Throughout my career, many people ask me why I chose to drive and build a business within the trucking industry. Usually, I’m doing this for myself and my son. I want to show him how someone like me can go to college, have a trade and ultimately run a successful business in whatever field they want to.
Companies consistently struggle to fill open trucker positions but the demand for goods hasn’t gone anywhere, and is more important with the boom of e-commerce over the last decade. Despite the increased necessity of transporting goods, decision-makers across the industry have not tapped into a key recruiting opportunity: women.
Although women account for around half of the labor force in this country, fewer than 8% of truck drivers are women. There are several benefits in the trucking and transportation industries that would benefit working women if they were aware of the opportunities. Here are some insider insights and advice for women trying to break through the trucking industry.
1. Learn the business
When I was working as a customer sales representative for a telecom company, I realized I needed to be somewhere else, doing something else. I had experience in various fields and knew I wanted to branch out into entrepreneurship. Though I didn’t know what that would look like, let alone how to position myself as a leading voice across a global industry, the path to greatness starts with small steps.
I went to the unemployment office and asked about the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which provides individualized career services for adult employment.
This led me to take the first step through SAGE Truck Driving School, where I was one of two females in my class. I was the only female that graduated, going to CDL night school and working during the day as a full-time independent contractor. By taking the steps to learn everything I could about the business first, I was able to achieve things beyond my wildest dreams.
The average annual salary for truck drivers is well above the federal minimum wage, and there are added benefits that make it a more stable job vs. something like the food or retail industries. Trucking companies across the country are actually raising wages to attract new workers, especially females. It's also an industry that doesn’t have a pay gap — drivers are paid by the mile or the load — and has clear paths for entrepreneurial advancement.
I was able to take on new opportunities and earn my way into one of the highest-paid lanes. From dealing with the stresses on the road to managing deals with Hours of Service (HOS) rules and electronic logging devices (ELDs), as well as the logistics of shippers and receivers, you need to truly know the business to make it.
2. Questions aren’t a form of weakness
It’s up to industry leaders to combat the stigma around women truckers. It’s largely viewed as a male profession, but doesn’t have to be.
By constantly asking questions aimed at making this situation and industry work for females, I found out that I could stay regional or local and even stay home with my son every day while building experience pulling loads and dispatching myself at my own pace.
After 6 months of being a company driver, I became an independent contractor, along with a 3.5-year hauling subcontract on a lease purchase deal to purchase my first truck in 2018 — and starting my own LLC. After 1.5 years, I purchased my first truck through a leasing program, beginning the journey of entrepreneurship.
In March 2020, COVID-19 hit and forced many to figure out how to make logistics work for them. Constant curiosity opened up a world of opportunities, so I bought two more trucks by the end of 2021 and obtained another truck and my fourth trailer in 2022.
Asking questions can open doors to become empowered in a traditionally male career. Sometimes voices, especially the voices of women and women of color, aren’t heard enough. Let your voice be heard and let your actions gain positive attention by making an impact from start to finish. By showing competency through actions, people will understand that women can do the job just as well as anybody else.
3. Cultivate a collective mindset
Being a female trucker is one thing. Being a female trucker and a business owner is another more complicated thing altogether.
We can’t change a person’s worldview. A person’s individualized personality may preclude them from thinking outside the box. What business leaders across this complex and fragmented industry can do is approach each situation from all sides.
The diversity of corporate culture is defined through a scope of equality, the right to professional development and career advancement opportunities for women in a competitive market. Recognizing women in the trucking industry has grown with a widespread impact in this mission of empowerment and there are endless directions to go down.
Recognizing the value of women in trucking rests on the ability of women doing the job as effectively and efficiently as anyone else. It’s imperative that a female presence is known, assisting the global shift of transportation. We must work together to meet common goals, create positive outcomes for everyone and understand all are valuable.
The industry is growing, supply chains are becoming more complex and there are ample opportunities. The demand for drivers and the competitive pay that comes with the job make the trucking industry an untapped resource for women. This is an exciting time to level the playing field and build a revolutionary system that supports startups owned by women.