In 2011 women accounted for only 7% of the workers in the U.S. trucking industry.
With the trucking industry saying it needs for an additional 20,000 to 25,000 drivers, women could help to fill that void.
One problem women drivers may encounter though is the most important tool for any driver; their truck.
Trucks have not been traditionally designed with the female driver in mind. The design of the truck can make the job uncomfortable and harder for women on the road, says University of Wisconsin-Stout professor, Jeanette Kersten, and she’s trying help solve that problem.
“Today’s trucks are not designed with women in mind,” Kersten said. “Given the driver shortage and the changing demographics that the trucking industry faces, it’s important for manufacturers to make trucks more female-friendly through moderate design changes for seats, pedals and gauges, for example.”
The hope for Kersten is that a truck designed for women will not only improve the working environment for female drivers, but also make life safer for everyone on the road.
“If the design of the truck cab is poorly fitted to the size and dimensions of the driver, the road may be less visible, driving controls may be more difficult to reach and seat belts may be less comfortable and less likely to be used.”
Kersten teamed up with Ellen Voie, president of the Wisconsin-based Women in Trucking Association, and brought the project to Kersten’s Organization Development class at UW -Stout.
Voie helped Kersten reach 663 members of the Women in Trucking Association with a survey that helped determine improvements that can be made in the design of truck seats, dashboards, steering mechanisms and other items that will allow ease of use for female drivers.
Voie also helped Kersten land the support of Ryder Transportation Company, which has decided to review truck specifications that will improve conditions for female drivers such as:
- Height and placement of cab steps and grab handles
- Adjustable foot pedal height (accelerator, brake, clutch)
- Height of seat belts
- Visibility of dash gauges
- Electric/hydraulic hood lifting mechanisms
- Automated transmission shift lever placement/location
- Access to the top of the dash
- Better access to oil and coolant check and fill
“It’s important for manufacturers to take women’s needs into consideration when designing and specifying new vehicles, and we are encouraging all of our major suppliers to do so,” said Scott Perry, Ryder vice president for supply management.
Kersten also has been asked to present her paper “Truck Cab Design: Perceptions of Women Truck Drivers” this month at the International Conference on Women’s Issues in Transportation in Paris, France.
Calling all the ladies…what are your thoughts about Kersten’s work? Are these needed changes she is working for? Do you think truck manufactures will take notice?