When you think of truck drivers, you automatically think of the stereotypical male, aggressive driver, in a male dominated industry. However, women make up a small, but growing percentage of truck drivers.
According to truckingtruth.com, women truck drivers make up around 5.8 % of the 3.5 million drivers in the U.S, which is up from 4.8 % in 2010. More and more women are entering the trucking industry due to the uncertain economic climate and aging workforce. The biggest challenge in the recruiting process is convincing women that they are welcome (CNCB Transportation) especially now, when according to the American Trucking Association, there is a shortage of drivers.
Meet one woman who made it, twenty-seven-year-old Charlotta (Lotta) Kopsch from Sweden. To find out what it´s like to be female truck driver in the real world, I interviewed Lotta just before the summer holiday in June, one week before the planned date of the birth of her first child.
The Woman Behind the Steering Wheel
Lotta has been working as a truck driver since 2013. Today, she is working for Derome Byggvaror (Derome Building Products), in Trollhättan, Sweden. Integral to Derome Byggvarors’ business concept is efficient warehouse and delivery management. They have 37 locations in Sweden from which Lotta delivers material and goods. She mostly drives a crane lorry, but every now and then, she drives a 24 meter long big truck. Lotta delivers to 8 to 10 customers a day. She is a single truck driver and does everything herself. She explains that “with the truck, I lift, for example, bricks onto the roof and material to the balcony.” Although during a transshipment at various locations, she usually gets help. Transshipment is shipping to an intermediate destination then on to another destination usually changing the mode of transport, for example, load from a truck to a ship.
Why a Truck Driver?
A career as a truck driver was not an obvious choice for Lotta. Her background is in gardening and she worked several years as a green keeper at a golf course. Her position as a green keeper was only seasonal so she began searching for year-round employment. It was at this time that she was contacted by Swedish labor office and was offered the opportunity to take the exam for a truck driver´s license. She considered this to be her new career, a decision she has not regretted.
Being a Woman in Trucking Can Be Tough
“You must have a mind of your own to be able to work as a truck driver”
Most truck drivers are men at Derome Byggvaror. In Trollhättan, there are about 10-15 drivers and only 2 are women. Lotta has not met the other female driver since she has been on a sick-leave.
“You must have a mind of your own to be able to work as a truck driver”, Lotta says. Early in her driving career with a former employer, she met with some skepticism amongst the older colleagues. “They thought it was unnecessary to have female drivers”, she continues.
Once, she was even scolded by another driver, “you should not come here and take my job.” Nowadays, the work environment is much better. Lotta´s current boss is young, modern thinking and their customers have always been very positive towards her as a driver. Lotta doesn´t want any special treatment because she is a woman. “I want the same conditions as my male colleagues, no gender difference,” she says.
“… it´s like a day at the Gym”
Lotta admits that it is a tough job being a truck driver. Drivers must have strength and persistence. A day of driving a truck is like a day at the gym lifting heavy pallets, climbing, and sometimes you find yourself in precarious positions even upside down. She reminds herself not to exceed her limits and to take it easy. With the advent of so much technology, her work is not just about raw power all the time. “Today,” Lotta says, “you don´t unload by hand, we only use the crane” so the work is not as heavy as before, it has evolved.” However, Lotta thinks there is one thing they should change saying “they should think about lowering the cabs a bit so they are not so high.”
Do You Have Your Own Truck and Equipment?
Lotta explained that everyone has their own crane truck which the employees are expected to keep tidy and clean. Although the equipment is supposed to be the same for everyone, some trucks have additional equipment. For example, one of Lotta’s colleagues has Onspot automatic tire chains on his truck and she often borrows his truck in snowy or icy conditions. Lotta discovered that Onspots are very good to have on their trucks in slippery conditions.
While driving a truck equipped with Onspots, she once avoided sliding down into a ditch. Instead of all the fuss with conventional snow chains and the mess that accompanies them, you just flip the switch from inside the cab and deploy the chains when you need them for traction. The Onspots are a very good example of equipment that makes the work less physically demanding. Derome Byggvaror currently have Onspots on several of their trucks.
Lotta´s Advice to Women Who Want to Become a Truck Driver
“… make the customer happy!”
· Be social and outgoing
· It´s a tough industry to be in so be prepared for that from the beginning.
· Have the strength of will and don´t give up. Continue to practice the job even though there will be adversities. Fight on!
· As a truck driver, your job is not 7am- 4pm. The work hours can vary a lot and often much of it is overtime.
· The biggest challenge for drivers is making the customer happy! There are many steps prior to delivery and the transport division isn’t always aware of promises made to the customer. But, we do our best to make our customers happy!
· It is never possible to prepare for the day and what will happen on the road. Keep to your route!
· Join the network “Queens of the roads”. They are a great support system.
· Have a goal and enjoy your work!
For more tips, take a look at: Becoming a Truck Driver:
The Trucking Mum
While Lotta was interviewed for this piece, she was expecting a baby. She doesn´t see any problems combining her profession as a truck driver with her role as a mother. Most all of her male colleagues have children, and all have been positive and accepting of her new role. "The trucking profession can be combined with family life, but success in both depends on your employer and how you execute your daily schedule", Lotta says.
What Will You Be Doing in Five Years From Now?
"I am so pleased with this choice of profession. In five years, I'm still in the industry", she says. "I wonder what this industry will be like in five years? I want to take part in the enhancements of the technology. It will be exciting to see where this will go.”