Uber Freight
Michel and Desiderato at the Sisters of the Road tour kickoff.

Women truck drivers carry their voices on the road

March 12, 2024
The Sisters of the Road tour will take place throughout Women’s History Month to highlight women truck drivers and ensure their voices are heard.

London-based photographer Anne Marie Michel has dreamed for years of showing off the hard work of women truck drivers here in the U.S. This month, that dream is finally becoming a reality. 

March is Women’s History Month, a time to recognize women and their many contributions to society and history. In the trucking industry, women account for 12% of total employees and 7% of truck drivers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite being outnumbered in the industry, some women drivers are using this month to showcase their contributions to transportation through an ongoing tour focusing on women in the industry and the issues important to them.

Uber Freight is sponsoring the Sisters of the Road tour this month. The tour is named after Michel's photography collection, Sisters of the Road. Michel created the collection in 2019, featuring 40 female truck drivers across the U.S. The collection initially debuted in London and has been showcased in other European locations such as Berlin and Sydney, but this is the first time the collection is being showcased in the U.S. 

As Michel explains, it has been her dream to bring the collection to the U.S. for years after promising the drivers featured that she would eventually showcase the collection in the U.S., where the drivers live. Now, Michel gets to tour with these women to show off the collection and highlight their essential work. 

“What actually started off as just a passion project for me—this was supposed to be a project that I was just having fun taking, just an adventure for me—it's turned into what's been published as a book,” Michel said. “It's been exhibited across the world in Europe, Australia, and the UK. But what's actually come out of it is this community of women and a social movement to get their voices heard.”

The collection will be showcased in a trailer-turned-gallery. Owner-operator Deb Desiderato, who is featured in the collection, is driving it around the U.S.

Timeline of the tour

The tour kicked off on March 1 in Richmond, California, with a gallery walkthrough near the SS Red Oak Victory. According to Uber Freight, the WWII ship was built primarily by women in 1944.  It is part of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historic Park.

Their next stop was FotoFest, an international photography festival that began March 8 in Houston. According to Michel, FotoFest is a great place to start conversations about women in trucking and make a statement about using photography as a social platform. The stop at FotoFest featured a “Touch a Truck” session to teach gallery viewers about safety on the road.

Next, the tour stops in Little Rock, Arkansas, to rededicate a truck stop to driver Idella Hansen. According to Uber Freight’s website, Hansen has had a long and successful career as a driver, including a TA/Petro truck stop in Little Rock, Arkansas, dedicated to her. Hansen is one of the 40 female drivers featured in Michel’s Sisters of the Road collection. 

The tour will conclude in Louisville, Kentucky, at the Mid-America Trucking Show from March 21-23.

See also: FMCSA plans new study on sexual assault and harassment. But is that enough?

Women drivers’ voices heard

While the tour and collection feature Michel’s work, she really wants the women drivers to be the focus. 

“All of the women are going to be there, and they can all enjoy it [the collection],” Michel said. “Their own world and industry can see it, and we're going to make sure whatever messages, whatever they want to say, we'll have lots of eyes and ears on it. So whatever their message might be, that's what we will be platforming. That's the nice thing about photography and artwork; you get lots of eyes. It's something to be seen by masses. And so what's really great for me is to have that platform and then hand it over to them.”

According to Desiderato, the driver for the gallery, two of the major issues the women on the tour want to raise awareness for are the sexual assault and harassment women drivers face in the industry and the lack of truck parking in the U.S. 

Desiderato claimed that many of the cases of sexual assault and harassment in the trucking industry are carried out by truck-driving trainers against their trainees. 

“It's really no surprise when you have a male trainer and a female trainee together in a small space for a month at a time, especially when the trainer has the power to determine whether the trainee passes or not,” Desiderato said.

She also claims that while all truck drivers suffer from the country’s lack of truck parking, this problem is more of a safety issue for women drivers. 

See also: Feds to fund $300M in truck parking improvements

“I’ve had situations where I've had to park on the shoulder on the ramps,” Desiderato said. “I don't like doing it, but I don't like driving tired either ... It's really dangerous, and not enough is being done by the states to create more truck parking. The truck stops, especially Love’s, are opening up all over the place, but it's still not enough.”

About the Author

Jenna Hume | Digital Editor

Digital Editor Jenna Hume previously worked as a writer in the gaming industry. She has a bachelor of fine arts degree in creative writing from Truman State University and a master of fine arts degree in writing from Lindenwood University. She is currently based in Missouri. 

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