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Congress wants trucking to attract more women

More drivers are going out on their own (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Congress is currently in the midst of the highway reauthorization process to enable the Department of Transportation to continue implementing programs that will ensure the safety of the nation’s highway network, among other things. The House’s version of this reauthorization bill, called the INVEST in America Act, would dedicate $547 billion over five years, the majority of which would go toward roads and bridges. The relevant Senate committees are also in the process of moving similar pieces of legislation to be combined into the larger package.

One trucking-related priority which has made it into the text of both the House and Senate bills is the Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act. Prior to being added to the surface transportation reauthorization text, the bill was first introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI-8) and in the Senate by Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). Both chambers’ versions received bipartisan support.

This legislation would direct the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to establish and facilitate a Women of Trucking Advisory Board. The goal of the board would be to promote organizations and programs that (1) provide education, training, mentorship, or outreach to women in the trucking industry; and (2) recruit, retain, or advance women into careers in the trucking industry. The board would have a minimum of eight members, comprised of representatives from trucking companies of all sizes, nonprofit organizations, business associations, driving schools, and professional truck drivers themselves.

This effort is meaningful as the industry works to bring more drivers into the industry amid an ongoing and growing driver shortage. Since the average age of a professional truck driver is around 50 years old, the industry will face additional turnover as these drivers retire and exit the industry. TCA recognizes the need to bring in new faces and we support this legislation as a way to reach our industry goals.

The job of a driver is difficult, but it is rewarding and can be financially lucrative. The median salary for a professional truck driver is $54,585 plus benefits. However, as we have seen from the recent pay increases announced by many of TCA’s members and others throughout the industry, pay alone is not enough to attract the drivers we need to move this nation’s freight.

That is why a federal advisory board like the one proposed by the Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act is important. It is only through identifying the barriers to entry and the concerns potential drivers have with the industry that we will be able to improve and offer them the jobs and lifestyles they seek. For example, a recent Gallup poll indicated that the youngest individuals in the workforce (those born after 1989) want an employer who cares about their wellbeing above all else. This was followed by a desire for ethical, open, and transparent leaders and a diverse and inclusive workplace as priorities. While this survey was specifically targeted toward millennial respondents, these are clearly key concerns for all those the trucking industry wishes to attract – including women. Only by addressing these concerns will we truly be able to solve the driver shortage and ensure that trucking has the workforce it needs to efficiently deliver this nation’s freight.