Understanding the prevalence of crimes against female and minority truckers in the United States could help regulators address the problem while potentially increasing the pool of qualified drivers, according to federal officials.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) plans to seek White House approval to assess the size and scope of the issue and has contracted with nonprofit research group Battelle to create and execute a study.
“FMCSA needs to explore and validate the problem of harassment- and assault-related crimes, especially against female and minority male truckers for two reasons,” the agency stated in a July 23 announcement. “First, there seems to be a perception among these sub-populations of truckers that they are more vulnerable than others. Second, there is a critical shortage of truckers, and helping these sub-populations of truckers protect themselves from crimes could draw more truckers from these sub-populations, while stemming turnover, to alleviate the shortage.”
In addition to carriers and drivers, the report may also be useful to law enforcement and operators of private truck stops in addressing the situation, according to FMCSA.
In requesting approval for the study, the agency cited documentary and anecdotal evidence revealing a “serious pattern” of crimes against female and minority truckers – but that it currently does not provide materials on how they can protect themselves from being stalked, harassed, assaulted or robbed.
“Before effective solutions for preventing or reducing these crimes against female and minority truckers can be developed and implemented, FMCSA must understand the prevalence, seriousness and nature of the problem,” the agency asserted. “The frequency and number of harassment- and assault-related crimes occurring, the portion that are unreported, and reasons for underreporting are unknown.”
The private sector has already been taking steps to try and address the problem, particularly as it occurs within an organization. The Women in Trucking Association, which has been working with FMCSA in getting a study off the ground, offers an anti-harassment employment guide to carriers that address issues that arise among team drivers of mixed genders.
“We feel women have a ways to go before they feel safe” in this occupation, the association’s president, Ellen Voie told FreightWaves. “We feel we need to take the lead to make sure it’s a safe environment for female as well as male driers.” Voie had earlier told FreightWaves that there is no other industry where employees of mixed gender are in an enclosed space for long periods of time “with a bed [i.e., a sleeper berth] just inches away.”
In addition, with minority representation on the rise in the trucking industry, groups such as the National Minority Trucking Association and Black Truckers United have organized in part to support minorities who may experience higher levels of harassment- and assault-related crimes.
If the agency receives the go-ahead for the survey, a maximum of 440 males and 440 females will be contacted through a combination of an online survey and in-person interviews. FMCSA will provide a $25 incentive to eligible respondents. To be eligible, respondents must report that they are a female or a minority male who has driven a truck professionally in the past two years.
Comments on the proposed study to be submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget must be received by FMCSA by September 23, 2019.