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Women in Trucking

The Growing Demand (and Opportunities) for Women in Trucking

By Sean M. Lyden - Staff Writer
Posted Aug 28th 2017 9:00AM

 

Expedite Expo 2017, which was held July 14 and 15 at the Lexington Center in Lexington, Ky., featured a panel discussion led by Ellen Voie, president and chief executive officer of Women in Trucking, a national organization that encourages the employment of women in the trucking industry. Voie brought together a panel of three successful women expediters who shared their personal stories and insights on being a woman in expediting today.

The panelists included Linda Caffee, an owner-operator with Landstar; Sandy Goche, an owner-operator with V3 Transportation; and Donna Sleasman, a fleet owner with FedEx Custom Critical.

The Women In Trucking Association was formed in 2007 to “promote the employment of women in the trucking industry, remove obstacles that might keep them from succeeding, and to celebrate the successes of its members.” And based on the panel discussion at Expedite Expo, the organization appears to be making significant progress toward these goals.

“Ten years ago when I started Women in Trucking, [carriers] would say, ‘I don’t care if it’s a male or female [driver].’” said Voie. “Now they’re coming to me and saying, ‘How can we get more females, Ellen? We really want more women in this industry because we love how they drive, how they think, how they’re risk averse.’”

Same Jobs, Different Approaches
This change in sentiment in the industry in recent years is largely due to seeing more and more women performing at a high level in the industry, said Voie.

“Accidents involving women are at slower speeds, so there’s less loss of life and less damage to equipment. What carriers tell me is that women are typically better with paperwork, typically better with customers. And I’m saying ‘typically’ because I’m not painting with a wide brush,” said Voie.

Linda Caffee light-heartedly described the differences between herself and her husband Bob: “We finesse the truck differently. I’m a lot more careful with the truck. Women do the same jobs; we just do it a little different.”

Unique Challenges
What challenges have they experienced unique to being women in expediting?

The panelists said that, for the most part, being a woman in the business has not been an issue for them specifically.

As Sandy Goche put it, “Having worked in government contracting for a while, I was used to being in a world where men were the dominant force for a long time but more women are coming in. And it’s the same thing with trucking--I haven’t had any problems.”

But when it comes to female drivers, a common challenge that Voie said she hears a lot about is how they’re treated by shippers.

“I think you should be able to rate those shippers,” said Voie. “If they treat you badly, if they don’t give you a restroom, if they don’t treat you like a professional, then we’re going to call them and say, ‘Let’s have a conversation.’”

But how do you rate shippers? That’s where Dock411 comes in, said Voie.

Holding Shippers Accountable
Dock411 is a mobile app that helps drivers get the latest “lay of the land” on shipping facilities, including details on yard hazards, whether pets are allowed, if Wi-Fi is available, if there’s the ability to park overnight, and up to thirty-five other items. And since the information is “crowdsourced,” you can add details about your own experience at that facility to help other drivers.

Voie said that her organization has partnered with Dock411 to add three questions to the app that are especially pertinent to women:

  1. Was the personnel helpful?
  2. Were you treated like a professional?
  3. Were the restroom facilities adequate?

Voie said that drivers’ ratings on questions like these help identify shippers that treat women poorly, so they can be held accountable to make positive changes.

Change in Lifestyle
What should women consider before taking a plunge into the expedite business?

Goche offered this advice: “Check out all your options. I would recommend starting out as a driver with a fleet owner first--to see if you really want to do [expediting]. That’s because expediting is not a normal job; it’s a whole change of lifestyle.”

Save the Date for Expedite Expo 2018!
So, with Expedite Expo 2017 already in the books, mark your calendar for July 20 and 21, 2018, at the Lexington Center in Lexington, Ky. As always, registration and truck parking will be free; your only investment will be your time.

 

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