BY REENA DIAMANTE AUSTIN
PUBLISHED 9:58 PM CT NOV. 18, 2019
SAN MARCOS, Texas — Industry insiders predict the truck driver shortage in the United States will more than double in the next decade.
More women are taking trucking classes
Only make up 7% of drivers nationwide
Currently there's a truck driver shortage
Experts from American Trucking Associations say if the trend continues, there could be 160,000 unfilled positions. Meanwhile, trucking companies are not just idling around, they are actively reaching out to an untapped source of recruits. In turns out, more women are in the profession for the long haul.
Women are still largely underrepresented in the U.S. trucking industry, making up a modest 7 percent. However, that number increased by 68 percent between 2010 and 2018, according to ATA. Doug Taylor, the program director for Austin Community College’s truck driver training program said in recent years, more women are taking ACC’s courses.
“Used to be, you would get this stereotype in your mind of what a male or female truck driver looked like, and nowadays, we can blow those stereotypes out of the water,” Taylor said.
Nationwide, there is a shortage of 60,000 truck drivers, according to ATA.
“I started driving 30 years ago, and when I started, like the first company I went to, we could count the number of female drivers we had on one hand and still have fingers left over. Now then, most trucking companies are actively out there engaged, trying to get female drivers, they're trying to get people who are more disenfranchised, because of the fact we have such a driver shortage,” Taylor said.
Nicole Elder, a 35-year-old Army veteran, is currently doing 200 hours of training through ACC. Elder said she enjoyed driving military tactical vehicles.
Truck driving is very empowering, because it lets me feel good about what I do for a living.“Truck driving is very empowering, because it lets me feel good about what I do for a living. I’ve struggled with dead-end jobs for years. I felt stagnated, not going anywhere,” Elder said
The salary and benefits does drive many to the big rig gig, especially without the requirement and debt load of a four-year college degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average wage for a commercial driver is nearly $46,000. ATA experts said it is also not uncommon for drivers working for private carriers to earn $80,000 in salary. Most of the women in ACC’s current cohort said they are also looking for a change of scenery.
Thirty-year-old Michelle Humphrey recently worked as a driver for a public transit provider, but before that, she worked in office jobs.
“I was born and raised in Fordyce, Arkansas. Small town, it takes about five minutes to drive around the whole place. Being able to see different cities and see how people live, the different cultures and stuff like that, it's exciting to me,” Humphrey said.
“It's relaxing, there's time to think to yourself. You can explore, see things. I’m new to Austin. I'm new to Texas all together, so it gave it gave me an opportunity to explore,” Angela Yates, 27, said.
Yates, a single mother, said she got her first delivery driving job when she was 18 years old.
But the job of a truck driver does not come without risks. According to a 2017 survey from the national support group, Women in Trucking, female drivers reported an average of 4.4 on a scale from one to 10 regarding how safe they felt. While the ACC students know trucking can be dangerous down the road, the risks are not enough for them to pump the breaks.
Thirty-six-year-old Monica Acosta is a mother of three who said she has worked in administrative roles for most of her life. Like her classmates, Acosta said she longs to be out on the road.
“I think men get intimidated, like, ‘What are you doing here?’ I just got to brush it off and do what you got to do. You got to find a job and it's a job,” Acosta said.
Like men, these women want to get the job done, they just happen to be driving right through gender norms.
“I don't feel like there's not a whole lot that women can't do that men can,” Humphrey said.