Companies Overhaul Training Programs to Enlist Women Truckers
Commercial trucking has always been a male dominated industry; however, motor carriers are looking to change that with revamped training programs designed to attract women to the profession. The training programs are designed to aid women in developing driving and other technical skills, building confidence and trust, and ensuring personal safety. As the industry pushes to become more accessible to female drivers, companies are hoping to shrink the labor shortage described by the American Trucking Associations in 2015 as 48,000 more jobs than drivers to fill them.
Currently, women make up about 5.1 percent of commercial truckers and their numbers are dwindling. Between 2014 and 2015, the percentage of women drivers dropped 10 percent, leaving only 177,000 transporting loads. Past efforts to recruit female drivers have been largely unsuccessful, in some instances discriminating against women. New Prime Trucking Inc. has been mandated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to pay $3.1 million for discriminative training practices in which trainers were required to be the same sex as the trainee. Because there are so few female drivers to provide the training, recruited women were waiting up to 18 months for training, effectively preventing them from working. This in addition to incidents of sexual harassment throughout the industry has deterred competent women drivers from joining the profession.
Prime, along with other companies have sought to overhaul their training programs and encourage women drivers to join their ranks. Prime eliminated their same sex training policy in 2013, and has since implemented a driving support and recognition group for women named Highway Diamonds. Women are provided with time in a driving simulator for practice and to boost confidence before driving the real thing, and prior to their first long haul, they have an opportunity to ride with their male trainer for a 4 hour test drive to ensure they are comfortable together before embarking on a trip spanning multiple weeks. Additionally, trainees can quit up to seven days into their long-distance trip with no obligation to reimburse Prime for the $4,800 they provide for CDL training.
USA Truck has taken another unique approach to training women by encouraging their male drivers to train their wives. They have seen their numbers for women drivers double, increasing the percentage from 5 percent to approximately 7 percent of their drivers. Other companies are targeting female military veterans, and offering scholarships for CDL education.
Though a difficult profession, changing attitudes and available support is making commercial trucking a more feasible profession for women, as well as relieving the labor shortage in the trucking industry.
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