As many of you know, I help NACFE Executive Director Mike Roeth write his weekly FleetOwner blogs. After Mike and I attended the Women In Trucking Accelerate Conference, I asked him if I could take over his blog this week. Mike will be back at the keyboard next week.
I attended the Women in Trucking Accelerate Conference for the first time. I’ve been attending trucking industry events since joining the industry in 1982. In those 41 years, I have been to many trucking industry conferences and shows. I probably have become a little jaded regarding truck shows, so if I am honest, I did not have high expectations for the WIT event. I expected it to be just another truck show.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. For starters, the energy and enthusiasm of the conference attendees was incredible. There was also a general air of excitement but also support.
I wish I had counted the number of people I talked to at the show. I am certain it far exceeded the number of people I typically speak to at truck shows, and I feel like I had much deeper conversations with the people I did speak with.
I asked many women about their jobs and how they got into trucking. Job titles ran the gamut from drivers and technicians to engineers and data scientists to HR department employees and managers. I think every area of trucking was represented by a woman who attended the show. There was a pretty wide range of age of attendees as well as length of time in the industry.
Not surprisingly, most women had not considered trucking a possible career option. One woman I spoke with said being a truck driver was her dream job—a dream she deferred until she raised her children—and she told me that she has been living her dream for the past seven years. Another woman I spoke with told me trucking found her. She had previously had a job in healthcare that never felt like a good fit, but when she got a job at a logistics company, she knew she had found the place she belonged.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway for me was the talent, creativity, brain power, and confidence of the women at the meeting. When I first got into trucking, there were not a lot of women, and those of us in the industry were challenged fairly regularly to prove that we belonged. The women attending WIT’s Accelerate Conference know they belong in the trucking industry and, more importantly, are completely comfortable expressing their opinions and sharing what they know.
The one negative aspect of the conference was the lack of men in attendance. To be clear, the women at the conference did not need men to be there. But men in the trucking industry need to attend WIT so they can learn from these bright women—some of whom are trailblazers and others who have come to the industry more recently.
I have to tell you that there were a few times when my eyes welled up with tears. I think they sprang from being part of this community of women in trucking and some pride in playing a role—albeit small—in making the table bigger so trucking can benefit from all that women bring to our industry.
Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.