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Women in trucking: The ‘S’ and ‘G’ in ESG — Net-Zero Carbon

(Image: FreightWaves)

On this episode of Net-Zero Carbon, Tyler Cole, director of carbon intelligence at FreightWaves, chats with Desiree Wood, founder and president of REAL Women in Trucking, about truck driver issues and what motivates her work.

“I became an advocate by necessity — partly from self-preservation, but partly because I could see the drivers had few to no advocates to speak for them,” Wood said.

She has been driving trucks since 2007 and reached out to other groups about sexual harassment and other issues. She said the groups weren’t actually helping her, so she formed her own organization to help drivers.

Net-Zero Carbon often covers the environmental part of environmental, social and governance (ESG) sustainability. Cole and Wood discuss truck driver retention, with a focus on social and governance issues.

Truck driver training issues

Companies often provide sponsored training programs for people who want to get into truck driving. But Wood said companies focus too much on recruiting and not enough on retention.

“What we’ve seen is that the problem is over recruiting when they don’t have a tie to retention, and then they have trainers that were somehow coerced into being trainers who are a little resentful. They don’t want to be trainers — they’re in it for the money, and it gets really aggressive. It’s not really the way to teach people how to do one of the top 10 most dangerous jobs,” Wood said.

She recommended that people get a grant to go to community college for their Class A commercial driver’s license, which will give them more options after completion.

Company-sponsored training programs often use trainees for team driving, Wood said, which is not the way to train good drivers. 

“Why would you have students doing the most dangerous job of your organization? But in trucking, that’s what they do, and [it’s] because they are a cheap labor source,” Wood said.

Read: Truck driving in Hawaii: Not quite the paradise it seems

Comparing trucking jobs at different companies

For drivers entering the trucking industry, it can be difficult to understand the differences among companies and what they offer. This can lead to a lot of company-hopping between carriers that are very similar, Wood said.

She said it’s hard on drivers to move between jobs and companies often. When truckers move from one job to another, it usually means they’re not being treated well or that the company isn’t fulfilling its promises, she said.

“It’s really an issue of misaligned incentives — people prioritizing growth over culture and trying to grow at all costs, minimizing the lowest common denominator in the workplace, and underpaying creates this churn,” Cole said.

He said the trucking industry is starting to realize the cost of this turnover rate and how much work it is to find, recruit and train new employees.

Real Women in Trucking

Real Women in Trucking was formed especially to help female truck drivers who aren’t part of an established team. Wood said women can be expected to do team driving with a stranger, and some are sexually assaulted or violently attacked.

Data about women in trucking and violence against drivers is not easily accessible, and the sources sometimes have biases or remove it soon after they’ve made it available to the public, Wood said. 

“We would love to have more advocates,” Wood said, as she is a truck driver and doesn’t have time to attend meetings every day and engage with state governments across the country. She said the industry needs more participation from drivers, but some groups are rising up to provide accurate information for drivers.

“Social media has given truck drivers a voice,” Wood said. She encouraged any truck drivers with a social media presence to use their influence for something purposeful, such as helping other drivers in the industry.

View all of FreightWaves’ Net-Zero Carbon episodes and sustainability stories.

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Alyssa Sporrer

Alyssa is a staff writer at FreightWaves, covering sustainability news in the freight and supply chain industry, from low-carbon fuels to social sustainability, emissions & more. She graduated from Iowa State University with a double major in Marketing and Environmental Studies. She is passionate about all things environmental and enjoys outdoor activities such as skiing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, and soccer.