Tackling Canada’s woman driver shortage

 Just three percent of truckers in canada are women, according to trucking hr. image:Jim Allen/FreightWaves
Just three percent of truckers in canada are women, according to trucking hr. image:Jim Allen/FreightWaves

Shelley Uvanile-Hesch hauls pharmaceuticals in a Western Star 5700 XE, named Destiny Star, based out of Ontario. On the side are portraits of five women who work in the Canadian trucking industry.

“We need to get into the schools and colleges to get more women and girls interested,” said Uvanile-Hesch, CEO of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada, an advocacy organization, during the annual Women With Drive conference near Toronto yesterday (March 7).

Women make up just three percent of truckers in Canada, according to research commissioned by the conference’s organizer, Trucking HR, an organization devoted to human resources issues in the Canadian trucking industry. That compares to six to seven percent in the United States.

“The continued under-representation of women in trucking and logistics needs to change – and needs to change now,” Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR, told conference attendees.

The under-representation of women extends to mechanics (three percent), dispatchers (18 percent) and managerial staff (11 percent), according to Trucking HR’s data.

Uvanile-Hesch said attitudes toward women have improved since she started trucking, but serious problems remain.

“There is still sexual harassment going on the workplace,” she said.

But she said trucking offers an exciting and lucrative alternative to jobs such as working in fast food restaurants.

Her organization has commissioned a song that’s being recorded in Nashville celebrating women in the industry, who will also be featured in a forthcoming music video.

The industry needs to improve its image among millennials as a whole when it considers how to attract more women, explained David Coletto, the CEO of Abacus Data, who has been researching the demographic for TruckingHR.

One in 10 Canadian millennials would consider a career as a trucker, but additional barriers exist for women.

Seven-one percent of millennial women believe trucking is unsafe, compared to 54 percent of men. Sixty percent of women also believe the industry is primarily for men, according to the Abacus research.

“Women don’t believe they can drive a truck,” Coletto said.

But he said effective messaging, including emphasizing the modernization of the industry, could generate more millennial candidates and women as a whole.

“There’s a lot of opportunity,” he said.

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Nate Tabak, Canada Correspondent

Nate Tabak is a journalist, editor and producer in Toronto. He covers Canada for FreightWaves, with a keen interest on the cross-border economic relationship with the United States. Nate spent seven years working as an investigative editor and reporter based in Kosovo. He covered everything from corruption to the country’s emerging wine industry. He also reported across the Balkans and investigated Albania’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry with a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Nate grew up in Berkeley, Calif. He enjoys exploring Toronto with his wife and is always looking forward to his next meal.