Those Darn Women Drivers: Women in Trucking 2015

Woman with lipstick and cell phone in the carOne day I was driving along, minding my own business and I happened to glance into the car next to me. There was a woman putting on make-up while she was driving! She had the sun visor pulled down, using the mirror on the back of it. Her eyes were mostly on the mirror. Once in a while, she would look at the road and correct her drifting car. At one point, she weaved into my lane.
My first instinct was to grab the steering wheel and move over. That maneuver caused me to drop my electric razor, which fell into the coffee cup between my legs. Hot coffee spilled on my lap and I jumped up spilling coffee all over the newspaper on the steering wheel and all over my lap. In all the confusion, I dropped my cell phone and broke it. And that was an important call. Those darn women drivers.

There are a lot of women trucking now.

Of course I’m joking. It was really tea. But seriously folks, there are a lot of women driving trucks these days and I am happy to report that they are doing a fine job. Most of the women drivers I have met are just as good as any man. There was a time when driving a truck was a mans job in a mans world. Some would say it still is. Unfortunately though, there are some hard-headed guys who still insist on giving women a hard time. But thankfully, there are also many gentlemen in this industry who defend their honor. That may sound strange or old-fashioned to an outsider, but every woman who ever talked on a CB, or even anyone who ever heard a woman talk on a CB (and the responses that follow), knows exactly what I mean.

For the most part, the physical aspects of the job can be performed by the most petite woman equally as well as the most burly man. Dropping and hooking trailers, checking and filling fluids, inspecting equipment and operating it safely can be done by anyone who is properly trained. There are even some handicapped drivers nowadays and many truck stops even have designated truck parking spaces for handicap drivers.

This was unheard of only a few years ago. The scariest physical task for many women (and men too for that matter) has got to be unloading the product. It seems impossible, when you look into a trailer and see for example, one thousand cases of canned foods that weigh sometimes over fifty pounds each, stacked to the ceiling. Thankfully, most companies hire “lumpers” to unload this type of load and wouldn’t ask a driver to do it (male or female). After all, drivers need to conserve there energy for actual driving.

Sitting behind the wheel for long periods of time is enough to wear out anyone and more and more companies are realizing that fact. Most lumpers make very good money, but they do indeed earn every bit of it. Some people consider the whole lumper system a scam. Including me, sometimes. But that is another story for a future article.

The history of women in trucking:

The history of women in trucking can be traced all the way back to 1929, when Lillie Elizabeth McGee Drennen got her commercial truck driving license and later became the sole owner of Drennen Truck Line. According to she was the first woman truck driver and the first women to own a trucking company. She carried a loaded revolver at all times (she probably had to at the time) and was known to kick her employees in the seat of their pants when they went against her rules.

She must have been one tough cookie. She had to be, to survive in an industry where men ruled. In 1943 the Los Angeles times called her “Dry Land Tug Boat Annie” and compared her pioneering efforts to Annie Oakley. In Hollywood, there were movie negotiations made with her regarding her life story, but production never occurred. Her company drivers uniform included a ten gallon hat. She later went on to give lectures about her experiences in trucking at Prairie View A&M College. Her life is a great story. I could write a whole column about her.

Pretty girl talking on cbWomen have surely come a long way since then. And I for one, would like to see more of them. These days, you can expect to find somewhere between five and thirty percent of women drivers at most companies. US Xpress claims to be leading the way. They even have a team of women that have been with the company since 1993. Their trucks have automatic transmissions and they’re red. What woman doesn’t like red, or an automatic for that matter? Some companies target their advertising efforts directly toward women. There are at least two magazines and several websites that I know of directed specifically toward women in trucking.

Some women start off as a navigator. That is, they ride with their husbands and read maps, make phone calls, do paper work, etc. Then after a while, they may realize that they could make twice as much money if she drove too. Husband and wife teams are in great demand and most companies love to hire teams, especially husband and wife teams. And if for some reason the happy couple breaks up, she knows that she can get a good job.

I once spoke to a class at a truck driving school that had more women than men. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more women than men driving trucks one day. After all, the American Dream is alive and well in the trucking industry. So come on over ladies, there is plenty of room (not unless you’re here already).


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