The truckstop and travel plaza industry plays a significant role in helping the trucking industry attract more women to the profession as it seeks to overcome a significant driver shortage, NATSO President and CEO Lisa Mullings told viewers of a live web panel June 17.
Speaking as part of a web panel discussion on recruiting and retaining women in the trucking industry hosted by Transport Topics, Mullings said, “I think it is more important than ever before that truckstops are partners with the trucking industry to recruit and retain drivers.”
Emphasis on a truck driver’s experience at a travel plaza comes at a time when the trucking industry is facing a critical shortage of drivers. The trucking industry needs to hire 40,000 new drivers, Ellen Voie, CEO of Women in Trucking said during the panel. Just under 6 percent of today’s drivers are women.
“If we could just bring that up to 10 percent we could solve an immediate need,” Voie said. “We are perfectly capable of doing it, we just need to understand how to bring women in. We have this image that we are a male-dominated industry. We need to make sure we reach out to women and say, ‘You are wanted and you can do it.’”
Mullings said she has seen a growing number of women on the road, particularly as team drivers.
Some of the steps truckstops and travel plazas are taking to serve female drivers include offering healthier food options, adding clothing to travel stores and focusing on cleanliness, Mullings said.
Female drivers Linda Caffee, an owner-operator and team driver for Caffee Express, and Stephanie Klang of Con-way Truckload, outlined the various ways truckstops and travel plazas are catering to them.
Klang said she remembers a day when the showers were only inside of men’s restrooms. Today showers are not only private, but are clean and luxurious as well, she said. “They even put flowers in there sometimes. You can’t tell me women didn’t influence that—a little basket of potpourri or a little vase of silk flowers. You know that is for us,” she said. “It lifts the burden of the day off of your shoulders.”
Mullings noted that safety is a top priority for women, and Mullings said truckstop and travel plaza operators work to have well-lit lots that are closely monitored by employees.
Women also tend to place a greater emphasis on healthy food options, and panelists said they have seen a shift in nutritious options available at travel plazas. “You can pick up an apple or a banana as easy as a candy bar,” Mullings said.
While many of the changes may be geared towards women, Mullings said they improve the stopping experience for all drivers. “One member told me he doesn’t worry as much about surveying men as he does women because if he can please women, he can please men,” she said.
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