“You’ll never, ever lay your hands on that truck.” – Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie (1979)
Whenever someone mentions female truck drivers, the quote from Flatbed Annie & Sweetiepie movie immediately comes to mind. And I am sure that if you too have seen that movie, you will remember it very well.
By the time the movie came out, the idea of women working as truck drivers was still not popular. Even today, many people still think that being a truck driver is a man’s job, and ladies should stay home taking care of the kids, far away from the road.
The women behind the big rigs
In an article by Troy Wallace about Women’s Role in the Trucking History, Katy Lynn, a truck operator, said: “ Every man I’ve come across has had a slightly different attitude toward my driving. Overall, I think most men could care less one way or another as long as I don’t get in their way. But, then again, there are the few men that will immediately confront me about driving and tell me the usual, ‘You should be at home in the kitchen with kids. This is a man’s world and a man’s job.’ But these men have really been few and far between so far.”
Compared to at least 50 years ago, things have changed a lot. More and more women are joining the trucking industry. And facts show that women not only can be excellent truck drivers, just like their male counterparts, but they can even be better truck drivers than many of the men in the trucking industry.
A study by Women in Trucking Association, which measured both male and female truck drivers’ behavioral styles, found out that both genders had a lot of patience and conformity – necessary traits in this profession. Females can be great truckers too. They, just like men, scored highest in patience and conformity. These two qualities are very important for every truck driver.
Interestingly enough, recent studies have found out that female truck drivers follow the rules more rigorously than men and are as much as three times less likely to get involved in a car crash. In fact, women are five times less likely to violate safety regulations. They are more intuitive and concentrated on the road in general.
The first female trucker
Lillie Elizabeth Drennan (1897-1974) was the first licensed female truck driver in the United States. She received her commercial drivers’ license (CDL) classification in 1929 and was also the first woman to own a trucking firm. After divorcing her husband, she remained the sole owner of the Drennan Truck Line in Texas.
According to Team Run Smart, “when Lillie drove her first open cab Model T Ford, the job was physically demanding. In addition to general freight, she hauled oilfield equipment and explosives, sometimes for 48 hours at a stretch. Today’s cabs are more comfortable and ergonomic, and the driver doesn’t always handle the freight. No one drives for 48 hours at a time these days, and carriers are looking at the driver more as a partner than a means for capacity.”
Today in the US, there are over 200,000 female truck drivers of the total number of 8 million CDL licensed drivers. The number of female truck drivers entering the industry had increased by 50% since 2005 when there were only 133,000 female truckers. While in 2000, only 4.7% were part of the trucking industry.
Why women choose to be truck drivers
In many cases, women become truck drivers after they go through a divorce, or if their husband works in the trucking industry.
Below are some other reasons why women choose to be truck drivers:
Yet another movie quote that comes to my mind is from Keith (2008): “What’s the rush? We’re here in a yellow truck, a road ahead of us and nothing but opportunities.” Many women, just like Keith, love being on the open road, and the trucking industry provides just that. Every day is different and comes with new experiences and opportunities.
Trucking industry schedules can be pretty flexible, and if a woman is not married or has kids, the schedules can be even more flexible for them.
Competitive salaries and plenty of job opportunities
In the United States, especially in California, there is a hunger for truck drivers. Because of this, many companies are starting to provide better job opportunities and plenty of benefits for female truckers and veterans as well. It is not like it used to be several decades ago when trucking companies preferred to hire only men.
Trucking companies are in need for truckers. And women have the qualities and experience needed to fill those empty spots. Depending on their experience, truck drivers can earn between $25,000 and $70,000 and even more in some cases. Women nowadays can earn up to 20-30 % more as truck drivers compared to other careers, which makes the position as a truck driver even more attractive to them. More and more women are also getting hired in other positions in the trucking industry, such as management, recruiting, and dispatching.
I cannot imagine any other profession that offers the same amount of freedom as trucking does. What more can you ask if you love driving, enjoying the countryside views, and having plenty of time to think and reflect about your life while on the road. Most women and man, who choose this profession are in love with their job, and for them, being a truck driver is not a job; it is a lifestyle. For them driving their truck and being for long hours on the road is their definition of freedom.
If you think of any other reason why women choose this profession, please share with us in the comments. Also, if you are a truck driver, please share your views and story! Additionally, you can check out our guide on the best truck stops in the US. And If you like movies about truck drivers, check out our list here. Thanks!