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Women Truckers Leave Sexism in the Rearview Mirror

There are plenty of positives that come with being a long-haul truck driver. Many love the open road, the independence, and the ability to chose how and when to get the job done – not to mention the good money to be made driving trucks.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, drivers earned a mean salary of $44,500 last year, and 90 percent of truckload fleets offer their drivers paid leave. Plus, four out of five private carriers offer their drivers a 401(k) plan with an employee contribution match.

Even with all of this, only 6 percent of truck drivers are women. It may seem that in this male-dominated industry, women drivers would struggle to meet what other male drivers are making financially. But in reality, it’s one of the few industries where the gender wage gap is close to nothing. However, there are other factors that make the industry more difficult for women to break into.

Ellen Voie, founder of the non-profit organization Women in Trucking Association (WIT), is all too aware of the challenges facing women, but she thinks that it’s nothing that can’t be overcome with perseverance.

“Women in male-dominated industries need to prove themselves, and the trucking industry isn’t any exception,” Voie said. “When a female professional driver pulls into a loading dock, she’s often met with skepticism from the men around her, who watch her as she backs the rig.”

Beyond this, there are issues with truck stops and rest areas, where female truckers have faced harassment and difficulties with other male drivers.

Lanelle Devlin, a female truck driver who drives a Volvo D13 XE truck with a 53-foot trailer for around 11 hours a day, said that “[s]ometimes the truck stops aren’t the nicest. You’ve got the traffic from prostitution and you’ve got people selling drugs. And frankly, a lot of the old time drivers, and even some of the new guys, are just a little disgusting and sometimes the truck stops smell like urine.”

In May 2015, three women sued CRST International, a freight company based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. They alleged that they were sexually harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped during training with the company. The women – Cathy Sellars, Claudia Lopez, and Leslie Fortune – claimed that CRST has a “pattern or practice” of ignoring sexual assault reports from its employees, especially following similar lawsuits against the company in the past.

Photo by Gear Offer on Unsplash

But WIT believes that times are changing for female truck drivers and that there is a larger place for them in the industry. In recent years, there has been an increasing shortage of truck drivers – around 48,000 drivers. And with the organization’s growth, there also comes education and support for female drivers.

Jessica Mollica, Delivery Driver Recruitment Manager for Food Services of America, joined WIT because of its vision to represent women in the trucking industry.

“By entering the transportation industry,” Mollica said, “women have the opportunity to earn financial stability while playing a crucial role in the success of the American economy.”

With jobs in male-dominated industries opening up to women, organizations like Women in Trucking play a vital role in making sure that the industry is responsive to women’s needs and obstacles. By bringing awareness to the issues that are faced by female truck drivers, it highlights their accomplishments as well.

This month, WIT recognized Shelly Feidt as its Member of the Month. Feidt and her husband manage a fleet of seven trucks from their home. She is very satisfied with her experience as a driver, highlighting her appreciation for being paid to see the country and meet wonderful people.

When asked if she would encourage other women to join the industry, her answer was an enthusiastic yes.

“I would say go for it,” she said. “It’s a whole new direction.”

Featured Image by Nicole Harrington on Unsplash

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