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Workforce: Big Rigs Geared to Women

By / Aug 12, 2020 (kali9/E+/Getty Images Plus)

To attract more women to the trucking industry, Women in Trucking has pushed manufacturers to build safer, more comfortable cabs for women drivers.

Workforce • Women in Trucking Association

The trucking industry has faced a shortage of drivers in recent years, and its equitable wages have appealed to more women. But women entering the industry have found themselves driving semi trucks designed for the 95th-percentile man—a bad fit in terms of both comfort and safety. Because most women have shorter limbs and wider hips, some have resorted to putting wood blocks on the truck’s pedals and sitting on pillows while driving.

The Women in Trucking Association’s research has prompted truck cab manufacturers to make their cabs safer and more ergonomic for women drivers.

“We’re not trying to build a truck for women—we’re just trying to make it more adaptable, especially since there’s so many husband-wife teams,” says WIT President and CEO Ellen Voie, CAE. “Now the truck cab manufacturers are really paying attention” and incorporating changes that make driving safer and more appealing to women.

For example, WIT has asked manufacturers to install an alarm system in the sleeper berth that goes off if someone tries to break in. Peterbilt has created an alarm that triggers if the driver hits an emergency button. Some manufacturers have also used hydraulics to make opening the truck hood easier.

In 2009, about 3 percent of drivers were women. Now women make up just under 11 percent—and that number is growing, Voie says. “Without tapping into half the population, the trucking industry was missing good, qualified drivers.” The design changes that WIT has been pushing for have made trucking a better option for women.

Allison Torres Burtka

Allison Torres Burtka, a longtime association journalist, is a freelance writer and editor in West Bloomfield, Michigan. More »

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