For years, the trucking industry has been complaining about a severe shortage of drivers for big rigs. Some women claim that many trucking firms have made it impossible for them to get these jobs.
Many trucking companies will not hire women who the company cannot train. There are very few female truck drivers available in the United States, and less than 5 percent are women.
Truckers and legal experts claim that same-sex policies are prevalent in the industry. This is despite a federal court ruling that it was illegal for a trucking firm to require that only female candidates be paired with female trainers.
Ashli Streeter, a Killeen resident, told us she borrowed $7,000 in order to go to a trucking school and get her commercial driver’s license. She hoped that this would help her land a better job than the warehouse jobs she had been doing. She said that Stevens Transport in Dallas told her she could not be hired as the company had no female trainers. Other trucking companies also rejected her for the same reasons.
Ms. Streeter stated, “I obtained my license and could clearly drive.” It was a disappointment.
Ms. Streeter, along with two other women, filed a complaint on Thursday against Stevens Transport at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. They claimed that the company’s policy of same-sex driving training unfairly denied their application for driving jobs. If it finds that there has been a violation, the commission may file its lawsuit. The commission brought the case against Prime, another trucking firm with similar policies. This resulted in a 2014 federal court ruling.
The critics of the industry said that the continued use of same-sex instruction nearly a decade following that ruling, even though it did not establish a precedent in the law, was proof that trucking firms had not done enough for women to help them solve their labor problems.
“It is frustrating to see how we haven’t evolved,” said Desiree, a trucker and the founder of Real Women in Trucking.
Wood’s group joins the three women who are involved in their E.E.O.C. complaint, which was made against Stevens by Peter Romer Friedman, an attorney in Washington and the National Women’s Law Center.
In general, companies that insist on training female candidates with women do so to avoid sexual harassment claims. Trainers spend several weeks on the road with trainees, often sleeping in the same taxi.
The critics of same-sex courses acknowledge that sexual harassment can be a problem. However, they believe trucking companies need to address this issue with anti-harassment and better screening programs. Some companies pay for their trainees to stay in hotel rooms, which could help reduce the risk of sexual harassment.
- Yellow – The trucking giant that received $700 million from the U.S. Pandemic Relief Fund has declared bankruptcy. Why did it fail? Will it be able to pay back what it owes to the federal government?
- Truck Driving: The trucking sector has been complaining for years about the shortage of drivers who are willing to drive large rigs. Some women claim that many companies make it impossible for them to get these jobs.
- Supply chain issues: A wave of trucker retirees coupled with those quitting to take less stressful jobs is exacerbating the shipping delays.
- The Cost Of Quitting: Each year, thousands of truckers enroll in training. If they quit too soon, debt collectors may pursue them.
According to the latest government statistics, women made up 4.8 percent of the 1,37 million truckers in the United States by 2021. This is up from a decade ago when they were only 4 percent.
It can be not easy to drive a long-haul truck. The drivers are often away from their families for several days. Some women are drawn to the job because it pays around $50,000 per year. Experienced drivers can earn much more. Truck driving pays better than other jobs, such as those in retail, warehouses, or child care centers, that do not require a degree.
Robin Hutcheson is the administrator at the agency. She said that requiring same-sex education would seem to be an entry barrier. In an interview, she stated that if this is the case, we should take a closer look.
Ms. Streeter said that she applied to Stevens, as it hires people right out of trucking schools. She said to Stevens’s representatives she would be willing to train with a man, but it was to no avail.
Bruce Dean, the general counsel of Stevens, has denied the allegations made in the lawsuit. He said that “the fundamental premise of the charge” — that Stevens Transport Inc. allows only women trainers to teach women trainees — was false. The company has had a “cross-gender program,” where men and women train female trainees for decades.
Legal experts have said that even though same-sex orientation was declared illegal by only one federal judge, trucking companies may struggle to defend their policies in front of other judges. Employers can request special legal exemptions under federal employment discrimination laws to treat women differently than men. However, courts have only granted these very rarely.
Deborah Brake is a professor of employment and gender laws at the University of Pittsburgh. She said that the law basically says that a business must be able to walk and chew gum simultaneously. They need to be able to give women equal opportunities for employment and prevent and remedy any sexual harassment.
Ms. Streeter claimed that she made a meager income from her infrequent truck driving jobs while hoping to land a job at Stevens. She will be a truck driver for a large retailer later this month.
Kim Howard, another woman who filed an E.E.O.C. Stevens’ complaint, was filed by Kim Howard, one of the other women who had filed it.
She said that being rejected due to the policy on training was a “big blow.” “I don’t even know how I managed to make it financially.”
Ms. Howard said that she worked for a trucking firm where two men well-treated her. She said that a male can train a female and a male to be an expert in the field.
Some female drivers have reported that they were mistreated by male instructors who would be dismissive of them and refuse to teach important skills like reversing the truck with a trailer attached.
Rowan Kannard is a Wisconsin truck driver who was not involved in Stevens’ complaint. He said that a male trainer spent very little time with her in preparation for a trip to California in 2019.
Ms. Kannard claimed that at a truck stop, where she felt unsafe in the cab, the trainer forced her to leave and then locked the door. She requested to stop the training and was then flown back home to Wisconsin. She said that she didn’t think women should be trained in the same-sex relationship. “Some of the men who are training, they probably should go through a class.”
Ms. Wood of Real Women in Trucking said that the training policies of trucking companies were misguided because there was no guarantee a female trainer would treat another woman better. She claimed that a female instructor had once insulted her with racist remarks and told her to drive recklessly.
“I am Mexican — she hated Mexicans, and wanted to tell all about it while I was in the truck,” said Ms. Wood. “She screamed to me to speed up in zones that were not safe.”
I will set up a time to talk with you.
Some women still support policies that promote same-sex training.
Ellen Voie founded Women in Trucking and believes that truck driving should not be treated the same as other professions. This is because trainees and trainers spend so much time in close proximity.
Ms. Voie stated, “I don’t know of another mode of transport that confines women and men in an area with sleeping quarters.”
Attorneys for Prime, a company that lost in 2014 the E.E.O.C. Lawyers for Prime, the company that lost the E.E.O.C. In her testimony, she argued that women who companies did not hire because they didn’t have any female trainers could have found employment at other trucking firms. She still holds that belief.
Ms. Voie also added that trucking firms needed to do more to improve training for women. This included placing cameras in the cabs to monitor poor behavior and paying hotel rooms for trainers and trainees to sleep separately.
Steve Rush, a New Jersey trucking owner who sold his company recently, said he stopped using sleeper cabs ten years ago and sent drivers to hotels. As a result, he said that fewer drivers quit his company than the rest of the trucking industry.
He said: “What woman would want to learn to drive a car and then have to get into a sleeper where he just crawled from?”