Regardless of gender, making it as a long-haul truck driver is an exciting challenge. Long stretches on the road, traveling alone at night, and toughing it out during a potentially dangerous situation takes guts. And if you are a woman that has what it takes to become a great trucker, don’t let anything prevent you from achieving your goal.
Women truck drivers make up about 6% of the trucking industry, but as you set off on your first 100,000 miles, you may face hurdles that your male counterparts will not experience.
Because trucking is just as much a lifestyle as a job, drivers should go into their OTR trucking career with as much preparation as possible. So let’s look at some useful tips to succeed as a woman in the trucking industry.
1. Truck Driver Orientation.
During the first year of trucking, there are several situations that require you to sleep in close quarters with men. This may be uncomfortable for you or cause stress in an existing relationship.
The first chance for this situation would be at company orientation, where truckers all attend an extended training period at a new company. While trucking companies offer a place to stay, this may mean you end up bunking with a bunch of men because there are a disproportional amount of men in the trucking industry.
Trucking companies may offer women drivers separate lodging to make things a bit more comfortable. Always ask ahead of time if this is offered. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of rooming with your co-workers, make sure you reserve a private hotel.
2. On-the-Job Training.
As an OTR truck driver, your trainer accompanies you throughout your first 4-6 weeks on the road. The training requires rookie drivers to learn from trainers by sharing the truck together and acting as a team.
During the training period, you live and work together in the cab, day in and day out. This also means sleeping in the bunk bed at night. Training is not the most comfortable situation for men, and for some women, it’s even more uncomfortable.
Overall, though, trainers are required to be professionals, and on-the-job training is standard practice. Training is required by trucking companies before drivers can go on their own.
If you are not comfortable with sharing these close quarters with a male trainer, try to find a company that has women trainers. Companies with women trainers are rare, but they do exist.
Don’t let this stop you from driving an OTR big rig. It may just take some extra research to find the company and training arrangement for you.
3. Dealing With Harassment.
Unfortunately, harassment is a possibility for professional OTR truck drivers. This may come from shippers, consignees, dispatchers, or fellow truckers.
Deal with this type of inappropriate behavior early on by reporting the event to your superiors. Harassment is not ok and you have the right to work as an OTR truck driver.
Remember this: no trucking company wants to deter good drivers from working. You are a valuable asset to them as long as you keep freight moving on the road!
Although the margin of women in the trucking industry is small, it is possible to find out which companies are great to work for by talking with other women truckers.
4. Safety Tips for Women Truck Drivers.
Lady truckers may have safety concerns at truck stops. You’ll want to find a well-lit rest area that has food and restrooms.
At night, you should stay alert. Carry pepper spray or your preferred form of protection on you. Sometimes, a heavy duty flashlight is enough make you feel safe.
If you are anxious about leaving the safety of your cab at night, stop hauling early enough to find a comfortable and safe location. When parking at truck stops, you can even strategically park your truck so that your driver side door faces the light coming from the building.
Also, stay on your guard if you have to park in the dark area of the shipping yard. You may be asked to drop off a trailer in a “drop ‘n’ hook” late at night.
5. Bring the Right Gear.
Did you know that it can be harder for women to stay warm than for men? Science proves it.
For women truck drivers, staying warm on the road can be a bit hard in the winter.
And because driving takes you through many regions in a few days, some areas along your route may have ideal weather while the next areas have ice and snow.
Dress comfortably but always pack warmer clothes. Pack extra layers and sheets. Bring well-made rain boots along with you as well.
And of course, be sure to stock up on snacks and bring large containers of water.
6. Socialize With Other Drivers.
Making it in the trucking industry as a lady is a great challenge to tackle, and the rewards are worth it. For additional support, take the time to join an organization like Women in Trucking.
Organizations like this are great for networking opportunities and resources. Plus it is nice to chat with gals who understand the journey you are embarking on. And always remember, OTR truck drivers have the right to haul cargo, regardless of their gender.