Whether measuring accidents, inspections or compliance issues, many women drivers are outperforming their male counterparts, says Werner Enterprises Inc. Chief Operating Officer Derek Leathers.
Speaking to Bloomberg Business News during the Great American Truck Show in Dallas, Leathers said more and more carriers are looking to women as a large untapped labor pool that could help ease the driver shortage.
He said he expects women to make up about 10 percent of his company’s 9,000 drivers by year’s end – almost twice the national average.
“It’s important to kind of rebuff the myths,” Leathers said in an interview with Bloomberg. “They are winning in multiple categories across the fleet.”
Werner and other carriers are targeting women by highlighting the industry’s increased salaries and updated fleets with new creature comforts such as larger sleeper cabs.
“We want to cast the net as wide as we can cast it,” Leathers said, “It’s an opportunity for the industry.”
More women have taken the wheel, according to the American Trucking Associations. They accounted for 5.8 percent of the 3.4 million U.S. truck drivers last year, compared with 4.6 percent in 2010.
Covenant Transportation Group’s CEO David Parker, who joined Leathers on a driver shortage panel, said women are proving to be more cautious and attentive behind the wheel.
He said about 16 percent of the Chattanooga, Tennessee-based company’s 2,400 drivers are women – many of them liking to work with their husbands and even their daughters.
Cleaner terminals, schedules that guarantee home time, automatic transmissions and safer truck stops have all been crucial to attracting and retaining female drivers, said Werner’s Leathers. The company is planning a campaign with print ads and radio spots to encourage more women to apply.
“Most of us are looking for any viable source of new talent,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve done a good job marketing to women.”
Freight companies, shippers and truck manufacturers also are paying more attention to women and their needs, said Char Pingel, membership director for the industry group Women in Trucking. Changes can range from allowing pets in the cab to designing seats that are more adaptable to women to “no-touch” cargo that doesn’t require heavy lifting.