Let’s face it, the trucking industry, like many other industries, is experiencing an employment challenge. From truck drivers to technicians, to truck salespeople to parts employees, and more, we are having a very difficult time getting people to come to work for our businesses. This is happening at a time when diversity and inclusion are coming to the forefront as key elements of business success.
While U.S. Department of Labor statistics say there has been an 88% increase in the number of female drivers since 2010, women still only account for 8% of all drivers and the number is even lower for technicians—just 3.8%. And you don’t have to be at too many industry events before you notice that we have not done a great job attracting minorities to our businesses.
Women In Trucking (WIT) recently came out with results of a survey in which 53% of the respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed that trucking is safe for women, with another 29% saying they neither agreed nor disagreed with that statement. The final 18% of the respondents said they disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement. In my opinion, even one woman thinking trucking is not a safe place to be is one too many. On the other hand, I don't think trucking is necessarily any less safe than other types of businesses.
Given all that, now is a good time for each business to look at its recruiting efforts and onboarding processes as well as what it is doing to make people feel included, welcome, and safe. You also need to look at how you handle complaints of harassment. It is not enough to have a written policy against harassment, you have to be willing to enforce it when someone engages in unacceptable behavior regardless of how high up the organization they are.
So how do we go about being more welcoming? WIT is suggesting that companies “adopt a same-gender training policy that enables female professional drivers to have the option for a same-gender trainer when involved in on-the-road training activities.”
But there are other things you can do as well. Review your recruiting materials and look at both the words and the images. Do you see a diversity of people represented? This should include both genders, a mix of ethnicities, etc. Are you using inclusive language like salesperson instead of salesman? While this may seem like a small thing to you, the reality is that these things matter. People want to be able to see themselves in your business so make sure your recruiting and onboarding materials reflect the diversity you seek. Also make sure you have a strict harassment policy with strong consequences that are enforced when needed.
If you think diversity and inclusion don't matter, think again. Studies have shown that a diverse workforce is more creative because people from different backgrounds bring fresh outlooks to the workplace. These fresh views also improve decision-making.
Looking for a more practical reason? The current employee shortage is not expected to go away anytime soon. If you want to fill those empty spots, you need to widen the pool of candidates, which means looking outside your tried-and-true channels and making sure you are encouraging a variety of people to join your team. Then all you have to do is make them feel welcome, and I know from experience that trucking is good at doing that. After all, this business is all about relationships.
Jane Clark focuses on managing the member services operation at NationaLease as vice president of member services. She works to strengthen member relationships, reduce member costs, and improve collaboration within the NationaLease supporting groups.