Indiana-based trucking company Buchanan Hauling & Rigging Inc. has a secret weapon that a lot of other companies don’t — a strong group of women in leadership positions keeping the company rolling.
The transportation industry has long been seen as a boys-only club, but the ladies of Buchanan Hauling are proving there is a place for women in the trucking industry. Four of the women in leadership at Buchanan Hauling have well over a century of combined experience in the trucking industry, and CDLLife recently had the opportunity to connect with them to learn more about how they entered the trucking industry — and why they’ve stayed.
Some the women of Buchanan Hauling came to trucking because of family members who were part of the industry. Others started out in temporary trucking jobs and soon realized that they’d found their calling. Jessica Pappert, head of the flatbed division, describes how she got her start in trucking: “My stepfather is [company founder and president] Geary Buchanan, I started working for Geary as a summer job while home from college, never thought it was something I would be interested in. I started out helping with billing and payroll and quickly moved into the operations side of it. By the time the summer was over I knew this is what I wanted to do. I think this is an industry you either love or hate.”
While some believe that the trucking industry is a tough place for women to make a living, the women of Buchanan see trucking as a world full of opportunity for those who are willing to persevere.
Michelle Topp, head of brokerage, says that she’s never felt held back in trucking by being a woman and believes that a person’s work ethic is what matters most: “This is not about male or female, it’s about who is right for each job and can bring the most to it. If I have had to work harder to prove myself, that’s OK, it’s just made me work harder and feel better in the long run. I have never identified myself as a “woman” in any regards to my job or my place within an organization. Hard work, dedication, loyalty, going above and beyond, dreaming a bigger dream is not about what gender I am, it’s about work ethic and who I am as a person.”
Sherry Collins, head of the safety division, believes that women bring something unique to the table when they enter the trucking industry: “I believe we bring an element of compassion and empathy while dealing with the driving force or our customers. I don’t necessarily believe we communicate better – just differently. In meetings, for example, I watch the body languages, facial expressions much closer and will change approach/verbalization based on those cues. I do believe women tend to be better overall at handling multiple problems and re-prioritizing quicker.“
Collins says that there is a difference in the way that men and women are treated within the trucking industry — but that things are changing for the better. She says that she’s experienced “everything from (being) ignored, discounted & excluded to (being called) “princess”, the token female for diversity purposes. This is still a male-dominated industry –with not nearly enough females in leadership positions. Over the years, I have been the only female at many meetings, seminars, workshops. The last few years, I see more and more females but still very much a minority. The flipside of this coin: the men in the industry have changed also, and therefore, are much more acceptable to females in leadership roles.“
All of women of Buchanan Hauling agree that more and more women are seeing the opportunities available in trucking and entering the industry, both as drivers and as office staff.
Kimberly Brown, head of administration, says that trucking can provide a great career opportunity for women because the industry is thriving and secure: “This industry is full of opportunities. There are many different areas in which to work besides driving a truck … I would encourage women that are looking for an interesting, never boring career to give it a try. It might just get in their blood. I honestly cannot imagine working in any other industry at this point. I would be bored out of my mind.”
Topp invites women who are considering entering the trucking industry to “give it a try. This industry will continue to grow, continue to evolve into many different avenues. What you bring to the table may just be exactly what trucking needs to get to yet another level.”
Pappert adds, “My advice to anyone that wants to get into the operations side of trucking is that it is an industry that is always needed. It is a career and not just a job, if you are just looking for a job then you will be swallowed up. It is something you have to be passionate about and you will either love it or hate it. It is fast paced, ever changing and stressful but rewarding.”
Buchanan Hauling has been family owned and operated since it was founded 22 years ago. This full service logistics company is looking for ways to help both men and women meet their career goals in the transportation industry.