Women are a force in the labor market. They have accounted for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth in the 10 years to 2019, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That’s 72 million women moving forward and continuing to put work stereotypes to rest.
Case in point: A major league baseball team just hired the first woman hitting coach.
So why haven’t more women considered truck driving as a career, especially as this industry has been struggling to fill positons for years? In this new year — new decade — a new career is waiting for you.
A 2017 research report conducted by the Women in Trucking Association and the National Transportation Institute calculated that close to 8% of all drivers were female, much less than women’s 47% composition of the entire labor force.
The American Trucking Association (ATA) first estimated the driver shortage at 20,000 in their 2005 report. Today with unemployment at a 50-year low and a relatively high average age of drivers, the current shortfall is approximately 60,800 drivers, up nearly 20% in one year.
The ATA estimates this number could skyrocket to over 160,000 by 2028. Retirements are expected to account for over half of the replacement driver needs, the largest factor, and industry growth for another 25% of new hires. All together the ATA says roughly 1.1 million new drivers will be needed over the next decade.
Growth and future needs can be seen locally. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for the region encompassing Lancaster, Harrisburg, Lebanon, Reading and York markets show that employment has risen over 14% between 2013 and 2018, higher than both the national and state rate for all occupations.
Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry projects that Lancaster County alone will need almost 600 new drivers each year between 2016 and 2026, an 11% increase.
In response to the shortage, companies are more aggressively recruiting drivers who don’t fit the basic stereotype. Along with women, the industry is actively seeking transitioning military personnel and a more diverse population.
Pay increases and better benefits are two ways the industry is appealing to new workers. Median pay is almost $44,300 in Lancaster County, according to the latest BLS figures, well above the Pennsylvania figure of $38,450 for all occupations.
Along with consistent use of sign-on, referral and retention bonuses, more companies are offering 401(k)s, health care and life insurance, raises and paid time off. Businesses recognize that to attract and retain drivers they need to offer job stability, career advancement opportunities and better retirement benefits. These have gone a long way to improving and maintaining driver satisfaction.
As you consider this career, know that companies are not willing to hire just anyone. Applications may be high, but companies are looking for the right drivers. Many have strict hiring criteria and want qualified drivers. And, as with any position, companies are looking for those that fit their culture. This isn’t so hard to understand, as it costs a company about 20% of an annual salary to hire a driver, according to Center of Nonprofit Management (CNM) Southern California.
This is a career that can be started right out of high school or at any point in your working life with short-term schooling (four to six weeks) and licensure. Important to know, however, is that in Pennsylvania trucking schools are not licensed or regulated, so consider schools that offer national accreditation or Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) Certification. In Pennsylvania, there are nine certified training programs.
For more information, visit PTDI.org. PTDI is not a school; rather, they certify courses at schools and their certified programs exceed the government’s entry-level driver training regulations.
Other options are via companies that operate their own CDL schools. These may provide a guaranteed job after graduation and licensure.
Anyone — women, men, military vets — looking for a new career can consider truck driving. The trucking industry needs workers and is taking steps to address both old stereotypes and the needs of today’s drivers.