Championing the Cause of Women in Trucking
The image most people carry in their minds of those in the trucking industry, and especially of a typical truck driver, is male. As a result, women who want to enter the industry are likely to encounter obstacles that men do not.
Women In Trucking was founded in March 2007 by Ellen Voie, who currently serves as the non-profit organization's president/CEO. Voie was formerly manager of retention and recruiting programs at Schneider National, Inc., North America's largest truckload carrier. She was responsible for creating corporate level programs to encourage non-traditional groups to consider careers in the trucking industry and designed initiatives to eliminate (or reduce) irritants that lead to driver dissatisfaction, which ultimately affects turnover, She served as the executive director of Trucker Buddy International, Inc., a pen pal program between professional drivers and elementary students that under her guidance grew to become an internationally recognized mentoring initiative.
Women In Trucking was created to give women a voice in the industry to make women more visible, more welcomed and more prevalent in all areas. The organization's mission is "to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry."
In order to do that, the association had to establish its credibility with regulators, legislators and industry leaders, Voie says. More importantly, WIT needed members to represent: The more people behind the organization, the greater the level of influence. In six years, the number of individuals and companies that have become members is over 2,300. Of these, over 600 are professional drivers (both men and women).
"Our goal is to be a resource and to have a seat at the table when discussions about the trucking industry occur, especially when the issues affect women. We have developed a level of trust with regulators who see our association as a resource," she adds. "We are often contacted for our opinion or to provide insight into an industry issue, which gives us the opportunity to direct the department or legislator to the right resource."
WIT's goal of getting a seat at the table has been accomplished, and then some. In February of 2011, Voie was invited by Transportation Secretary LaHood to meet with him in Washington, D.C. Joining them was Anne Ferro, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator.
The DOT Secretary and his staff listened as Voie described some of the challenges facing women in the transportation industry, such as driver harassment concerns safety and security on the road, using technology to reduce physical limitations faced by women in trucking. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) also invited WIT to discuss truck safety issues at a public forum. Voie participated alongside representatives from advocacy groups, government agencies and driver and carrier groups discussing issues concerning driver health and safety, hours of service, carrier entrant and vehicle safety.
Each week the White House honors "ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things" through its "Champions of Change" initiative. On July 31, 2012, the White House recognized leaders, including Voie, representing "organizations that have provided exemplary leadership in the growth and expansion of the transportation industry at the local, state, or regional level."
These are just a few examples of how WIT is helping direct change in the industry to benefit its members. The organization has also established several initiatives to help benefit and encourage women in the industry.
The WIT Foundation was established in 2011 to assist women who are interested in a career in trucking. The Foundation's mandate is to encourage the employment and advancement of women in the trucking industry by providing scholarships to worthy candidates. The Women In Trucking scholarship program is open to any member of WIT who will be attending a training facility for the purpose of beginning or advancing his or her career in the areas of safety, driving, technical, logistics or leadership in trucking.
The organization's Salute To Women Behind the Wheel celebration held annually at the Mid-America Trucking Show to honor female professional drivers for their service to the industry. This year was the group's 4th annual "Salute," which attracted nearly 500 drivers and their families and WIT members.
This year, sponsor Navistar, Inc. and the Women In Trucking Association (WIT) presented Rebecca Brewster, president and chief operating officer of the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI), with the third annual "Influential Woman in Trucking." Award. The award seeks to recognize women in the trucking industry who make or influence key decisions, have a proven record of responsibility, and who mentor and serve as a role model to other women.