all difficulties, if you want to enter the profession, you’ll find that the support for women is constantly growing. Various organizations, foundations or blogs are ready to assist with practical advice, lists of helpful resources, or by providing a platform where women can share their experiences and support one another by exchanging advice about how to handle tough situations.
Take a look at some of the challenges that female truck drivers face on the road. If you think you can overcome them, and you still want to become a trucker here’s how. Also, keep in mind that there are many resources available to you if you are seeking job opportunities within this demanding profession.
#1. Major Challenges
- Stereotyping: Female truck drivers often hear: “Women are weak. They are more fit to be stay-at-home moms or work in an office than drive an overwhelmingly big rig. Women don’t have “mechanical” minds and are bad drivers by default.” Actually, it may just be the opposite. There is more and more evidence that women tend to be better drivers, because they are not aggressive on the road — women are careful and patient, and are five times less likely to violate safety regulations and get into an accident than men.
- Sexual harassment: It may come from trainers, co-drivers or other male truck drivers. Women who have shared their experiences in blog posts, admit that sexual harassment occurs often, and they advise other female truckers to be vocal if it happens to them. Sexual harassment has to be immediately reported to the owner of the fleet and other authorities. Also, any event occurring on the truck that makes a woman feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way has to be thoroughly documented so it follows protocol.
- Away from home: A lot of women on the road are mothers and wives. As such, they are expected to continue to play their central supportive role in their family. However, it’s hard to be attentive to family matters just through a smartphone while being away for weeks. For the lady drivers it can be mind-consuming and even distracting at times, but they still maintain their household from a distance. This isn’t to say that married men don’t have similar responsibilities while away, but their support system is at home and it’s only a phone call away, while women ARE the support system.
#2. How to Enter the Trucking Industry
Real Women in Trucking, a volunteer group aiming at providing information for prospective students for commercial driver’s license (CDL), can help new candidates with advice, usually drawn from a first-hand experience. In the section Female CDL Students Frequently Asked Questions on their website, anyone can find the Dos and Don’ts when it comes to selecting a training school and the pitfalls they might encounter along the way. In addition, you’ll find many responses to questions regarding the hardships of the profession and how to prepare to deal with them.
In a nutshell: The Real Women advise that the best thing to do is find a local community college that offers cheaper training that’s qualitatively better than other CDL schools. er, to refrain from a 3 to 4-week training. Plus, you can use this occasion to speak directly to the reader/person like this “If you’re a completely novice, you might want to stay away from the short 3 to 4-week training courses. There’s simply not enough time to truly hone the basic skills. Therefore, leaving with a poor set of skills, but with the required piece of paper saying that you’ve completed a certain number of training hours, is not sufficient. Then, the next step that follows is to get hired by a training carrier or “finishing school” so you can complete your entry level employment.
Word of the wise: don’t ignore any of the steps. This may result in you being hired by a carrier that may take advantage of your lack of confidence on the road, thus present itself as your only option. On top of being brutally exploited, you may be pushed to run unauthorized on some levels, therefore, have numerous violations or accidents that may end your career before it begins. If you want to see what others have to say about their experience with different trucking carriers, check out the “Good and Bad Trucking Company Forum.” But even here, remember to take what you read with a grain of salt and apply common sense.
In addition, check the Commercial Vehicle Training Association to find a school, learn more about the trucking industry or have a question answered.
#3. What’s the Pay?
Women choosing the trucking industry as their new line of work should keep in mind that entry level truck drivers may be faced with a period of unpaid training at the beginning, masked under the “learning” banner. Otherwise, as a trucker you’ll be paid in “cents per mile,” meaning you’re being paid to just drive.
Women truck drivers have indicated that the first few years you can make as little as 18K per year, or reach 37K. The factors determining your pay are quite diverse, so don’t fall for recruitment slogans trying to lure you by promising a 40K to 80K yearly salary.
In any case, as a student trucker, you should be ready to face inconsistent and low pay, to live extensively on the road during your training period; share your truck with a stranger (your trainer or a co-driver), and get a better feel of the trucking industry dynamics.
#4. A Great Resource Pool
If you’ve really made up your mind to become a truck driver, spend some time to research the various organizations of women in trucking that can offer you support in various ways.
Don’t miss the Women In Trucking Organization that is affiliated with the Women In Trucking Foundation. These two are closely tied. Their efforts are aimed at encouraging employment of women in the trucking industry, promoting their accomplishments, and making their lives easier on the road by minimizing the obstacles they normally face.
The Foundation even offers scholarships through which to assist members in their driving careers by boosting their technical and safety knowledge and more. The Association has mentors that can assist new members who want to start a career in trucking and logistics.
Another great source of information is the Truckers Report – a network of professional truck drivers. Students can find in the Forum “an honest view of the profession” and get advice from seasoned drivers. In addition, the CDL Practice Tests section allows free testing for anyone, with a series of tests for General knowledge, Air Brakes, Triples, Tankers and more.
Becoming a truck driver and working on the road for a number of years is no picnic. However, if you have seriously considered making a career in the trucking industry, go for it. Don’t let family and friends discourage by saying it’s hard.
But before you make the first step, do an extensive research about what is the most painless way to enter the profession. Use all the information available to you, ask other women drivers if you are hesitant about what’s the right thing to do, and trust your gut instinct.
Let us know what you think or share your experience by leaving a comment below!