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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.”

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.


  1. david wilson

    I am a male CDL driver. I run Linehaul every night, out to another terminal and back to my home terminal. I quit stopping at truck stops and rest areas years ago. Just too dangerous. I just pull over. I feel for all these OTR drivers. Nasty truck stops. Watching over your shoulder walking to the door of the truck stop.

  2. Rhonda

    You know a lot of it is joking around and a lot of the women are too fat and ugly anyways to hit on so I don’t know where these impossible numbers come up at

  3. Alice

    This survey is a JOKE!!
    1 question about outside of work and the rest about coworkers..
    Details of the attack aren’t necessary..
    How about follow up questions like..
    Were the authorities called?
    Was there an arrest?
    The most striking thing is saw is actually the MOST ACCURATE! 55% outside of work..
    DOT & MC numbers as identifiers are in all trucks. TS have cameras..
    At barest minimum..
    A poster..
    We’re watching you..
    We know who you are…
    It’s the Industry dirty little secret, just like sleeper tests used to be…
    I’m thoroughly disgusted at how this little farce of a survey is “ok”
    WASTE OF MONEY to make someone look good at a new job..
    I thank God my trainer taught me what and to watch for.. I’m female and he’s male.. it was very professional and I learned TONS!!

  4. Pamela

    Yes I have been approached, never assaulted, or raped while on the road. I am very polite when turning people away. I will use more force when necessary. Thankfully I have had formal training 😉 and I have a bit of backup (my co-driver looks cute, but has a nasty bite if she needs to protect me). There is a whole psychological aspect to being a female driver and feeling safe on the road. But that is a whole different conversation.

  5. Pamela

    How do I apply to be on this board and work with Women in Trucking? This is my life-force. If I would get more information and access for these types of surveys, I would gladly participate.

  6. Rex

    I also worked with at least 100 women who were as good or better as male drivers in the industry that I trusted to run with who never had problems with 95 % of the men they encountered but as is usual in any career field you always have those a☆☆ho☆☆s who have to play at being Macho a☆☆h☆les who can’t accept competition.

  7. Rex

    I worked in the trucking industry for 30 years and ran all 48 states both as a single man & married plus trained drivers both men & women during my time otr. I had guys & girls who came straight out of driving schools who were under the impression that it was easy but learned that it could be difficult at times. I had one woman who thought because she had trained people to work in a restaurant that driving a truck was no different unfortunately when I tried to explain stuff she would try & tell me that I was doing it wrong after spending 3 weeks with her I told my supervisor that she was out their to get her a husband & wasn’t trying to learn the job he told me to just let her learn on her own & the company safety officer asked me if I could pass her to drive alone and I told him NO so he gave her to 2 different female trainers who told him the same thing. To fill the EEOC requirements being pushed on the industry he put her in her own truck. I heard later that she had been fired.

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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.