When most people think of trucking, a stereotypical image of a burly man comes to mind. But from behind the wheel to the C-suite, women are breaking through.
For women leading the way in trucking, look no further than Rebecca Brewster, president and chief operating officer of American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), where she has been for 30 years. She is the recipient of several awards, including Fleet Owner magazine’s 2016 Dozen Outstanding Women in Trucking, the 2013 Influential Woman in Trucking award from the Women in Trucking Association, and the 2010 J.R. Bob Halladay award given by the 50 state trucking associations. She is a leader in research and trucking policy, and someone all policymakers look to for the annual release of worst traffic bottlenecks, critical issue overviews, and every topic they need to make informed choices.
A recent study from ATRI determined that women are safer truck drivers. ATRI’s report on Predicting Truck Crash Involvement looked into statistics that showed while women only comprise about 7% to 12% of drivers, they account for just 2.7% of driver inspections. Furthermore, male drivers were 76% more likely to receive a seat-belt violation, 57% more likely to receive a conviction for driving too fast for conditions, 19% more likely to receive a conviction for speeding more than 15 mph above the speed limit, and 14% more likely to be involved in a crash. Perhaps these stats will inspire companies to invest in supporting women-led training and building their fleets with women in mind.
There are organizations dedicated to these initiatives. Women In Trucking, a nonprofit group dedicated to encouraging the employment of women in trucking, addresses obstacles and celebrates success. In order for women to take trucking jobs, women need flexible work arrangements, fair compensation, and inclusive corporate cultures that encourage and support professional development and the advancement of women.
Logistically, we as a country need more drivers. The American Trucking Associations estimates the U.S. trucking sector was 78,000 drivers short last year, so investing in increasing the number of women drivers is an important way to fill the gap and open an industry to the women who can fulfill the role with excellence.
Out of the 50 state trucking associations, 16 are led by women, a number that has continued to grow over the years.
In Florida, former ballerina Alix Miller found her way to the Florida Trucking Association, clicked with leadership, and has excelled as a powerful entity representing the industry in a huge state. In Iowa, Brenda Neville has had the distinct honor of representing Iowa’s trucking industry for over 30 years. She dedicates her time to important issues like Truckers Against Trafficking and is a national leader in the industry, respected by colleagues coast to coast.
In the South, Renee Amar is the executive director of the Louisiana Motor Transport Association, Donna England the president and CEO of the Tennessee Trucking Association, Traci Nelson leads in West Virginia, and Arkansas has Shannon Samples Newton in charge.
Head North and you’ll find Michigan’s Jill Sokacz; Gail E. Toth, the executive director of the New Jersey Motor Truck Association; Rebecca Oyler leading in Pennsylvania; and New York’s Kendra L. Hems, who has been around the trucking industry since she was eight. She has been the Trucking Association of New York’s president since 2008, and she has led the way establishing workforce development programs in her state.
On the West Coast, you will meet Jana Jarvis, the president and CEO of the Oregon Trucking Association, who has over 20 years of public policy and management experience in both the corporate and trade association environment; along with Sheila D. Foertsch of Wyoming and Christine Erickson in South Dakota.
All of these women have stories to tell, as they have made their way to the top in an industry not typically associated with women leadership, and they’re all finding success at the highest level.