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Women of trucking criticize FMCSA crime study

Advisory board members argue survey sample, results not based in reality

Advisers to FMCSA took issue with crime study. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

A federal study attempting to assess threats and assaults against female and minority truckers needs to be overhauled before it can be considered meaningful for the trucking industry, according to an adviser to regulators.

Crime Prevention for Truckers Study,” a survey sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Office of Research and conducted by the Battelle Memorial Institute, was unveiled Wednesday at the first meeting of FMCSA’s Women of Trucking Advisory Board (WOTAB). The 16-member panel was mandated as part of the infrastructure law signed last year to encourage women to enter the trucking industry.

The study’s results and methodology, however, came under immediate fire from WOTAB member Anne Balay, an author and union organizer. Balay, who also worked as a commercial truck driver, was particularly concerned about the study’s finding that “touched inappropriately” was the most serious offense reported among survey respondents.

“I’m a social scientist and I’ve done extensive research on this subject, and I have to say that hearing that being touched inappropriately is the most severe reportage is incredibly inaccurate,” Balay said during the public meeting. “Rape is incredibly common, and calling rape as being ‘touched inappropriately’ is extremely offensive. I interviewed many [women] truckers who reported that rape is considered a part of the job. It’s very important that this group acknowledges that.”

Members of the panel were also concerned about the breadth of the survey and who was asked to respond to it. Of the 653 participants, approximately 70% were men — and of those, 63% were white. Studies have shown that out of approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in the country, 7% (245,000) are women.

Source: FMCSA

“I was one of the 200 women who responded that I had received multiple harassment issues,” said WOTAB member Kellylynn McLaughlin, a former Schneider National truck driver. “I’m constantly surprised by the low numbers of respondents in surveys that are supposed to represent us. We know that when it comes to rape or harassment, it’s most often not reported because it’s difficult and often not well received. But I don’t know a single woman driver that has not encountered some sort of harassment.

“How do we get real numbers, more than 200 women to respond to a survey? I would like to see action items in how we get better numbers. There’s power in numbers.”

Tom Keane, FMCSA’s associate administrator in the agency’s Office of Research, said he was “happy” with the responses FMCSA received but also acknowledged the survey’s shortcomings and concerns from the board.

“To the point about rape, it may have to do with limitations within the scope of the survey,” said Keane, noting that certain respondents said they did not want to go into detail about their experiences. “I think that speaks to the seriousness of the crimes that are being committed. We consider this a first step from our vantage point. However, we welcome all input to improve it.

“It is my intent to follow up on this as we move forward collectively, so I would welcome input to improve subsequent surveys.”

Keane listed a series of “next steps” with regard to the survey, which included developing and distributing outreach materials to amplify it through social media and industry conference presentations.

Balay cautioned, however, that instead of publicizing the initial survey, “we as the Women in Trucking Advisory Board need to challenge how this survey was done and get a survey that has data that is meaningful and reflects what is happening in our industry.”

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  1. Carla Foxworth

    I am not a trucker.
    But women should have the same opportunities and protections as women in the military or other male dominant professions. This discussion is long overdue… and it’s actually quite easy to break down:
    Respect, Opportunity, Equal pay, and Safety are what women want in any field.

  2. Trucker50!

    Trucking is a conservative industry and you generally encounter drivers who practice the values and assumptions of a generation ago. This doesn’t mean they’re all a bunch of perverts and rapists, in fact, a lot of them have very a strong sense of right and wrong. What many of them may not realize, tho, is that certain ways of conversing and joking that may not seem offensive or intimidating to them may be taken differently by women, especially women they don’t know well.. They probably all know the occasional hard woman who jokes and guffaws along w them without being put off or offended and knowing those women may lead some guys to think that all women are or should be that way.

    What’s generally best (for everyone) is to keep everything professional. Most women do not want to be called “hon” or told they look good by every guy they come across in the Pilot, and most guys who say those things don’t mean anything untoward by saying them.. so if the guys agree to keep conversation limited to things unconnected to women’s appearance and the sexual sphere generally, there will be fewer miscommunications.

  3. Backcountry164

    Why does the government need to encourage more women to drive trucks?? Are we also encouraging men to take jobs in daycare centers?? Just because a profession is dominated by one gender doesn’t mean there’s a problem that needs solving. Women certainly can and should drive trucks that doesn’t mean it needs to be a goal prioritized by the government at the taxpayer expense. Obviously. Just more grifting done by “special interest” groups…

  4. Stephanie J King-Cobryn

    I have been an OTR reefer driver for 4 years. Yes, I am female. I have never once been raped, harassed or disrespected because of my gender. I am 5’1″, blonde and thin. I wear makeup. I am a night driver. I am a solo driver. I carry myself with confidence and never expect to be harassed. When I need help, I ask and receive it from male or female drivers. When I see a driver needing help, I offer help. If a man compliments me, I say thank you, smile and go about my business. I am single, but choose to wear a wedding

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.