What is it like to be a woman and a truck driver? Well, it’s not easy, that much I can tell you. Just like moms around the world will tell you, you have to work twice as hard as a man to get anywhere in the workforce. It’s true. Tina Turner had it right when she sang the words, “She works hard for the money.” It is not just the physical aspect of the job that affects women in the trucking industry. It is also the emotional aspect, the safety aspect, and the financial aspect.
As a woman in the workforce, we already know that physically, we are they weaker sex. Unless a woman works out, she has only a percentage of the physical strength that a man has. It’s a proven fact. We are built differently for different tasks. I admire a woman who tackles a hefty job, like working on a farm or in a factory lifting heavy machinery or product. But there are repercussions for this. She can damage her back (like a man), or cause serious injury to her reproductive organs through straining. This could cause infertility or problems during childbirth. She puts her health at risk. I know because it happened to me. I have no children, and probably never will. But I’m okay with this. I enjoy my career choice, and that makes me happy.
A woman also has to be more safety-conscious than a man. This is true anywhere, but truck stops can be especially dangerous for a woman who chooses to drive solo. She is more likely to be mugged, raped, or otherwise assaulted because she is seen as vulnerable. A few necessary precautions will greatly increase her chances of remaining safe. Never get out of the truck in an area that is not well-lit, or if you are all the way in the back of a parking lot at night. Rest areas should be treated with extreme caution as well. If possible, carry necessary items in your pockets or inside a larger bag (laundry or shower bag), not in a purse. A would-be attacker will think twice if he sees no purse. Another way to keep yourself safe is to just steer clear of known areas of crime. You can usually pick these places out of a crowd by the rumor mills (truck drivers love to tell stories) or by taking a quick drive around the property. If anything looks questionable, get out of there immediately. Don’t wait for nightfall when it will be more difficult to find a parking spot elsewhere.
Financially, a woman can make as much or more than a man in the trucking industry. However, a woman often has more expenses than a man (body care, laundry, business expenses, etc.) so she will need to be more frugal with her paycheck. This is what I like about truck driving. No trucking company in good standing will judge a person’s worth by their sex. For the most part, they all judge your pay based on experience and track record alone. They don’t care that you can bench press 150 pounds. They only want to know if you can get from point A to point B without incident in a timely manner and keep their customers happy.
Emotionally, a woman can go through quite a bit more than a man. She has her everyday temper flair-ups, nervousness, contentment, and laughter, but there are also the emotional beatings she takes from her fellow drivers. Men are just like kids on a playground. They can help you or hinder you with just a few words. There is constant bullying (“you should be at home making babies”), the catcalls, and general nastiness. Emotionally, a woman is much stronger than a man, though the ego prevents a man from admitting it. But she can only take so much before she, too, begins to break down. She won’t show her temper the way a man does. She is more coy and tactful about things. She doesn’t just spew the first thing that comes into her head, but chooses her words carefully to inflict the most pain. Then, we have a problem. Instead of backing her up, her supporters begin to change sides and before long, she is the social outcast of the hour, which then leads to more loneliness and anger. It’s a vicious cycle that can add years to her face and stress levels go way up.
A woman must also have general knowledge of computers. Most companies have satellite-linked QualComms in the trucks now, for easier dispatch and communication with the driver. It helps to free up the phone lines, which is a blessing for larger companies with several hundred drivers.
She should have a basic understanding of mechanics as well. There will be times when there are no men around to help fix a mud-flap change a headlight, and she will have to do it herself. Nothing is worse than being stuck at a weigh station because you have a headlight out and DOT won’t let you go until it’s been changed. A variety of spare parts and a well-stocked toolkit are always a good idea, too.
A woman has to take care of herself, her mind and body together, or she won’t make it out there on the road. Anybody can sit behind the wheel and drive, but it takes a special breed to really understand the job at hand. If a woman can’t handle the pressure, she should be driving team or not on the road at all.
If you are a woman and are interested in truck driving, talk to a few women who also drive. They can tell you first hand what it’s really like and help you make an informed decision. Also, you can stop by any truck stop and pick up a copy of Women And Teams In Trucking magazine from the free stand near the driver’s entrance. You can find these stands at any T/A, Pilot, Petro, Flying J, or Bossleman’s truck stop, or sometimes at the local rest area or truck stop.