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    Tuesday, February 28, 2006

    Truck Driver Shortage

    I read with interest this article in today's NYT about the shortage of truck drivers and what recruiters are doing to rectify the problem:

    To meet the growing need, some carriers are turning to new sources of labor like women, retirees and especially Hispanics.

    "The industry realizes that Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the country, and they're eager to tap into them," said Ms. Cromer, who works for Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a community group in Philadelphia that joined forces in 2004 with the Truckload Carriers Association to begin recruiting more Hispanics into long-haul trucking.

    Companies have begun advertising on Spanish radio and in Spanish newspapers, and trucking schools have added intensive English courses to help prepare their non-English-speaking population to pass the federal exam required for a commercial license. Federal transportation laws require that long-haul truckers be able to speak, read and write English and undergo background checks and drug tests.

    The number of truck drivers who are not white males increased to 30 percent in 2004, up from 26.6 percent in 2001, according to the Department of Labor. Hispanics now account for 15 percent of all truck drivers, up from 12 percent during the same period, federal records show.

    "We decided two years ago to switch trucking companies because we had the leverage," said Claire Rocha, who, with her husband, Daniel, drives for the Celadon Group, a trucking company based in Indianapolis. Ms. Rocha, 51, said that they earned about $100,000 between the them, a 10 percent increase over what they were earning. "There couldn't be a better time to be a team driver," she said.

    Chris Burruss, president of the Truckload Carriers Association, said that many truck driving schools were getting calls from trucking companies looking for husband-wife teams or female drivers.

    "Women spouses are especially attractive once they have finished raising their kids because they start wanting to spend time with their husbands on the road," Mr. Burruss said. "Women are also seen by a lot of carriers as more dependable and less prone to jump from company to company."

    There was a time in my life where I was trying to get women placed in truck driving jobs and I found two major issues in their way.

    1. Trucks were made, just as most cars are, with the average male build in mind. This meant that women of even average height for their sex had difficulty reaching pedals and such.

    2. The expectation that, if you have a family, you are not the primary caretaker of children or elderly. Now, truck driving is, plain and simple, a job that means you're going to be away from home a lot. It isn't practical to perform this job with a bunch of kids (or even one) as those children likely need to be in school, etc. I don't think there's any way to make this a job that's friendly to full-time parents, which doesn't particularly bother me.

    What does bother me is the myth that women can now do everything men can do professionally, without major changes taking place in the structuring of family life. Jobs like truck driving expose this as a myth. As long as most single parents are single mothers and most two parent homes are maintained by a woman (working or not) partnered to a working man, there will be a major gender divide in industries like trucking.

    One thing that seemed strange about this article, though, was that it didn't appear that recruiters are interested in young, single women without kids. Is this, perhaps, a safety issue? A young woman alone on the open road?

    Full disclosure: I went through a phase of wanting to be a truck driver when I was a teenaged Little Feat fan, reading about Lowell George. I may very well be found, as a retiree, zooming along the prairie with the satellite radio blasting.


    Anonymous Bitch | Lab said...

    I dunno as to why it'd matter if they were young and childless. There were a lot of women truckdrivers when I used to sling hash at a truckstop -- and that was a couple of decades ago. They were in their 40s and, really, probably no more at risk than young women. I suspect that their ability to be tough talking and tell certain SOBs to FOAD would be more a part of their demeanor than a 22 year old. Hard to say.

    12:24 AM  
    Blogger EL said...

    I agree- I think it's a bias.

    10:12 AM  

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