There is still a huge perception truck drivers need to be men, but bringing more female commercial drivers into the transport industry makes business, economic and social sense.
And data suggests it is wise for fleets to boost their number of female drivers, too. Fleet management solutions company Omnitracs in the USA found female truck drivers get into fewer preventable accidents than men and generally drive more cautiously. They also are less likely to quit driving, which is particularly critical as turnover rates among truck drivers reach 95%.
Albeit from a 2018 survey, every 100 female drivers get into 3,41 preventable accidents, compared to a rate of 3,44 accidents among every 100 male drivers. Omnitracs data also found women are less likely than men to get warnings while driving such as ‘excessive overspeed, forward collision warning, hard breaking, and other signals that can lead to an accident.
The industry is willing and eager to transform. To do this successfully however, requires a concerted drive: with proper planning and a sustained approach. This is one of the key messages that emerged from the recent inaugural online dialogue titled ‘Women in Transport: Unlocking Opportunities for Female Truck Drivers and Couriers’.
Hosted by the Commercial Transport Academy (CTA), the event was supported by a number of industry organisations and attended by representatives from operators, OEMs, government departments, state owned enterprises and industry service providers.
The online dialogue explored issues such as:
- Human resource policies that support the development of female commercial drivers by overcoming barriers and unconscious bias.
- Best practices for employing and developing female commercial drivers.
- Developing an ecosystem to support women drivers and inspire transformation.
During the session, the following was highlighted:
- Change management and driving change from the top (ie. leadership) are key success factors in bringing more women into the industry as commercial drivers.
- Transformation needs to be actively pursued; change will not just happen.
- The industry needs to actively partner on training and development initiatives for women. such as those the CTA has championed.
- Preparing the workplace for women and having the measures and plans in place to do this is vital.
- Developmental plans need to be compiled for roles within short-haul industry services where women can be placed as a matter of urgency.
- Infrastructure and facilities such as truck stops need to accommodate women.
Some interesting key findings arising from online polls conducted during the session include:
- 75% of respondents said drivers, line managers and fleet managers were not properly trained to work with female commercial drivers.
- 67% of respondents believed there were not enough opportunities for women to pursue careers as commercial drivers.
- 94% of respondents were of the view female drivers are safe, reliable and at least as hard working as male drivers.
- 81% of respondents believed women were not aware that commercial driving was a viable career choice for them.
“This Online Dialogue confirmed that we need to work together as an industry to bring about real, meaningful and lasting transformation,” says Nicci Scott, the CTA’s founder and champion of the initiative. “We call on the transport industry to engage with us so we can work together to address this. Together, we need to build an eco-system for women to thrive.”
Industry partners such as the Transport Education and Training Authority which participated in the event, explained how funding could be sourced for such programmes. TETA confirmed the focus on women in particular was one of the pillars amongst the key imperatives of the National Development Plan.
The CTA aims to empower South African women who either wish to participate in or who are already employed and wish to be empowered within the transport and logistics sector.
“There is a severe shortage of women in the industry and this skills gap needs to be addressed urgently,” continues Scott. “Globally, in countries such as Australia and the USA we have seen women at the forefront, breaking through barriers and forging a place for themselves in commercial driving careers.”
“The response and support for this initiative has been overwhelming,” she concludes. “We will be hosting another three sessions throughout the year to continue the dialogue and develop and implement an action plan”.
Research is a core focus of this initiative, as data will inform policies and practices of organisations.
“The lack of data available regarding women in the trucking and courier industries is a barrier to transformation. It is imperative that this be done”.