With trucking facing a growing driver shortage in North America, many companies are looking for ways to help make the industry more attractive to women drivers and potential new recruits.
Ryder, for example, is partnering with the nonprofit Women in Trucking to do just that.
As reported by Fortune magazine, Ryder Dedicated, a logistics outsourcing division of Ryder System Inc., has implemented, custom adjustable seats and pedals for shorter drivers, lower steps for accessing both cabs and freight, and less fatiguing automatic transmissions. Those improvements don’t just benefit women, the company points out, as the driver population is also aging—now averaging 55—according to BLS.
Other solutions are trickier:
According to Ellen Voie, CEO of Women in Trucking, women truck drivers are less likely to wear their safety belts than men, for basic physical reasons. A belt redesigned for women’s comfort and safety is still in the future.
But less tangible factors may be the most intractable. Trucking’s image as a profession for men hasn’t changed, even in a world full of female lawyers, doctors, and soldiers. Then there’s the weeks spent away from home.
Gay Cooper was a long haul trucker for years, but she jumped when Ryder offered her the chance to drive shorter routes that would take her home to her grandchildren every night.
On the other hand, Sylvia Chavez, 25, says the job has advantages women should consider. “If you want a low stress environment, not deal with any kind of drama, this is the place to be . . . To a certain degree you’re your own boss.”
Voie also points out that trucking also offers decent pay without requiring a college degree.
John Diez, President of Ryder Dedicated, says the decision to cater to women is “absolutely” a response to the driver shortage. But the program is still in its early stages, and so far the company’s percentage of female drivers is still in line with industry averages. The coming year will bring more aggressive outreach and recruiting efforts.
Voie claims she has recently seen an increase in women in the profession overall. That’s likely related to social attitudes that are finally changing a bit—Chavez reports much improved attitudes from male colleagues.