Lawmakers are introducing new legislation that will aim to support women working in trucking.
The Promoting Women in Trucking Workforce Act would work toward directing the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to create a Women of Trucking Advisory Board, which would potentially break down the obstacles many women face while entering the industry. It would also work to collaborate with trucking companies, trucking associations, and other organizations in order to put into place new education and training techniques, as well as to develop mentorship and outreach programs for female-identifying employees in the trucking world.
Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who both serve on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, introduced the act on November 14th.
According to the Department of Labor, women made up about 47% of the civilian labor force in 2016. However, the Women in Trucking Association’s data show that less than 8% of truck drivers are women.
The bill would make sure the FMCSA administrator submits a report to Congress in full detail of the board’s findings and proposals.
“In Wisconsin, we make things, and we need to ensure we have a strong workforce to transport our goods to market,” said Sen. Baldwin. “Women currently make up less than 10% of the truck driving workforce, and removing the barriers that get in the way of women pursuing and retaining careers in trucking is key.”
Sen. Moran explained that the current truck driver shortage not only highlights a strong need to find new ways to recruit and retain drivers, but that there is a specific need to motivate more women to jump into the industry.
“Because women are substantially underrepresented in the trucking industry,” he said, “Congress should explore every opportunity to encourage and support the pursuit of careers in trucking by women.”
Moran has also helped lead a method of promoting women in aviation, which was included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018.
The American Trucking Associations and the Women In Trucking Association are supporting the new legislation. ATA President Chris Spear said in a letter to the senators who introduced the bill, that although women are still underrepresented in trucking, the overall number of female truck drivers has increased by 68% since 2010.
Spear also noted that women tend to work more safely as truck drivers in comparison to their male counterparts. For example, the American Transportation Research Institute’s Crash Predictor Model was updated to show that men are 88% more likely to have a reckless driving conviction. Additionally, the research showed that men are 20% more likely to be involved in a crash.
The Women In Trucking Association’s president, Ellen Voie, was able to offer her own input on the new legislation, and said she was beyond happy to have her voice heard.
“By creating an advisory board to utilize the expertise and resources of the [FMCSA] and the members of the board, we can increase the opportunities for women as drivers, technicians, owners, trainers, and in other relevant career roles,” she said. “This’ll help us at a much higher level. It’ll also get other people involved.”
This bill comes soon after the FMCSA announced in July its plan to research violent crimes against women and minority truck drivers in the U.S., an assessment which the agency says will help to increase the number of qualified potential drivers.
“FMCSA needs to explore and validate the problem of harassment- and assault-related crimes, especially against female and minority male truckers for two reasons,” said the agency in its July 23rd announcement. “First, there seems to be a perception among these sub-populations of truckers that they are more vulnerable than others. Second, there is a critical shortage of truckers, and helping these sub-populations of tuckers protect themselves from crimes could draw more truckers from these sub-populations, while stemming turnover, to alleviate the shortage.”
The FMCSA is currently seeking White House approval to begin assessing the scope of this issue, and has since started collaborating with nonprofit research group Battelle to execute the study. As of now, the agency cites documentary and anecdotal evidence of these crimes, but does not yet provide methods of how women can protect themselves.
The Women in Trucking Association is now working with FMSCA to help the study get up and running, and is offering an anti-harassment employment guide to carriers that are working to address these issues among driver teams of all genders.