One of the more eye-opening results of the recent detention study from the American Transportation Research Institute was that women drivers were subject to far more waiting time than men. The report concluded that women were 83.3% more likely than men to be delayed six or more hours. In fact, women were detained more than men in every time period after the first two hours of detention.
Why? The report suggests that women in the survey drove more reefers than men – which are detained more often than other vehicle types – and that male drivers may be more impatient and more likely to demand action than female drivers.
Fleet Owner talked with women drivers – some participated in the study and some did not – to get their insight into detention. Many of them did not agree with the report's results.
A veteran driver's point of view
One of the more vocal drivers is Ingrid Brown, who has traveled 4 million miles over almost 40 years and hauls refrigerated cargo. She said she “found the study insulting to women.”
When asked whether women drivers are given longer detention times than men, she answered, "Absolutely not."
Brown added: "When you check-in, that shipper or receiver doesn't see you drive up 99.9% of the time. That shipper or receiver has no clue if you were the one that drove up or if you got out of the passenger side as a rider, as a co-driver, as a wife - they don't know. So how can they discriminate?"
Brown notes that shippers don't really care who drove in as long as they follow the rules and procedures.
"The steering wheel doesn't know what gender holds it. It doesn't care what gender holds it. All that matters is it gets to the shipper, it gets loaded and it gets to the receiver safely,” she said. "Why would a shipper care? They don't have time to worry about whether it's a woman or a man. All they're worried about is taking care of business. It's just like men out here don't have time to worry about whether it's a man or a woman backing in beside of him. They just don't want you to hit their truck."
As for the suggestion that men are more likely to be taken before women because they complain more, she said: "I think it's completely wrong. I understand and I will agree that men are more vocal. OK? They're more in your face. Women are more passive to the point that when they walk up and ask, ‘Hey, I've been sitting here and I'm not loaded, what is my load time? Where are we at on my load? How much longer?’
"It's in a professional way. I don't mean that towards men at all as degrading or putting them down," Brown continued. "But also, I have watched so many times, that a shipper is going to listen and work with the people who are polite, kind and are trying to work with them and load them before the irate person that's standing there screaming and yelling."
She did suggest, however, that because women, in general, are newer to the profession that they may not know the ropes. The shipper is "not going to come and babysit you. You get out, you go find out after, say two, and then you realize that it's your fault.”
Brown recalled a recent incident in Michigan where drivers were waiting additional time because they failed to get out of their trucks and check-in.
A new driver speaks out
Bernadette Hood has been driving for just under five years and has found no discrimination based on gender. She does a lot of construction sites, which are usually by appointment and "you get in and you get out."
But she also hauls elsewhere. "When I do haul to warehouses, it always feels like first-come, first-serve basis. And I'm always there first thing and I'm in and out. The longest I've had to wait is two hours."
Her shorter waiting times might be because she asks questions. "I will get up to the foreman and say, 'What do you want from me? Where do you want me?' I'm really direct."
She agreed with Brown that women drivers may not know what to do at a warehouse. "You don't know the procedure; you don't know you're supposed to get out and go talk to somebody or you don't know what's expected of you. They don't cover that in basic training."
As for the report's findings, she noted "it paints an awful picture for women when the reality isn't quite as severe. We want women in trucking and we get painted a lot with bad brushes. A lot of women talk about sex or harassment, they talk about wait times, they talk about being bad places.
“But the reality is there's very few that have to experience that. Some might have to get stuck going into New York or Philadelphia or really big cities. But that's few and far between. So, the reality is that trucking for women, in general, is a great occupation. It's one of the best that I've seen so far that actually pays what you're worth. And I think young women should get involved."
A husband and wife team
Cindy Kaps did take part in the survey but suggested her situation may be different than other female drivers. She and her husband have been team driving for over 30 years and mainly haul equipment for trade shows.
"Ninety percent of the time, I am the one who checks in. I do the calling and everything. Personally, I have not found [any discrimination leading to longer detentions]. When I check-in or my husband checks in, they have no idea what gender is driving that truck."
Easier to tell a woman bad news
Darla Smith has been driving since 1996 and said that shippers and receivers find that it's easier to tell a woman driver about their long wait than to give that bad news to a male driver.
"And it's much easier to come and tell a woman, 'Hey, I'm sorry. We're going to let you know; it's going to take a while longer.' Or if you go in and ask about it, they're like, 'Oh, we're getting to you as fast as we can.' Women are more patient than the men… they're going to get a better reaction out of us than the men."
Smith, who hauls and trains for Nussbaum Transportation, said that women may drive reefers, even with its longer detention times, because the pay is better.
She also notes that with lower freight rates more drivers, especially women, are moving to refrigerated.
"One thing with the reefer, is that people are never going to stop eating. You can go into the northeast, southeast, northwest, the southwest. No matter where you go in this country, you can get a reefer loaded."
During training, she tells women: "If you come out here and act like a lady, you'll be treated like one. You act like a professional. I have noticed with shippers and the receivers, they'll get nastier with a woman really quick before they will a man because they know we won't bark back 90% of the time.”
She added: "Detention is aggravating and it's just the nature of the beast. I've tried to tell trainees to be patient. It's not nearly as bad as it used to be, as far as the discrimination against women out here."
Smith said that other, more serious types of harassments still exist, though, especially at truck stops.
Coming Friday: Can ELDs help address detention time?