Updated: Nov 1, 2021
By Jake Krough
Recently, it has become more common to see a female behind the wheel of a big rig. However, there is still a lot of room to grow in this area of the industry. Associations like Women In Trucking are continuing their push to introduce more women to trucking and break some of the norms in an industry that has long been dominated by males.
I spoke with long-time Women In Trucking member and Team Run Smart Pro, Linda Caffee, and asked her some questions about life on the road for female truck drivers. Linda has been driving as a team with her husband Bob since 2005 but has been driving trucks for many years longer than that. After our conversation, I was left feeling encouraged, knowing that we have women like Linda representing females in the trucking industry.
What is life like for female truck drivers?
When I first asked Linda about what life is like as a female truck driver she responded with “Awesome”. She went on to explain that women are a viable force in the trucking industry and that the number of women entering the industry continues to grow. Overall, Linda explained that life as a woman truck driver is not that different than life as a male truck driver. This is because the truck and the freight don't care who is driving, as long as it gets to where it needs to go.
However, I did learn that women tend to do things a little differently. One of the main differences is that women tend to drive with more finesse, while men tend to drive a bit more aggressively. This is not always true but is a common trend that Linda has noticed.
Another thing women do a little differently is talk to each other more compared to men. Women being more vocal is part of what has attributed to the number of women in the industry continuing to grow.
Ultimately, Linda explained that it’s all about a woman's attitude and the way they carry themselves that will define what life is like for them on the road.
How has the industry changed for female truck drivers?
Overall, the trucking industry has become a lot more accepting of female truck drivers. Linda explained that some in the industry used to not be accepting of women truck drivers but now that sentiment is starting to change.
Another big change is the way the new trucks are built. Trucks used to not fit people who were too short or too tall, but now they are built to be adjusted for anybody. This used to be a big disadvantage for women to be able to drive a truck. For example, Linda used to carry around a pillow to sit on in order to fit and be comfortable in the truck.
Lastly, truck stops now have showers that can be used privately by both women and men. When Linda first started, someone would have to guard the door while a woman would shower. Now, not only are showers private, but they are also more homey and comfortable.
Overall, the industry has changed to be more accepting of women drivers and other truckers have been embracing the change.
What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of being a female truck driver?
Linda brought up that a lot of women thinking about getting in the industry are scared about being on the road because they might not get to see their family as much. It’s true that you may not be able to attend special family events due to scheduling conflicts, or you may be away from home at a time when your family really needs you. However, in some circumstances, you may be able to see your family more than you would in other professions. Also, truck drivers are almost always available to talk to friends and family on their headset while driving.
Another advantage that was previously mentioned is that in terms of the work that needs to be done, there is no distinction between who is driving. When you are choosing a load, nobody knows whether it is a man or woman who is driving, and the pay is the same. The load and the truck don’t discriminate.
One of the major disadvantages, according to Linda, is that women may have the tendency to become somewhat of a hermit in the truck. Women may feel more timid and not want to get out of the truck because there aren’t as many other women at truck stops. To combat this, Linda recommends that women truck drivers avoid dark truck stops, stay in lighted roadways, and walk with a purpose. This will help defer potential scare tactics by other drivers. Another way to help be less timid is to stay connected with other women in the industry through social media and other female truck driving groups. This allows you to build a network of women drivers to communicate with while on the road and potentially plan meet-ups to share experiences and support each other.
How do you see the landscape changing for female truck drivers in the future?
Linda sees the landscape continuing to get better for female truck drivers. The good news is that better trucks and accommodations are already available, which will help continue to bring more women into the industry.
If a change towards fewer long-haul loads and more terminal-to-terminal loads takes place, it could be beneficial to woman truck drivers. This would make it more likely for women to do the job because they will have the opportunity to be home more often.
Additionally, as women share their positive experiences on social media, it will likely encourage more women to give trucking a try. Every day, there are more ways to network with other women, ask questions, and share experiences. Oftentimes, when a woman learns how to drive a truck, they realize it’s not as hard as it may seem. This will help continue to change the landscape for female truck drivers.
What can we do to attract more female drivers?
As an industry, the main thing that we can do to attract more female truck drivers is education. This will allow women to realize that there are actually a lot of other women in the industry. Education will also allow females to get up in a truck and realize that trucks have become easier to drive. There are so many safety features now that it almost feels like driving a luxury car.
Also, the high visibility inside of the truck makes driving one less intimidating. When you are driving, you can see everything in front of you and it helps you feel more in control with more time to react. Linda feels that she actually has more control over a truck than a car.
Lastly, over the years, other drivers have gotten a lot better at sharing the road with truckers. Most of the time, cars treat trucks with respect and know how to drive around a truck. When you turn on your signal, cars are now more likely to give you a chance to get over. A truck has become easier to drive and it is not as intimidating as it once was. Sharing this information with potential women drivers is what will ultimately bring more of them into the industry.
Much of this information comes from the experiences of Linda Caffee, who is just one of over 200,000 female truck drivers currently on the road. We understand that other women truck drivers will have different experiences and thoughts about the industry. For more information about Linda Caffee, click here.