Not all female truck drivers agree with the findings of an American Transportation Research Institute survey that said far more women than men deal with lengthy detentions.
In fact, the report said women were 83.3% more likely than men to be detained six or more hours at a shipper or receiver location for loading or unloading. ATRI stands by the percentage reported, but says the numbers given by women could be based more on perception than reality.
“It’s rattled our brains ever since it was released. The number they’re claiming, the percentage, is totally staggering,” said Deb LaBree, a Joplin, Missouri-based owner-operator with her husband leased to Landstar. “I don’t even know how they could measure that.”
LaBree, who has had her commercial driver’s license since 2007, also participated in the survey and communicates regularly with other female drivers as manager of the Women In Trucking Facebook page.
“If there was an issue with women being detained longer than men, we’d have seen that in some way, shape or form. We would have seen that hit the Women In Trucking page. ‘Have you ladies had this happen to you?’ It would have become a red flag,” she said.
ATRI said its analysis, reported Sept. 4, was based on responses from about 1,400 truck drivers. Of those, roughly 190 were females.
“We went back to a dozen or so women truck drivers and said, ‘Based on this data, what do you think might be underlying as a cause?’ And they speculated a series of things — none of them being gender or sexism related. It was much more their approach to detention,” said Dan Murray, senior vice president of ATRI.
Murray said the longer detention times may have more to do with the type of freight than the gender of the driver.
“The data in the report indicate that, in terms of percentages, more women were driving reefers than men, which clearly, as we said in the report, could explain why the detention times are longer,” Murray said.
He stressed that one should not surmise that female truck drivers are the victims of gender discrimation when it comes to detention.
“‘Discriminated’ implies the shipper or receiver is discriminating, whereas the phone interviews are indicating that women are approaching detention and dealing with detention differently than men. The difference resides with the men and women, not shipper and receiver, based on our hypothesis. ‘Discrimination’ would be absolutely the wrong word to use,” he said.
“The data is either perception-based and it’s incorrect or it’s correct. Those are the two options. We’re using data that was provided to us by female drivers and we’re using data provided by male drivers. It’s unadulterated in any way, shape or form and we just compare what men told us versus what women told us,” Murray said.
The data is bound to be a topic of conversation at the Women In Trucking Association’s Accelerate! Conference & Expo next week in Dallas.
“Women in Trucking is working hard to overcome any obstacles our female drivers face and, regardless of the reason that women experience greater detention than men, this needs to be addressed,” Ellen Voie, president and CEO of Women In Trucking, said.
“Women who work in this industry don’t want any special treatment, but they desire and deserve a level playing field,” Voie said.
Canadian owner-operator Bernadette “Bernie” Hood believes female truck drivers have a publicity problem.
“My opinion personally is there is a lot of bad publicity for female drivers,” Hood said. “We can do the job.”
Like LaBree, Hood does not believe she has ever been detained longer because of her gender. She and her husband, owner-operators of Hood Motor Freight Inc. in Ontario, primarily haul flatbed freight.
“I have been talking to other female drivers on different websites. I read that one lady was detained up to 27 hours because the frozen turkeys weren’t ready. She figured that one was legit. She wasn’t too upset about it, but she goes from wait times of three hours to 27. My wait time is three hours maximum usually,” she said.
“I have had an amazing career,” Hood said. “I have never had any catcalls. I’ve never had any rude remarks or behavior. I don’t know if it’s because my husband is present 90% of the time, but the men I work with — and I work at construction sites and farms — they’re all genuinely nice people.”