‘It’s Fun’: More Women Are Getting Into the Truck Driving Business
“I decided to go to truck driving school on a dare really and I ended up here driving,” said Brenda Echols, a female truck driver. “I’ve been driving since 2012. It was frightening at first but I actually found that I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the freedom of being out, not being behind locked doors in a building, being able to go where I wanted. And it’s been fun, it’s been real fun.”
Echols is among the 6.75% of women that make up driver/sales workers and truck drivers, a small but growing segment in an industry often perceived as being male-only. That’s all changing. In fact, the number of women in this field has almost doubled since the year 2000. J.K.C. Trucking, the company Echols drives for, is based in Chicago and specializes in climate controlled and dry freight loads.
Before entering the industry, Echols believed truck driving was a dangerous profession with no female drivers, but that in itself was not a deterrent for her. Her career background of working on a shipyard and in law enforcement had prepared her for a work environment with a highly unbalanced ratio of males-to-females. When she first got started, the compact process of truck driving school, something drivers have to go through, felt rushed to her, but little did she know it would be the job of a lifetime. Unlike your typical 9 to 5, truck driving is 24/7, 365 days a year. Despite weather conditions or traffic, it’s always an adventure.
Mike Kucharski, a VP at J.K.C., said that lately he noticed more women set foot in the trucking business, switching over from other jobs, and that the company has made it an initiative to hire more of them to drive its trucks.
“We do this by ‘number one: education, marketing, and explaining benefits,’” Kucharski said. “We start with explaining that it’s not a man’s job, especially to all the women that lost their job due to the pandemic, they could do this job. The workload is manageable, the manual labor is not what you think, you can do it.”
Kucharski went on to give an example that women are less likely to get into accidents and that they’re more patient and less aggressive drivers than men, which makes them just as valuable to the industry.
“Just to give an example, women are 20% to 27% less likely to get in an accident,” he argued. “This study shows when women start out driving their cars, when they get a driver’s license, they are more cautious and safer compared to let’s say, me when I was 16, which is a long time ago. But it just shows this safety crosses over into truck driving.”
Echols enjoys the work atmosphere as well. “[J.K.C. is] a large enough company that there’s a lot of trucks, but it’s also a small family-like business,” she said. “It’s very personable. You are not a number working at JKC. They know everybody’s name. They know everybody’s personality by voice when you call them.”
There’s also the compensation incentives of being in this field, which according to Kucharski women are paid equal to the men for the work.
“One of the big things I see why more women are coming into this is because it’s equal pay for the women,” Kucharski said. “You have all this talk about jobs that men get paid more than women. That’s not the case in truck driving, you get paid per mile and per experience.”Last modified: March 17, 2023
Anaya Vance is a reporter for deBanked. Connect with me on LinkedIn.