The trucking industry has long been considered a “man’s world” as the job is associated with tedious long-haul driving involving physical exertion and intense stress. The job demands are steep, even with recent regulations limiting time on the road. The hours are long and make it tough on anything like a home life.
Yet even during a time of historically-challenging capacity crunch issues, women drivers have still only marginally crept up in driving employment. In recent findings, the percentage of female drivers has increased only marginally from 7.13% in 2016 to 7.89% by the end of 2017.
Women are known to take fewer risks on the road and also drive more carefully compared to men, thereby reducing the number of accidents caused due to negligence. The insurance industry is all about calculating risk. It has no room for personal anecdotes from men who swear they’re better than their wives or moms. Insurers analyze data from literally hundreds of millions of drivers, millions of accidents, and tens of billions of vehicle miles driven. They apply sophisticated analytical tools to enormous amounts of empirical data just to try to figure out what the risk profile for different drivers is.
Further, they stay updated with their data. They are constantly in the process of analyzing new information as if their business depended on it because, well, it does depend on it. Every insurance company does this. They all analyze, examine, collect data, and analyze some more. What’s the end result? Without exception, insurance companies have concluded that men are more likely to cause wrecks than women.
Acccording to Forbes, “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration confirms that male drivers cause 6.1 million accidents annually, while women are at fault in 4.4 million crashes per year.” These results are nothing special. Study after study confirms similar results. This past April, Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) released the results of a major study. What did they find? Women are better drivers–by a lot.
According to the report, men lay claim to 7.7 million of the 10.6 million penalty points on UK licenses through March 10 this year, which is 72%, the DVLA says. The split between Britain’s 40 million drivers is almost equal – 54% are male. There are currently 40,361,967 license holders in Great Britain, of who 21,819,606 are men and 18,542,361 women. But when it comes to the 10,600,617 penalty points, men hold 7,668,498 to women’s 2,932,119.
Also, of the 1,840 drinking-driving offenses over the past two years, 84% (1,543) involved men and of 1,703,079 incidents where speeding points were given, 69% were men. Men were guilty of 78% of recorded offenses involving motorway speeding. Even assumptions about women’s fondness for texting are disrupted by the figures. Men hold 82% of penalty points handed out for inappropriate mobile phone use. One of the most male-dominated offenses – 93% – is breaking the speed limit.
WIT is an organization that was created to encourage women into taking up employment in the trucking industry, and minimize the resistance women experience from breaking into the industry. In association with the National Transportation Institute (NTI), WIT developed the WIT Index that monitors the percentage of female drivers and leaders within the industry to understand gender inequality better.
The industry is desperately in need of more hands at the wheel, as it struggles to retain truckers in the midst of a driver crisis. The average age of a truck driver in the industry is 55. Extrapolating the crisis, it is evident that the industry would be staring down at nearly 180,000 vacancies by 2026, which can be helped by getting women to sign up.
Ellen Voie has spoken with FreightWaves, and has been a guest on the What the Truck?!? podcast. Voie says she sees one of the biggest obstacles for women considering trucking driving as a career option is that women feel like they’re not welcome.
“They think it’s male-dominated; it is male-dominated, but they think that they’re not welcome, they’re not valued, and they think they can’t do the job. They say things like, ‘Well, I’m not mechanically-minded, or I’m not big and burly.’ So they talk themselves out of it without even understanding that the industry has changed, and they can do the job and they are valued. As much as anything it’s a perception problem. At 8% of women currently in trucking it’s as high as it’s ever been. So, it’s something of a historical problem as well.”
But why are women better drivers? “Women are driven by estrogen and men are driven by testosterone,” says Voie. “Estrogen is a bonding and collaborative hormone, which means women are more team-players, women are more relationship-oriented, which is good when you’re dealing with dispatchers and customers and law enforcement, but also women take fewer risks. So accidents involving women are typically at slower speeds, which means there’s less damage to the equipment and fewer fatalities. This is the kind of person you want behind the wheel of your truck.”
Voie admits that men tend to be better with backing up, and that they have fewer accidents at the docks.
In the end, though, it’s not about making war between the genders. It’s about creating awareness that women deserve a place behind the wheel the same as men, and with just a small percentage growth of women in the industry, at least some of the capacity crunch could be solved.