Women in Trucking
I was recently reading a June 2012 issue of Oprah Winfrey's *O" magazine, an outdated issue of the magazine that I received but informative nevertheless. One particular article drew my attention. It discussed the life of an African American female trucker nicknamed Sputter in the Cleveland, Ohio area.
It was so interesting to read about why and how she got into the field of trucking. Thirty-five years old at the time that the article was written, Sputter had been in trucking since she was twenty-three years old and old enough to get insured to drive a massive 18 wheeler truck.
Following in Dad's footsteps
Like many people are, Sputter was heavily influenced by admiration for her father and was inspired to pursue her path in trucking because of him. It is said in the article that he was the son of sharecroppers in the south and moved north for work opportunity. He accepted a job that he was offered in a garage and became a heavy machinery mechanic.
Missing time with Dad
Sputter's father worked so much that she really missed having time with him. She would often times hang around and watch him work.
Ambition from childhood
Subsequently, Sputter knew from the time she was a little girl that she would like to work with really big trucks as well. Sputter's father told her that if she were to drive one, she would also need to know the basic mechanics for fixing problems with the truck such as changing the oil. She said she would do just that, hoping for his help with the process.
Joining the military
Not long after high school, Sputter had spent some time in the military and when approached by the recruiter, she asked if she could be taught how to drive a truck. She was told yes and accepted the challenging but tuition free path to learning the skill / trade. It is clear in the article that Sputter would rather not discuss her time in the military. No details are given.
Serving in the military can be very stressful and even traumatizing of course. A young person really needs to way the options and give sincere thought to the decision when military recruiters propose either coverage of college tuition or coverage of the cost of learning skilled trades such as trucking.
Female truckers in America
It was very interesting to read Sputter's personal story about trucking and also interesting to learn the statistics. Sputter is very much a minority in the trucking industry because in America, there are approximately 3.5 million truckers and only less than 200,000 of them are female. Even less are African American.
When I looked online to learn a little more, I also found that there are only about 500,000 truckers inclusive in the United Kingdom (UK).
Issues that female truckers face
Sputter loves her job as a trucker and feels high above everyone in a whole other zone when she is sitting at the steering wheel of her big rig. She doesn't let this become isolating because her personality is friendly and she meets people at the truck stops and even talks to people on 24 hr phone while driving in the dead of night. She also loves listening to the radio.
One of her only complaints or issues seems to be that the trucks themselves are not built with the female trucker in mind and she has an injured knee from all the climbing she has done in and out of her truck.
For the most part, she seems to enjoy the camaraderie among the truckers. They look out for each other's safety at the overnight truck stops where they need to get some sleep. This reminds me of instances where I went on very long road trips with loved ones and while we had plans to stop and spend nights in hotels along the way, we also stopped at rest stops sometimes and parked among the trucks to rest our eyes for a few moments while still feeling safe with our eyes closed. It is really nice that the truckers take care of each other (and other motorists that might park among them) in that way.
Nevertheless, many female truckers other than Sputter have dealt with serious issues at the job including harassment and perhaps discrimination.
As stated on the Real Women in Trucking website, harassment can be a notable issue.
Additionally, regarding issues that female truckers and all truckers face, there can be over ten hours of driving logged before any break. Drivers may suffer from sleep deprivation and Sputter herself mentions almost falling asleep at the wheel on occasion.
Truck driving is a respectable job and a major responsibility
Sputter said that fear of responsibility has kept her from motherhood thus far.
She should however be proud that she has already undertaken huge responsibilities in life by military service and truck driving.
It is a respectable skill to have the ability to maneuver such a vast and powerful vehicle, driving it safely to its destination. It is a massive responsibility indeed and not to be taken lightly.
The Armstrong and Hamrick law firm in El Paso, Texas reports that 1 in 9 traffic fatalities in the USA involve an 18 wheeler truck.
I've personally seen tragic and catastrophic accidents involving 18 wheeler trucks on the roadway on more than 1 occasion in my lifetime, while traveling on road trips.
Groups and events for truckers
- Truckers' Jamboree
When the contributing writers for Oprah Winfrey's "O" magazine caught up with Sputter, she was on her way to a 30th annual truckers jamboree. Just like nursing or many other professional fields, there are gatherings where truckers can get together with pride for their skills and work and to celebrate their common experience.
- Support groups and social groups including online groups for female truckers
18 wheeler truck slideshow
On the Road
The video below is taken by a female truck driver who was pleasantly surprised to run into other female truck drivers at a stop, saying that does not happen everyday. She enjoys chatting with them.
3 Lady Truck Drivers
Would you ever want to learn to drive a big truck?
Lastly, I had to add the video below to show some of the most impressive truck driving on treacherous roads, near a precipice. Whether the drivers are male or female, this driving shows some amazing skills. Along the way the drivers stop and appear to have a discussion about just how they will manage to get around each other on this narrow winding road. Those who have commented on the YouTube video seem unsure of the location but most seem to say that it is in Norway.