The truck-driver shortage is at an all-time high. The industry may have 160,000 jobs to fill by 2030.
More women are getting into trucking, encouraged by online communities and engineering advances.
This article is part of the “Innovation at Work” series, exploring the trends and the barriers to workplace transformation.
Roughly 91,000 – or around 6% – of the 1.52 million workers in the trucking industry have handed in their keys since the start of the pandemic, joining the millions of workers who have quit their jobs during the Great Resignation.
The sector has recouped some of those losses with new hires, but the US was short 80,000 truck drivers in 2021, an all-time high that could double by 2030, according to the American Trucking Associations.
One solution to the shortage? Getting more women into the trucking industry.
With women making up only 7.8% of all truckers, gender inclusivity is more than good corporate policy in the industry — it’s mission critical. To that end, technological innovation is driving change to make trucking more appealing for female job seekers.
Relieving the physical demands of the job
Volvo Group North America’s new generation of Mack trucks and Volvo trucks include an increased range of seat and wheel positions to provide the best ergonomics for every body type.
Its assisted-steering system lessens steering force by up to 85%. The system can also intervene if the truck veers out of lane while allowing for steady steering in high winds.
Adam White, a chief engineer at Volvo Group North America, said these changes help reduce the mental and physical fatigue for smaller drivers under 100 pounds and larger ones over 240 pounds. “This allows them to focus on their missions rather than having all this physical exertion as part of their work,” he said.
Bringing transparency to life on the road
Of the 800 drivers in the Indianapolis-based Carter Logistics fleet, 75 of them — less than 10% — are women.
“My goal is to push that number higher. I’d love to get closer to 15% to 20%,” said Jessica Paugh Warnke, who became the first female CEO of the family-owned supply-chain-management company last year.
In addition to the labor shortage and the desire to have a more diverse organization, Warnke wants more women behind the wheel because they are generally safer drivers — research by the American Transportation Research Institute found they are 20% less likely to be involved in crashes.
But women often have concerns about their personal safety on the road that make them think twice about getting into a truck, Warnke said.
While safety concerns still exist, online platforms can provide information on rest stops, pickup and drop-off locations, and road security. Warnke said Google reviews and free apps like Dock411, which gives drivers the “411” on facilities, are good sources for drivers.
Drivers also use the app Trucker Path — which publishes an annual ranking of truck stops — while the Women in Trucking Association has Engage, a community platform for members to share advice and ask questions.
Through these tools, truckers can now check reviews to gauge lighting levels at stops, if the area has 24/7 staffing, and other safety-related reviews.
“This helps women on the road make smart stops,” Warnke said.
Technology as a driving force for cultural change
Connectivity is critical to life on the road by fostering a sense of community among female drivers. Social media has created a new opportunity for female truckers to become influencers and build rapport online.
Clarissa Rankin, a big-rig driver, has 1.7 million TikTok followers and appeared last week on “The Kelly Clarkson Show” to talk about trucking as a viable career for women.
The Women in Trucking Association has also explored TikTok as a way to educate female truckers and bring the community together. Since joining the platform in June 2021, the @womenintrucking account has grown to 2,079 followers — and about 66% of the page’s followers are women.
The most popular video, which has around 20,800 views, features Allyson Hay, a driver for Walmart, running through a safety check of her truck.
“When women see other female truckers succeeding in this industry, it shows that they can do it, too,” Ellen Voie, the president and founder of the Women in Trucking Association, said.
As technology continues to connect the female-trucking community, industry leaders see a cultural shift transforming the sector.
“Historically, trucking was this really macho, male-dominated environment,” White said. “But it has shifted and has become much more inclusive.”
Christina Ameigh, a vice president at Volvo Trucks North America, added: “I’ve seen day cares pop up at big fleet offices. You would never have seen that 20 years ago.”
The freight transport and logistics company Prime Inc. has opened a driver terminal in Salt Lake City that includes a day care, spa, salon, and private bunk rooms.
“Large national fleets have taken a leadership role in increasing the number of women drivers — and they need to,” Ameigh said. “A diversity of drivers will help support the shortages we have seen year over year and stop the gap from widening.”