Queen of the Road

By Tracy Trickle, Staff Writer
Article last updated on 6/27/2007

When most people think of your stereotypical truck driver, they probably imagine a big, burly man somewhere in his 40s. But times are changing in the trucking industry, and so is the face of the average American trucker. Today, thousands of women around the country are choosing to get behind the wheel of a big rig and make truck driving their careers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, roughly 154,000 of America’s 3 million truck drivers are women. Although this only amounts to 5 percent of the current truck driving force, the number of women drivers has steadily climbed since 1995, when female truck drivers totaled about 129,000. Today, more and more women are hitting the open road because of the many benefits trucking has to offer. The extreme need for truck drivers, especially females, means excellent job security, and the ability to travel the country is almost unmatched in any other occupation. Truck driving also gives women higher earning potential: the Department of Labor states that women drivers’ average wages are 20 to 30 percent higher than women employed in traditionally female occupations.

Even though it seems that trucking has always been a “man’s job”, women have been a part of the trucking industry from the very beginning. In 1929, Lillie McGee Drennan became the first licensed female truck driver and, after a successful career behind the wheel, opened and operated Drennan Truck Lines in eastern Texas. Besides Lillie, thousands of women have worked on the sidelines of the trucking industry since day one as dispatchers, safety managers, and even mechanics.

Since Lillie’s days behind the wheel, however, the trucking industry has become much more female-friendly. Almost all major trucking companies offer trucks with automatic transmissions, and adjustable seats in tractor cabs help shorter women see better. Trucking manufacturers have also designed clutches and gear shifts that are easier to hold and operate for women’s smaller hands and feet. But these new features do more than just level the playing field. In fact, many trucking companies prefer to hire women over men because they are statistically safer drivers. So even though many people still think of trucking as a “man’s job”, their minds may soon be forced to change.

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