As a 5-foot-2-inch woman, truck driver Lindy Hartsfield-Vasquez says she finds challenges when she hits the road.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently published an article describing how some companies, in a bid to attract a wider range of people to the industry, are trying to do what they can to accommodate smaller-sized potential drivers.
“Being as short as I am, I have trouble,” Hartsfield-Vasquez, 49, said during a rest stop while on her way to Oak Creek, Wis., to pick up a load of freight bound for Gaffney, S.C. “When I get the seat low enough to hit the pedals, I have trouble seeing over the dash.”
“It’s absolutely a challenge for a shorter individual,” said Drew Bossen, a physical therapist and vice president with Atlas Ergonomics LLC, a Grand Haven, Mich., consulting firm that has studied discomfort among long-haul truckers.
Now a Wisconsin-based advocacy group and a University of Wisconsin-Stout professor are working to make truck driving easier and more appealing for women.
Their work has gotten the attention of Ryder System Inc., a $6.4 billion Miami company that leases tens of thousands of heavy trucks and runs a freight-carrying operation with a fleet of about 4,000 semitractors.
And the quest to more comfortably accommodate women and smaller men occurs as the country’s carriers experience a driver shortage that some believe will get worse.
Jeanette Kersten, who teaches in the operations and management department at UW-Stout, teamed up with Wisconsin-based Women in Trucking to survey its members for their thoughts about truck design.
They found plenty.
“Seat adjustability was really important,” Kersten said. “(And) adjustable steering wheels. Not all trucks have adjustable steering wheels. Adjustable foot pedals.”
Ryder has embraced the issue. The firm says it has used the research of Kersten and Women in Trucking to identify female-friendly design changes and is encouraging manufacturers to consider them.