It’s no big secret that the world of heavy good vehicles has always been dominated by men. To this day, the sight of a female trucker descending from the cabin of a heavy vehicle is enough to turn heads and make people chatter. From top to bottom, the industry has definitely been considered to be a male niche, although things have slowly been changing.
The very fact that you do see female lorry drivers these days is a departure from the recent past, when the idea itself was strange to many. Not only that but women have started to appear in senior positions, in some cases leading companies. With every year the industry becomes more accessible to women and that seems to be something that will only increase over time.
Ask people outside of the industry to describe a typical lorry driver, and you’ll probably hear the words, ‘big’, ‘strong’, ‘large’ and ‘man’. While the vehicles we drive are definitely big, and are constantly getting stronger, you’ve never really needed to be big or strong to drive one.
This is even more true nowadays, with ultra-comfortable cabins, improved suspension, automatic transmission and computerisation. In many respects, driving a lorry can be just as comfortable as sitting on the couch at home, playing a computer game. Women are moving more and more to active driving roles, rather than being stuck in an office, and who can blame them?
From time to time, you may come across the old prejudices about women and driving. Even though most people have come to accept that men and women are equally capable as drivers (just check up on insurance policies somewhere like oneinsurance.co.uk if you’re in any doubt), the ugly head of discrimination still rears its head here and there every once in a while.
Yet any employer worth their salt knows that women have actually been shown to take fewer risks than men when on the road. This is a vital observation in a business like HGV driving, where long periods on the road can lead to tiredness and impaired judgement. By being conservative when it comes to taking risks, women are less likely to get involved in an accident or costing the company more money. This doesn’t just apply to tiredness – women have been shown to be more risk averse when it comes to road, weather and traffic conditions, too.
All in all, women now make up somewhere between 5-10% of the total workforce – a figure which may sound small, but which actually represents thousands of people. Every year, this number continues to increase, and we will surely see the day when the distribution of men and women across the industry is equal. Women are filling driving roles and also taking over management and senior roles.
Andra Rush is the head honcho of America’s Rush Trucking Corporation. She started up the company aged just 23, and has grown it to the point where today it is valued at over $400 million dollars. With women like Rush leading the way, there are bound to be more and more women following in her footsteps.
Women are even taking the lead when it comes to HGVs is academia. Yes – academics care about truckers! And one of those who cares the most is Lisa Dorn, President of the Traffic and Psychology division of the IAAP. Dorn has won numerous awards for her insights into the psychology of HGV driving and its implications on road
If you’re a woman who is interested in HGVs and the industry, there is no reason for you to hold back from getting involved. In fact, there are growing communities within the industry which will encourage you to get more involved. You’ll be given support by your fellow workers, and with time you’ll support new women who want to join the industry. Within ten years, 10% could easily become 20%. From there, it’s not too difficult to imagine a more gender-balanced industry. Right now is an exciting time to get involved, as women are still seen as somewhat pioneering, even though the barriers to entry have been demolished. Who knows where you and your career could be ten years from now?