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Tips for Women Truck DriversBeing a woman driver in the male-dominated trucking industry comes with a unique set of challenges. Driving provides women truckers with many of the same advantages as it does to men—independence, flexibility, and the opportunity to travel across the country.

But the obstacles don’t affect men and women truckers equally. Women truck drivers have to think about the job, safety, and hygiene differently. While the industry is starting to change to become more friendly toward women, there’s still much work to be done. Until then, here are 7 tips for women truck drivers.

work life balance women truck drivers1. Work-life balance

While work-life balance should be important for all truckers, it’s sometimes not as important to men. Carriers may become used to offering insufficient home time and opportunities for balance simply because men aren’t as vocal about these concerns as women. Women truck drivers may find themselves on the short end of the stick simply because their male counterparts aren’t asking for more!

We spoke to Heather, a truck driver with 2 years of experience. She said, “I did OTR just long enough to get a little experience to find a local job. I have 3 boys so I wanted to be local as soon as possible. Was a VERY LONG 7 months, and I learned everything in the winter months in the snow and ice.”

Communication with your fleet manager or leader is essential to ensuring that you get the work-life balance you deserve. In fact, women drivers shouldn’t be waiting that long to start discussions around home time. Communicating with recruiters that this is a priority for you will set you on the right path to achieving the kind of balanced lifestyle you’re looking for.

2. Safety in your truck

The trucking industry can be tough on women for reasons of safety simply because they are on the road. There’s no predicting what kinds of characters you can run into across the country and in truck stops. Solo drivers may feel particularly uncomfortable if shady characters become aware that they are driving alone.

We spoke to Michele, a truck driver with a few months of experience so far in the industry. She suggests that solo drivers keep their bunk curtains closed at all times. “Let people think there [is] someone sleeping in the back even while you’re driving,” she advises.

Michele also notes that placing a team driving sticker on your truck will also create the impression that you are not traveling alone, and she highly recommends this trick to other women drivers.

truck stop safety tips3. Safety at a truck stop

Truck stops are notorious for being minefields for women truck drivers. Although many truck stops are taking measures to improve conditions and become more woman-friendly, they can’t control the behavior of the characters who lurk around.

We encourage women to know precautions to take to stay safe at truck stops.

Heather said, “When walking through the truck stop at night, have something handy in case you need to protect yourself.”

Although violence at truck stops is rare, there are always safety precautions people can take.

4. Behind the wheel

Some of the women truck drivers we spoke to had specific advice about staying behind the wheel. Road conditions can become dangerous during nighttime or the winter season.

Michele recommends that women truck drivers pre-plan and keep checking their routes, especially in the winter. She states, “Just because it was open 2 hours ago, doesn’t mean it’s open later.”

Heather listens to forensic files and chews gum to help keep her awake during night driving. She encourages women drivers to pull over if needed and states, “If road conditions become too treacherous, just stop! Freight can wait!”

5. Hygiene

Women truck drivers will have specific concerns about hygiene that male drivers won’t. And unfortunately, sometimes male drivers, fleet managers, or truck stop employees may be unaware or unsympathetic to these issues.

Heather said that one of the biggest lessons she learned from her OTR driving days is to always have baby wipes handy. She also recommends to “keep an empty big gulp cup because they are the easiest to pee into.”

Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, but with OTR driving, the stops can be few and far between, so it’s better to be prepared in the case of emergencies!

women truck drivers6. Reach out to other women drivers

While it may seem easy to understand the concerns of women drivers, or imagine what the job will be like, there’s no way to know until someone has done it. We recommend completing some research about what to expect, but there’s no substitute for speaking with other women truck drivers who’ve been there themselves.

Reaching out to other women truck drivers will give you an inside look at what issues they’ve been facing and how they’ve handled them. As you speak to more women drivers, you’ll build a network of colleagues who have each others’ back and can work together. You may also want to connect with organizations like Women in Trucking, which focus on addressing these obstacles.

7. Find the right carrier

While women drivers can take certain measures themselves, they can’t do it all alone. It takes a community that values women’s issues and concerns in the trucking industry.

Before signing with your next carrier, do some research and find out which carriers value their women drivers.

Some carriers will do more to promote career opportunities, improve conditions, and deliver resources needed to address women’s issues in trucking. A company’s culture can have a large impact on a woman truck driver’s sense of belonging, identity, and purpose. Finding a carrier that aligns with your own values will help you feel comfortable and secure in a male-dominated industry.

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The accomplishments of one woman who has a CDL trucking job

“I got a message from my boss that said ‘Hey, you made the billboard,” recalls J.B. Hunt driver Jodi Edwards with a laugh. “The company had put my picture on a billboard to advertise people coming to work for them. I thought that was pretty cool.”

A 20-year veteran woman truck driver and trainer with J.B. Hunt, Jodi Edwards is living her dream. And with more than a million safe miles under her belt, she’s as accomplished as she is enthusiastic about her career. After all, J.B. Hunt has even put her face on a billboard. It doesn’t get any bigger than that.

At J.B. Hunt, Edwards is a star, and she’s earned many accolades throughout her driving career. She’s on the Women in Trucking Image Team. She was part of a panel discussion at the Women in Trucking Accelerate! Conference in November. She was even a Woman in Trucking Member of the Month.

All of the awards are gratifying, Edwards says. But she’s proudest of her Million Mile Award.

“That’s a heck of an achievement,” Edwards says. Edwards attributes her stellar safety record to J.B. Hunt’s strong safety culture and the Smith safety system the company uses. J.B. Hunt drivers go through Smith System safety training every two years.

The system focuses on creating distance between yourself and other vehicles on the road.

“You want to have so many seconds of distance between you and what’s in front of you,” Edwards says. “They want you to know what’s in front of you and to keep space around you all the time. It gives you time to react and make changes, to slow down, stop or find a way around the problem. For myself, I keep as much of a space cushion around my truck as I can. I try not to travel in packs because if someone is going to screw up, it gives me time to stop.”

When she earned her Million Mile Award, J.B. Hunt awarded Edwards with a plaque, a watch, a $5,000 bonus and patches for her uniform. It made her feel special. “When you have these milestones, they really make a big deal of it,” Edwards says. “They really go above and beyond.”

Working on and off the road

Edwards runs intermodal for J.B. Hunt. She’s seen the division grow from three drivers 19 years ago to 35 drivers today. She runs from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. While her son is 23 years old now, the schedule long gave Edwards the flexibility to be a hands-on mom.

“When my son was in school I could go to all his baseball games, wrestling matches and basketball games,” she says. “For me, when I need to do something for my family, I talk to my boss and I’m good to go. At J.B. Hunt, they know you by name. That’s important to me. It’s a great company to work for. That’s why I’ve never wanted to go anywhere else.”

Advice for other female drivers

While Edwards is an unofficial ambassador for J.B. Hunt through her love of her job, she also is quick to support fellow women drivers whenever she has the opportunity. To women just starting out, she recommends finding a highly rated trucking school.

“Have them teach you something,” she says. “Always be safe but allow yourself to enjoy it, too. Don’t put yourself in a position where you’re by yourself in a dark parking lot. Take care of what you got to take care of in the light of day. If you’re going to do it, do it right. And find yourself a good company you can stay with. Because it’s not just a job, it’s a career.”

It certainly is for Edwards. She plans to stay with J.B. Hunt until she retires.

“I’m happy here,” she says.

In honor of Women’s History Month. Drive My Way is highlighting women in the trucking industry who inspire and lead by their example. Join our community here to get these and all Drive My Way’s stories in your newsfeed.

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trucks.comWhile it’s taken time, lawsuits and the rise of female driver support groups to inspire trucking companies to hire more women, there’s an earnest effort now to make training programs more appealing to women, an article by Trucks.com states.

Overall, it’s all in hopes it will help carriers expand their driver applicant pool and attract more female truck drivers.

Carriers increased assistance for female trainees by offering more practice time in truck driving simulators, creating internal support groups and adding female driver liaisons.

In addition, they added sexual harassment awareness and self-defense classes to training curriculums. Then, women feel safer on training runs and respond better in abusive situations.

To recruit more women, some carriers now allow current male drivers to train their spouses to drive. Also, other carriers expanded military veteran recruiting to promote trucking jobs among women retiring from active duty.

They also fund scholarships for female high school grads interested in CDL trucking jobs.

Despite the ongoing deficit, women account for only 5.1% of U.S. truck drivers. In addition, 11.4% of all trucking transportation industry workers are women, according to the ATA.

The numbers continue to decline. From 2014 to 2015, the population of female drivers in the industry shrank by 10%, to 177,000, according to the trucking trade group.

Past efforts to get more women behind the wheel failed, and in some cases, lacked legality, Trucks.com writes.

In May, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ordered New Prime Trucking Inc. to pay $3.1 million for discriminating against women by adopting a same-sex driver training policy. In a 2011 lawsuit, the EEOC said the policy forced women to wait up to 18 months for training.

Over-the-road driving positions remain the hardest to fill in the trucking industry.

“The hours are long, quarters are cramped and trainees make only a percentage of a regular driver’s per-mile wage,” it states. “Some bail after a short time.”

“They come into the industry saying, ‘I heard it on the radio, they’re making lady truck drivers, the industry wants more women.’” said  Desiree Wood, a veteran driver and host of the Real Women in Trucking website and podcast. “Nobody tells them you will have to work hard, and you will have to lift.”

“The bottom line is it’s a male-dominated field. For you to succeed, you have to be twice as good as the worst man out there,” adds Real Women in Trucking board member Tracy Livingston.

As part of its recent efforts to create a better workplace for women, Prime created a support group and recognition program. This serves women drivers, featuring training specialist and female driver liaison, Brooke Mosley.

Mosley credits the carrier’s training program for growing Prime’s female driver cohort to 766. That’s more than twice the industry average.

Does your company have a unique means of attracting new talent to the job? Join our community here and share your ideas.

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Shamim Akhtar is acclaimed as Pakistan’s first female truck driver. Her journey to CDL truck driving, a job largely relegated to Pakistani men, has not been easy. But, it inspires others, as one publication, Pro Pakistani, writes.

It represents overcoming the various cultural and societal barriers in Pakistan. Shamin Akhtar’s journey proves that some glass ceilings are really meant to be broken.

“Nothing is too difficult if you have the will,” Akhtar says. “However, if women make themselves believe that they can’t do certain tasks, then nothing works.”

.propakistani.pk

Akhtar , a 53-year-old single mother, married at 17 and quickly found that she had to fend for herself and her children.

In the face of considerable financial hardship, she relied on her own intelligence and strength to take care of her children and marry off her eldest daughters. Her husband was never around, and left her for another woman. To earn a decent and respectable livelihood, Akhtar started working.

Akhtar landed a job as an insurance salesperson and eventually moved on to sewing and embroidery. She became a sewing teacher at a local school, but she craved a job that would provide for her family.

She credits the Islamabad Traffic Police training course for showing her the possibilities.

It led her to eventually driving a truck, a task that requires excellent road sense and training. She worked hard and passed the driving tests. She received a public service vehicle license, making her the first Pakistani woman licensed to drive trailers, tractors and trucks.

Her work is grueling. Her journeys involve her transporting 7,000 bricks from a factory in Rawalpindi to AJK, a distance of 200 km between the two destinations. Akhtar also operates a driving school. Her students consider her a a role model and mother. As Akhtar ’s admirers would tell you, she never gives up until she achieves her goal.

Do you know an inspiring trucker here in the United States? Connect with us on Facebook here and tell us about him or her!

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