The popular stereotype of a trucker is a slightly overweight male with a grizzled beard and a greasy trucker hat. And as most people know about stereotypes, they almost always fail to tell the whole story. As of 2004, there were over 9 million Americans who drove tractor trailers both long and short haul for a living and approximately 200,000 were women (about 5 percent of the entire industry)! Although they are still a minority in the trucking industry, more and more women are entering this field and their performance, both on the road and off, is helping them to garner a lot of respect in the industry.
Many woman truckers, especially in the early days, were farm girls who learned how to maneuver large vehicles from their fathers. Although many of these women were more than qualified to enter the workforce as adults, the more traditional values of pre-1960s America made it difficult for women to enter the trucking industry. Also, decades ago it was very difficult for women to enter trucker unions and the facilities (like showers) on the road didn't cater to women. Over the years since the women's liberation movement, the trucking industry has become a lot friendlier towards women and year by year more women enter the field or and have been promoted within what was once a "Good Ol' Boy's" industry.
Many women have been introduced into the world of trucking via the military. Many of the women who learned to drive large vehicles either in the military both in peace and war time are beginning to enter the trucking industry as post-military careers. Others enter the industry first as part of a trucking team after sharing the road with their husbands. Another important factor has been that many women turned to the trucking industry after the slow decline of the manufacturing sector of the U.S economy. To start their new careers many go to CDL school in Phoenix, or Las Vegas.
Although the trucking industry has been opening up its cab doors to women, there are still some safety precautions that women have to make their concern when working on the road. But most of these issues are ones in which any woman driving alone should adhere. Lady truck drivers should be sure to never advertise they are driving alone over their CB radio, they should be wary of ever being alone in a truck lot and avoid being alone at rest stops. And as with anyone, they should be wary of who they come into contact with while driving across the highways and byways of the U.S.
Much like many other professions in which women have been traditionally underrepresented, women still have a lot of miles down the road to equality in the trucking industry. But as time moves on, women have grown to be bigger players in the trucking industry and have become respected on the road for being reliable, cautious and safe drivers. Next time you're driving down a highway and see a big 18-wheeler flying down a long stretch of highway, don't be shocked if sitting high and proud in the cab you see a woman truck driver smiling back.
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