Women truckers in demand as driver shortage balloons

As a truck driver shortage in the U.S. grows, the industry is setting its sights on attracting more female drivers – who have historically comprised a very low percentage of the overall workforce.

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Even lawmakers are getting involved.

A new bill, co-sponsored by Kansas Republican Sen. Jerry Moran and Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin, was introduced earlier this month to create a Women in Trucking Advisory Board.

The board would be tasked with identifying trends preventing women for pursuing trucking careers and ways to address them. It will also focus on pinpointing ways to expand existing opportunities for women. Findings are to be submitted to two congressional committees.

According to Moran’s office, women make up less than one-quarter of the trucking workforce – and less than 7 percent of drivers. That percentage has held steady over the past two decades, ranging from 4.5 percent to 6.6 percent, according to data from the American Trucking Associations.

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Including women is just one way to combat a growing driver shortage, which shows no signs of abating in the near future, John Kearney, president and CEO of Advanced Training Systems, told FOX Business.

The industry was short about 60,800 drivers in 2018 – a roughly 20 percent increase from the year prior. If current trends continue, the shortage is expected to balloon to more than 160,000 by 2028. Over the next decade, the industry will need to hire 1.1 million new drivers – many of whom will be needed to replace older and retiring workers.

That’s why some in the industry are hopeful women may turn their attention toward a potential career in trucking – and welcome the government’s help.

“If the federal government will get involved with it, that can be great as long as it doesn’t take five years to develop,” Kearney said.

Kearney noted that the career has become more attractive – for all prospective candidates, including women – thanks to better training methods and updated trucks. New trucks are safer and have automatic shifts and assisted driving technology – like break warnings.

“The quality of the trucks that are coming into the market today are excellent and we’re going to see nothing but improvements on that,” Kearney said. “The historical concept of a truck – that it’s real hard to push down on a clutch, real hard to steer and having to shift – none of those three [features] exist anymore.”

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Part of the reason more women have not entered the industry, according to Kearney, is due to a failure in marketing – like failing to publicize new training methods, which are all computer and simulation-based, for example.

Advocacy groups, however, are popping up. The Women in Trucking Association has been around since 2007 to help educate and support women in the industry. REAL Women in Trucking has similar goals.

In addition to attracting more women to the workforce, industry experts have told FOX Business that another way to address the driver shortage is by allowing drivers younger than 21 to transport cargo across state lines.

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