Authors of a new survey suggest efforts to attract more female drivers to trucking are facing headwinds, despite some organizations pushing hard to make the industry more open to women, according to HR trucking experts.
Keera Brooks, CEO of Sawgrass Logistics, a fleet management company that co-sponsored with Women in Trucking a Best Practices survey on female drivers this summer. It suggests that struggles to attract more women to the industry are leading calls to rethink how carriers recruit and trains drivers.
The survey, sent to WIT’s database — which includes fleets, owner-operators, recruiters, driving schools and others — found that fewer than half of fleets were actively supporting adding more female drivers to their workforce by 2020, even though many carriers are hampered by a chronic driver shortage.
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The survey found that 83% of women found driving jobs through family, friends or on their own. It also found that just 12% of carriers polled specifically target women in their ads seeking drivers. This suggests that fleets need to more actively reach out to women in ads, at events and through social media pages where female prospects congregate, said WIT President Ellen Voie.
The survey found that carriers and female drivers have different views of the industry’s most vital issues. The women ranked safety, along with family/home time, as the most critical aspect of increasing female drivers. But employers failed to cite safety as a priority for women.
“No company says ‘We have the safest equipment’ or ‘We are the safest company’ and that’s what women look for,” Voie said.
Regional less-than-truckload fleet A. Duie Pyle Inc. has had some success in moving women into its management ranks, though executives at the West Chester, Pa.-based carrier acknowledge it falls short in developing female drivers.
“We began six years ago to seek women for our middle and senior manager ranks. We now have five women in these roles, up from two. That’s out of 11 positions,” Chief Operating Officer Randy Swart said.
Some argue fleets could recruit more women if training methods changed and if carriers were frank about the challenges of the job.
The WIT/Sawgrass survey touched on these training issues.
For instance, 77% of female drivers said there were no online materials available in their training programs, an oversight that overlooks how much of a boon online learning can be for women who may not want to be the only woman in a classroom, Brooks said.
Further, 85% of female students said they were not offered a mentor during their training.
The survey results indicate the trucking industry needs to consider a more nuanced approach when recruiting female drivers, Voie said.
“Women want to be treated the same as men and be paid the same money,” Voie said. “But some things are different. They consider company cultural values, and the safety culture of the firm and its equipment.”
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