The first female trucker might have hit the road earlier than you think. In 1929, Lillie McGee Drennan was the first woman to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Following a short career as a telephone operator, Drennan purchased a Model-T Ford to take advantage of the oil boom occurring in her hometown of Hempstead, Texas. Although the Railroad Commission did not want to give Drennan a license, she used her spotless driving record to win her case. After divorcing her husband/business partner in 1934, she became the sole owner of the Drennan Truck Line, earning her another trucking industry female-first. But despite the gumption of female drivers like Lillie McGee, trucking remains a male-dominated profession to this day.
But it looks like things are finally beginning to change. And why not? Most of the benefits to life on the open road – flexibility, freedom, solid pay and an alternative to the 9-5 routine – are appealing regardless of gender. But even with a consistent increase in female participation, the numbers still paint an incredibly disparate picture. According to the American Trucking Association, women made up less than 5% of all commercial truck drivers in 2000.
Why? Although some fall back on the stereotype that men are better drivers than women, it’s simply not true. In fact, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety consistently finds women to be safer drivers than men. Another statistic states that female drivers are five times less likely to violate safety regulations and three times less likely to be in an accident. Other naysayers are quick to bring up family responsibilities, but it’s important to remember that not all trucking jobs are OTR. One of the biggest benefits of working for a diverse carrier is the ability to choose the job (and corresponding home time schedule) that best suits your lifestyle. Many local drivers make it home every night, comparable with a “typical” job.
In late November, Mitsubishi unveiled a bubblegum pink, polka-dotted hybrid truck in an effort to make the commercial trucking industry more attractive to females in Japan. While certainly interesting, we don’t think a pink truck is the answer to getting more women behind the wheel. Rather, we think that diverse employment options, guaranteed home time, and the support of a company that truly values all of its drivers do a much better job of breaking down the gender barrier.