The number of women truck drivers in the United States has definitely increased over the years, albeit slowly. According to data obtained from the American Trucking Association, female truckers comprise 5.8% of the trucking payroll. While this percentage is not terribly encouraging, the trend certainly is. Female drivers are entering the trucking and transportation industry in record numbers and have more opportunities than ever to work as long-haul drivers. Although male drivers currently dominate the driver pool in the trucking industry, many operations have gradually started attracting more female truck drivers. Is it time for more female drivers to consider truck driving as a career option?
Harassment During Training
The lack of female trainers in the trucking world is a serious issue for a woman trucker who is just entering the industry. Training can be difficult for female truck drivers due to the prevalence of male trainers, who aren’t always open to the idea of a driver that is not male.
Oftentimes, a female trucker in training is paired with a male counterpart for several days or even weeks at a time. This can create an unsafe working environment in which harassment takes place. Ellen Voie, the CEO/President of Women in Trucking Association, is a prominent figure in the trucking industry. She reports that “Unfortunately, there is still some harassment toward female drivers from their male counterparts,”. Those trainers who resent the presence of female truck drivers are often the ones participating in or encouraging the harassment.
Negative perceptions of women in the trucking industry are deep-seated. But fortunately, things are getting better—many women in the trucking association are continuously trying to make things easier for other female truckers. Some companies have also started working in this direction by providing additional classes to trainers and making it mandatory for all the drivers to complete sexual harassment orientation.
What can you do if you are facing harassment?
If you are facing harassment as a female trucker, don’t put up with it. You can take the following steps if you believe you have been the target of harassment in your workplace.
- Document any quid pro quo – One of the most common types of harassment, commonly known as “quid pro quo sexual harassment,” is when a person is offered a promotion or salary hike if he/she acquiesces to the harasser’s sexual requests. This harassment can also occur when a person is threatened with demotion or termination if they don’t capitulate to the harasser. In your training period, you might come across a situation where your trainer threatens to report you to the management. If you find yourself dealing with something like this, document the details of your conversation, including the time and place where it occurred. Don’t forget to document the witnesses, if any.
- Keep these documents in a safe place – Don’t keep these documents on your person. Store them safely—preferably in a place where your harasser won’t be able to find them, such as at your home or in a safe deposit box.
- Gather evidence – Some harassers won’t bother covering their tracks. If you have received harassing texts, emails or notes from the person, don’t delete them. Take screenshots whenever you receive texts or emails. To make sure you don’t lose them, print out the screenshots and emails and keep them in a safe place with the rest of your documentation.
- Report the harassment – Once you have documented everything and gathered evidence, report the incident to your employer. Companies take the issue of sexual harassment very seriously and, chances are, your company will take immediate and corrective action. If they fail to do so, there are other options which may need to be considered, including reaching out to the police and consulting with a lawyer.
Instances of sexual harassment at work or during the training period are often not reported by female truckers. Unfortunately, keeping quiet may only make things worse for you. Don’t be afraid to inform your managers if your trainer is harassing you.
A shortage of truckers
The U.S trucking industry is currently confronting an acute shortage of truckers. As a result, companies are looking to add more female drivers to their teams. Many believe that these drivers can close the gap between demand and supply. This is a great time to focus on bringing women truckers into the industry, which is dealing with a shortfall of 48,000 long-haul drivers. With some women-friendly policies and creation of safe training environments, trucking companies could be seeing more female drivers entering the industry than ever before.