Along my travels I am often asked about what it is like to be a woman trucker. The #MeToo movement and sexual harassment accusations constantly promoted in the media have not only shed light on gender issues, but they also intimidated or even discouraged some women from entering the male dominated trucking industry.
The most common question is: “How do you deal with sexism at the company?”
The answer is simple. I don't.
I have yet to face sexism within my company, and I know the owner of my company would not allow it. Trucking companies make a profit when productive drivers deliver early and do it safely. A rollover accident involving a loaded trailer can cost a minimum of $300,000.
Chronic lateness to customers can cost the company to lose contracts. For this reason, companies do not care whether you are a man, woman, or a purple gorilla smoking a pickle. If you can deliver early, manage your time, do thorough inspections on the equipment, and not hit anything then you are the one who will get the best loads and special treatment.
Dispatchers make money from your loads. All they want is for you to do the job well so they make money. If they give you a load with a lot of miles and you complain, and then they give you a load with less miles and you complain, the result will be fewer and fewer miles. The message you send to dispatch is that you will never be satisfied no matter what. Because of that they won't attempt to make you happy, they will give you unfavorable loads while the good drivers are racking up the high miles. It has nothing to do with gender.
I once asked my fleet manager what he thought of women drivers. He immediately responded, “They're great. Usually they are more conscientious and safer drivers than men. They drive more defensively and pay more attention to detail. I have a lot more women on my fleet than men, and I love it.” So believe it or not, being a woman is an advantage, and the sexism can sometimes be against men, not women.
My company has a high number of women drivers, and our terminals demonstrate that. Full service salons and day spas provide massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, as well as hair treatments and products. We have an annual women's gala to celebrate the female drivers and awards are given out for special achievements.
There is a day care in the main terminal for the local personnel, as well as full gyms, locker rooms and exercise classes. We have a great number of husband and wife teams, which says a lot about the company. What man wants to bring his wife to a company then have a bad experience? If the company was a bad choice, that husband would hear about it for the rest of his life. All this just proves companies have women in mind, in a good way!
A friend asked me if our fleet manager would be offended or disapprove if he brought his homosexual partner on the truck. I responded, “He doesn't care. He's greedy. He wants you happy so you make him more money. Run hard, have fun. ”
Later, a lesbian trainee asked my fleet manager the same thing. His answer was similar. His fleet includes straight, homosexual, transgender, black, white, Hispanic, male and female, etc. His favorite drivers are the great drivers, plain and simple. This just further proves it is about productivity, not how you identify yourself.
New drivers are going to get more live loads and fewer drop and hooks in some divisions. They are going to have to drive days, nights, and weekends. There is no schedule or shift. On Monday I might drive all day and pick up a load at 20:00. On Thursday I might deliver that load at 03:00, requiring me to drive most of the night. Some weeks I might get a few short loads of 300 miles, and others I will get 1500 mile loads. This is the nature of the industry, not a gender matter.
Other common questions include:
My answer to these questions surprises most. Men are not the problem in the trucking industry--some women are. Some women come into trucking with the wrong attitude. The rest of us come into trucking to work and be the best we can be. If you assume you will face sexism and harassment, you probably will. If you are going to analyze every joke, facial expression, or question by dispatch as an attack on your womanhood, then you are the problem. You are also wasting valuable time focusing on the wrong things, rather than learning to fine tune your new found craft. Concentrate on developing your skills, managing your time, and gaining as much practical knowledge as possible. You will gain the respect of fellow drivers as well as dispatch.
It may surprise you to learn I get preferential treatment because I am a woman. As a new driver struggling with backing, I noticed men are much more likely to jump out of their trucks, even at 2 am, to guide a woman into a difficult parking space or loading dock. To the contrary, I witnessed men mocking the “new guy” struggling while backing. But a woman? She could seriously have three men approach to assist.
My black female friend had preconceived notions that racism would be an issue due to many truck drivers being from the south. To her surprise, she found the southern white men to be more helpful than other women drivers! The better treatment does not stop with the drivers, as the customers are often more pleasant toward women. I can smile, flash my baby blue eyes at a security guard or office clerk and wheedle my way into a loading door ahead of male drivers. Sometimes I would ask, “Could I please have an easy door? I'm really new.” It works 99% of the time.
Many truck drivers are lonely. They want social contact, even if it is just to tell someone about the vacation they are planning. Can it seem creepy or a little overwhelming while trying to do laundry or eat dinner? Sure. But it is harmless interaction being sought by guys who spend 20 hours per day in their trucks and just want a little social interaction.
When I am asked if guys approach me sexually, my response is, “Absolutely, but I got approached at home too. It doesn't matter where you are, men and women are going to flirt and try to meet. I'll be worried the day I stop getting compliments and offers from men. That would mean I am getting really old, fat, and ugly.”
Personal protection is a different issue that pertains to both men and women. If you are fearful about being alone in dark truck stops or rest areas, then be proactive and protect yourself.
Believe me, if a guy tried to grab me in a crowded truck stop and I screamed and threw a hammer through someone's windshield, men are going to come running out. There is no more reason to be afraid on the road than at home. Be aware of your surroundings and you will lessen your chances of trouble.
I wrote this article because of a driver on Facebook. She went through a CDL school, then got hired by a company. After four weeks, she asked Facebook for advice on the best “non-sexist” companies. She claimed her dispatcher didn't trust her skills and abilities, and that was sexist. She further explained that a man from her school was also hired by the same company, but she did not feel they treated him the same way. After some prodding, she admitted she got great feedback from the company regarding her driving skills and backing.
Her attitude was her problem.
When I pointed out that after only four weeks she still had no “skills or abilities” she blocked me. It takes years to develop the abilities and skills this woman thinks she has. When people assume they are better than they are, they can easily become complacent. That is when overconfidence can cause accidents or late deliveries.
Some people also think that acquiring a CDL puts them in a position to make demands. It doesn't, it makes them appear difficult to satisfy. Furthermore, changing companies at that point would only demonstrate to other companies she is a quitter and will not meet her obligations or make a commitment.
You will meet some men who are disrespectful, as you will in all walks of life. My first week solo I had a difficult time trying to back into a space at a truck stop. I had driven 550 miles, I was exhausted, and I was afraid of hitting something. One driver blew his horn and yelled that I was taking too long as he inched closer to me. He asked me when I got my license.
I screamed back, “Yesterday! Now stay out of my way!”
When some guys get too close while I am backing, I simply pull my brakes and hop in the sleeper until they realize I am going to sit in their way until they give me space. I did not sit there crying because a man was mean to me. I did not turn in my truck and quit my job because I could not handle it. Like everything, it is all about attitude.
Our society in general promotes victimization because it makes some people feel special and unique. Some feel solidarity in sharing their stories with other victims. Women need to stop playing the victim card if they want equality. They need to stop hating men.
Trucking is a male dominated industry, and some women enter it then do nothing but complain about the men. Empowering women is not about being a victim and demonizing men. It is not about competing with men. Real empowerment comes from elevating oneself above the average person. Real empowerment comes from being the absolutely best at whatever one chooses to do. Whether that pertains to careers, hobbies, talents, or just acquiring knowledge, be the best you can be and don't let anyone hold you down. Stop blaming others for your mistakes and limitations. If you don't get up when you fall, the fault is yours, and yours alone.
Good luck and be safe.
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A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:
A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.
The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.
Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.
In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.
When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.
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