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Medill Reports Chicago | Opportunities Open Up for Women Truckers, but Their Numbers Remain Small

03.01.17 | Shen Lu, Medill Reports Chicago

Carriers over the past few years have been trying to recruit more female drivers and create a more friendly working environment for them. Some even have programs to help women succeed within the company.

“Ten years ago you never saw that,” Ellen Voie, president of Women In Trucking Association. “Ten years ago they’d say, ‘We don’t care if they are male or female.’ Now carriers are saying, ‘Wow, we want more female drivers because they actually are an asset.’”

Women are “perfect candidates” to drive trucks, a stressful job that demands much patience and critical thinking, said Cody Edwards, Eubanks’ driver manager at Swift. Edwards works with three female drivers on a daily basis but is in contact with many more. He said he is delighted to see more of them coming into the industry, albeit at a slow pace.

The demand for female drivers comes at a time when the U.S. is facing a serious trucker shortage. The trucking industry faces an immediate shortfall of 200,000, according to FTR, a freight transportation forecasting intelligence company, and the situation isn’t projected to get better.

John Starks, chief operating officer at FTR, said the improving economy demands more truckers to haul goods, but the current labor force - dominated by white men in their 50s - is getting old and leaving the industry. At the same time, young men don’t seem to be interested in taking over the road. This hurts the economy, Starks said.

“They need to find qualified drivers,” Starks said. “If they limit themselves to a quarter of the labor force, it’s going to be a struggle.”

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