Though the percentage is gradually increasing, women still make up only about 10% of drivers in the trucking industry. The reasons for this can be mostly narrowed down to lack of carrier safety and security measures and overall industry education and preparedness.
Kellylynn McLaughlin is a driver ambassador for the Women in Trucking Association, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing gender diversity to the industry and minimizing the obstacles women face.
“My goal is to educate and encourage people that are interested in the industry regarding how to prepare and what kind of questions to ask [the carrier] to make sure they find a carrier that is the right fit for them,” said McLaughlin on this week’s Taking the Hire Road segment.
According to McLaughlin, a common process that carriers often overlook is onboarding. Many carriers want drivers to learn by hitting the road with an experienced trainer in order to gain experience. For women, this can sometimes be challenging and uncomfortable if carriers don’t follow best practices. McLaughlin defines best practices as the driver and student having separate hotel rooms as opposed to sharing a bunk in the truck and students always being supervised during training.
“Sadly, there are very few carriers that follow best practices in their over-the-road training,” she said.
McLaughlin also discussed other ways carriers can bring more women into the industry, like more flexible work schedules and parental leave — including, but not limited to, maternity leave.
“Driving is something that you can do in any stage of life, and life happens — we get married, buy a house, have children,” McLaughlin said. “[Carriers should] support us in that venture.”
McLaughlin also helps to educate women on how to implement best practices in their own way while on the road. She stresses the importance of planning their trips accordingly and in advance — paying attention to their surroundings and noting the lighting and security in areas they plan to stay.
Male and female drivers alike should ask the right questions upfront. McLaughlin is firm in the belief that carriers with former drivers as decision-makers have the best facilities and make the best decisions regarding the safety and security of their front-line workers.
“We really need to highlight the carriers where the [drivers] are the center of the business model,” she said.
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