GREENSBORO, N.C. — The trucking industry is the backbone of the U.S. economy, relied upon to safely and efficiently transport goods that support daily needs.
In fact, the trucking industry is the single largest mover of freight and is expected to carry nearly 22 billion tons in 2029, a 35% increase in freight volume from today.
Women are now making up more and more of the industry demographic, challenging stereotypes and making notable contributions across every link of the value chain, notes Christina Ameigh, regional vice president, western region at Volvo Trucks North America.
“Offering rewarding careers in fast-paced, technologically advanced environments, the industry is working continuously to attract talented professionals to sustain its rapid growth and evolution,” said Ameigh, who participated in a roundtable discussion October 2 at the Women In Trucking Association’s Accelerate! Conference & Expo at Dallas. “Driven by safety, efficiency, sustainability and driver comfort, Volvo Trucks North America is committed to developing innovative technologies that will attract the number of professionals working in trucking, from drivers, technicians, engineers, marketing and sales professionals, and beyond.”
Keys to driver retention
Ameigh said a strong economy with healthy consumer spending is increasing demand for transporting goods regionally and across the country, presenting countless opportunities for professional females, including drivers.
With more than 80 percent of U.S. communities relying solely on trucking for the delivery of goods, driver retention is more important than ever. Volvo Trucks is dedicated to enhancing the design of its products to ensure safety and increased comfort for drivers, as well as creating an improved perception of the profession and the industry and as a whole,” Ameigh said.
“Safety is a top priority and core value of Volvo Trucks and it is also a top concern of drivers, purchasing managers and fleet owners,” she said. “They want the comfort of knowing they’re putting their driver behind the wheel of the safest truck on the road.”
In an effort to attract and retain professional drivers, Volvo Trucks incorporated feedback from more than 2,000 professional truck drivers when adding enhancements to its new VNL and VNR models, including adjustable seating and three-point seat belts to accommodate smaller body frames, a new dashboard with often-used controls in the driver’s reach and a customizable driver information display visible at quick glance.
Features such as the enhanced Volvo Active Driver Assist (VADA) 2.0 and new Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) have also been incorporated in Volvo powered trucks in an effort to improve comfort, productivity and safety by reducing physical strain on the driver.
VADA 2.0, a comprehensive collision mitigation system that monitors and reacts to traffic, is now standard in the Volvo VNR and VNL models, and available as an option in the VNX. VDS, an ultra-responsive steering system designed to lessen steering force up to 85%, will soon be available as an option in the Volvo VNL and VNR models in early 2020. Each of these innovative systems make the physical aspect of driving Volvo Trucks much easier for both male and female drivers, but the impact of this technology extends beyond the road itself.
Grease, gears and cutting-edge technology
The need for innovative connectivity solutions and advanced-technology-driven features are a major reason behind an influx of higher-skilled job opportunities for women in the industry. Kim Mesfin, president at Affinity Truck Center, notes that Volvo Trucks is often recognized for its ability to blend trucks and technology, which creates an entirely different type of job for people who may have previously only seen the industry as grease and gears.
“If you look and spend time reading about these trucks and Volvo’s ability to communicate over-the-air, it is very cutting-edge,” Mesfin said.
For example, Volvo’s Remote Programming and Remote Diagnostics capabilities come standard on the new VNL and VNR models, enabling customers to receive updates over-the-air, during a short meal or operational break, all while having 24/7 access to Volvo-trained advisors.
Mesfin, having previously worked in communications, also believes that the application of marketing could bring in the diverse talent needed to sustain the tech boom the industry is experiencing.
“The dealership environment has never really tried to employ marketing to modernize the perception of the industry and illustrate that is changing rapidly,” Mesfin said. “As all of these dealerships start hiring marketing personnel, the platform, operations and communication will drastically change, drawing in a more diverse and talented workforce.”
Benefits of the business
Kirsten Swift, account manager at Advantage Truck Center, notes the recent uptick in female mechanics and drivers, crediting the increase to wage equality, freedom to work independently and flexible schedules.
Professional female truck drivers are paid the same as their male counterparts and have significant opportunities to support themselves and their families. Benefits often include healthcare, paid leave and 401(k) packages.
Chelsea Pottle Demmons, vice president of Pottle’s Transportation, also pointed to flexibility as an essential element of the job for many female drivers.
“We have a lot of local drivers that are home every night,” Demmons said. “We make it a priority here specifically, that no matter what, our drivers are home weekly.”
That flexibility is also a benefit for the young professionals who want to see the country from the road, Ameigh said. “Professional drivers have an opportunity to travel, experience different cities and work with professional organizations that offer great benefits and flexibility,” said Ameigh. “If there was ever a time when the trucking industry was clearly a driver’s market, it’s today.”
Ameigh said Volvo Trucks’ culture creates opportunities for women at every level within the organization, from business strategies and truck sales to the design and engineering of the truck models themselves.
“No matter what specific job you do, whether you’re in a service department at a dealership or out there on the road every day, you are part of an industry that is making a difference,” said Mindy Uitvlugt, service advisor at M&K Truck Centers. “Transportation is very important and the need for great talent is only intensifying.”
Opportunities for impact
With guaranteed delivery times from commerce platforms in full swing and shipping demands on the rise, the trucking industry is poised to provide rewarding careers across all sectors.
“One thing I’ve noticed is that it’s not just the owners, but all the employees of our company, who are proud of what they’re able to accomplish,” Demmons said. “I would encourage anyone to consider the opportunities within this industry, because it offers a lot. It’s not just driving opportunities — there are so many rewarding careers in so many different aspects of this industry.”