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According to an article published on March 25, 2023 by CNBC, more women are becoming truck drivers as the transportation industry tries to overcome driver shortages.
According to the article, women made up almost 14% of professional drivers in 2022 up from 7.9% in 2018. And they have been filling other rolls in the industry for many years.
With the advent of the modern semi-truck, this transition makes perfect sense. While over-the-road driving is still a grueling, boring and tedious job at times, in years gone by, it did take the strength of a man to muscle a big rig. Thank God, the days of manual steering, open cabs, no AC, and changing tires on the road by yourself are pretty much over.
My dad told me about going over the Grapevine between Los Angeles and Bakersfield back in the late 1930’s. He described the solid rubber tire, chain drive, open “C” cab Mack trucks growling up the old Grapevine Road at 2-3 mph. In those days, it would take a truck up to two days to get from one city to the other. One day up the grade and one day back down the other side. Runaway trucks were commonplace along with lots of bone-jarring misery. They didn’t have sleeper cabs back in those days either. Just check the image above.
Fifty years later, this writer drove a 1968 Mack logging truck for a short time in the 1980’s. It was supposed to have power steering, but it had failed, and the parts were not available. So, the owners just took off the power assist and told us to “get used to it.” I was young, working out with weights a lot and was quite strong for my size. I will admit though, I struggled to turn that beast of a truck around on a landing on some days.
Some years later I was surprised to learn that a gold mining operation here in Montana had made it a preference to hire women haul-truck drivers (haul-trucks are very large off-highway dump trucks that can carry up to 300 tons at a time). While not all women are made for that kind of a job, (same as men), they found quite a few that were not only capable, but better than their male counterparts. When we pressed our tour guide for their reasoning, he said, “The women are usually slower on their cycle times than the men. So, at first, it didn’t look good. But then an engineer started a long-term study of the performance between the two groups. We discovered that over a period of time – say months – that the gals had hauled more rock than the men. The reason is they tend to be more careful and their trucks spend less time broken down.” And as anyone knows, truck availability is king.
To me it appears that one of the last bastions of male dominance is crumbling. No longer does a professional driver have to have biceps the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger to steer a big rig down the highway. And that is a good thing – for all of us.