Women behind the wheel

When you picture a lorry driver, what comes to mind? The stereotype of a trucker is a middle-aged man, which isn’t far from fact – the average lorry driver is a 51-year-old male, but in recent years we’re seeing a growing number of women behind the wheel.

From 2013 until 2017, the number of female drivers in the workforce grew from 0.5% to 2% and while still a small number, it’s a step in the right direction. The logistics industry is crying out for more drivers, of whatever sex, to fill the predicted 2020 shortfall of 150,000 drivers, and more companies are beginning to recognise that women are grossly underrepresented and need to be more proactive when it comes to promoting the profession to them.

I love driving…..and I love vehicles. I’m a born petrol head. Always dreamt of being a lorry driver. Gaining my licence was the best thing I’ve ever done.

Industry and government: on the same wavelength

To combat the predicted driver shortfall and encourage more women into the field, campaigns promoting the benefits of a driving career have become more prevalent. Just last year, Midland Expressway Ltd, in partnership with the Road Haulage Association, launched HerGV, a competition offering one female winner HGV training worth up to £3000. The competition was designed to highlight the benefits of a career as a driver, including flexible working hours and an attractive salary.

The government is backing the push to get more women into the industry too – in 2016 the Transport Committee released a report warning “that current thinking is not sufficiently targeted or wide-reaching to deliver drivers fast enough to address the (driver) shortage, deal with future growth or cope with the ageing profile of drivers likely to retire in the next ten years.” In this report they recommended that the industry “look to under-represented groups for new recruits” and work with the government to focus on recruitment and retention, prompting campaigns like HerGV to be launched.

MP for Liverpool Riverside and Chair of the Transport Committee at the time, Louise Ellman, said, “Who are the drivers of the future? Let’s look to female drivers, young drivers and BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) drivers, currently under-represented in the sector. Government and industry should review apprenticeships, reduce training costs and insurance, and demonstrate clear career progression.

As soon as I passed my car test I knew I wanted to become a HGV driver! I had to wait until the kids were old enough to realise my dream of driving trucks. 26 years later, still trucking and still loving it.

Aren’t women bad drivers though?

Haulage companies, believe it or not, are also seeing how women’s behavioural tendencies are giving them a genetic edge over male drivers, dispelling the myth that women are bad drivers. Women are more likely to avoid risks, pay close attention to detail (important when filling in those logbooks) and read situations accurately, taking information from all sides (a skill which comes in handy in the UK’s rapidly changing weather conditions!). Studies have also shown that men and women are in roughly the same amount of road traffic accidents, however, the accidents women are involved in are generally less costly for insurance companies compared to the serious crashes men are involved in.

There are still barriers that put some women off pursuing life behind the wheel. Even in 2018, lorry driving is seen as a man’s career due to the perception it is a job that requires physical strength, but this isn’t true anymore.

Technological advances mean modern-day driving requires less brawn and more brain. But it isn’t only perceptions that need to change, so do the facilities available, not only to female drivers but all drivers. Poor facilities have been cited as one of the main reasons people are leaving the industry, and as expected are tailored to men, not women.

The industry has come a long way since 2013’s 0.5% female driving cohort, but there is still a lot of progress to be made before women are equally represented behind the wheel. Campaigns squashing perceptions and promoting the career along with government involvement to improve driver facilities, training and qualifications will continue to boost driving as a career, not just for women, but for anyone with a love of driving and the open road.

I love the freedom of not knowing where I’m going or where I’m going to park. I also find it very rewarding when going to a new place. I feel the achievement when I get there. I’m proud to be a lorry driver.