Through the Women of Trucking Advisory Board, the U.S. Department of Transportation hopes to make the industry more attractive to females. Doing so, U.S. DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg says, will make the profession better for all truckers.
“Making the trucking industry better for women is part of making it better for everybody,” Buttigieg said at the board’s first meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 9. “When women succeed, the entire sector is better off. I have heard it often said that if you can address the impact of issues on whoever faces the biggest barriers, that means you’ve found solutions for everyone else too, and I think that’s going to be true here.”
Congress mandated the creation of the Women of Trucking Advisory Board in the 2021 infrastructure law. The board will make recommendations to the FMCSA on how to recruit and retain more females in the industry.
The board includes 16 members with more than 275 years in trucking and other transportation modes.
“This is public service in the best sense,” Buttigieg told the board members at the inaugural meeting. “You are helping us strengthen an industry that is incredibly important to the American economy, and you’re helping it be part of a journey toward equity. You are the experts on these very important issues that we are consulting to help to guide our work.”
According to the U.S. DOT, only 7% of truck drivers are female. FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson said the board will help increase that percentage.
“You are those women … who are uniquely poised to help us remove those barriers that might prevent somebody from wanting to be in this industry,” Hutcheson said.
FMCSA’s Thomas Keane provided the board a summary of the results from a survey regarding the prevalence of harassment and assaults against minority and female truckers.
The survey indicated that more than 30% of female respondents said they had been touched inappropriately.
Some of the board members expressed concerns that the survey did not include a category for rape.
“Rape is incredibly common, and calling rape being touched inappropriately, is extremely offensive,” said Anne Balay, an organizer with the Service Employees International Union. She then suggested that a new survey be conducted.
A common theme was improving the culture of trucking.
“It’s time to update the business model,” said Kellylynn McLaughlin, a Schneider National driver.
One example she included is that no driver trainees should be forced to share a sleeper with a trainer, regardless of gender.
Joyce Brenny, founder and president of Brenny Transportation, said the key to improve the industry for all genders is to bring professionalism back to the industry.
Sharae Moore, founder and president of SHE Trucking Foundation, said that racism is another barrier in the industry.
“One thing that needs to be addressed in this industry is racism,” Moore said. “We struggle with not being able to have opportunities.” LL