The role of driving a tractor-trailer as a career option for women has grown significantly over the years. Travelers who happen to glance over their shoulder have a greater chance of seeing a female driving an 18-wheeler than a man.
In 2000, women made up 4.7 percent of the trucking payroll. Despite this gender-bending trend, the road has gradually accepted women as drivers. In fact, women have more opportunities than ever before to work in positions besides driving like sales, marketing, dispatch, recruiting, and management. They also have the option of owning their own truck or fleet.
The first woman truck driver to earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and drive a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) was Lillie McGee Drennan in 1929. Drennan later became the sole owner of Drenne Truck Line, the first trucking company owned by a woman.
Drennan carried a revolver with her at all times to protect herself while out on the wide open road, where anything can happen. Despite never-ending criticism of being known as a difficult boss, making life hard for subordinates, Drennen never gave up her dream and reached the top in the trucking industry.
Other women with no father, uncle, brother or male counterpart to teach them how to drive followed in Drennan’s footsteps and they also managed to succeed. Those women paved the way in a male-dominated industry for others to join them as pioneers in trucking.
By the 1960s, more women entered the trucking industry than any generations past; but, the unions made it nearly impossible for women to gain employment as truck drivers. Working conditions made it difficult for women because there were no bathroom facilities designated for them. If they wanted to take a shower, they had to chain the door shut. They had to find somebody to stand guard so that they could get their privacy.
As time passed, women earned their worth, proving their competence and reliability as excellent drivers in the industry. Not only did they prove that they could handle big rigs, they also earned the respect of their male counterparts. As a result, women receive the same privileges as men do.
- Lillie McGee Drennen was the first woman to get her commercial driver’s license (CDL).
- Lillie McGee Drennen became the first woman to open her own trucking business.
- During the 1960s, many women pursue their trucking careers; however, the unions made it nearly impossible to drive.
Although trucking companies have done their best to resolve current issues like safety, pay, and the traveling time it takes for their employees to reach home, these are some of the concerns that affect both genders. As a result of years of fighting for their rights, both male and female drivers are allowed to spend more time with their families.
Women drivers perform all of the duties of their male counterparts without fail. On average, drivers earn anywhere from $25,000 to $70,000 or more in salary, depending on experience and how many miles they’ve driven. One perk for drivers is a sense of freedom that office jobs simply do not provide. The trucking industry also offers more than long-haul routes. Therefore, never let the setback of traveling cross-country lead to discouragement for taking up trucking as a career.
- Despite continual hardships, women earned the respect of their male counterparts in the trucking industry.
- Most trucking companies have resolved safety concerns for all drivers.
- Many women crave the freedom and money-making potential of driving a truck.
Many people wonder why women would choose to drive a truck, instead of going to college or landing a high-paying office job as a career. Others lambast women drivers for not getting married and having a family.
Married women listen to their family and friends about how they should stay home with their children like “normal” women do. Each woman trucker has her own answer for these difficult questions. For instance, most women have the potential of earning more money driving a truck than they do finding a big salaried job after earning their Bachelor’s degree.
Most women become a truck driver before or after they have kids, especially if they recently went through a divorce. Some stay married, get their commercial driver’s license (CDL), join their husband on the road and then they become team drivers.
In some instances, women from white-collared jobs get fed up with the office politics and decide to switch careers. These women tend to hold their head the highest, because they can wear their torn t-shirts and jeans without getting harassed by their former bosses.
What’s being said over the CB ratio is the biggest complaint that women truckers talk about in the industry. There are those who know how to defend themselves or laugh off the jokes and comments announced by the hecklers on the road. It’s important for women truckers to keep their sense of humor and not take insults to heart. Women truckers need to toughen up and learn how to take a little criticism in order to survive in the industry; sure-fired toughness and the will to persevere will pay off in the end.
- Women have their own reasons for joining the trucking industry.
- Women still have to endure ignorance while on the road.
- Women tend to become truckers before or after having kids.
- Women may join their husbands after their kids have grown up to become team drivers.
Follow these links to learn more about women in the trucking industry:
Improved Safety for Truck Drivers: Designing Safer Cabs Based on Driver Body Dimensions (PDF)