Truck driving industry looks to get more women behind the wheel

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By Erin Eagan

While decreasing in the last 30 years, under-representation — or a lack of gender balance in the labor market—still rears its ugly head in certain professions. Even today, elementary school teachers and dental hygienists are two female-dominated professions, while men still occupy most auto repair and construction jobs. 

This discrepancy is no more noticeable than in truck driving — an industry responsible for 70 percent of all freight movement across the U.S. Think about it, we see countless semi-trucks on interstates and highways. But how often do we see a woman behind the wheel of a big-rig? The answer is not often enough. In fact, the American Trucking Association estimates that there are approximately 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States. Of those, only six percent are women. That’s a huge gap.

In Wisconsin, that percentage is a little better, but there is still room for improvement. At Wisconsin’s technical colleges, currently 14 percent of enrollees in the truck driving program are female. Over the last 10 years, those numbers average out to be the exact same.

Plenty of Jobs to Go Around
According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, our state has averaged 1,359 truck driving job openings in the last two years. By 2024, that number is expected to increase to 1,547. At a time when the truck driving industry is in dire need of drivers, one way to help close the gap is to get more women into the industry.

It may be an occupation that many women haven’t previously considered, but the benefits are hard to ignore:

  • Low-cost, hands-on training. You can earn a technical diploma at one of Wisconsin’s technical colleges in 16 weeks or less.
  • Starting wages. For WTCS graduates of the truck driving program, the median salary six months after graduation is $46,124. 
  • High employment rate. Of last year’s graduates who were surveyed, 94 percent are employed. 
  • Motivational incentives. Many companies offer solid benefits packages, signing bonuses and flexible hours.
  • Life on the open road. You get freedom behind the wheel while getting paid to see the country.

Like many other jobs, potential truck drivers should also consider what would be required of them before making a decision: 

  • Long weeks. Some drivers average 53 hours per week behind the wheel.
  • Time away from home. You can spend an average of 280 nights away from home each year. 
  • Irregular sleep. Sometimes you need to rest when you’re not tired and work when you’re tired.

As in any occupation, the job is what you make of it. With an open mind, women who enter the truck driving industry can build a successful future for themselves and their families.