Why aren’t there more women lorry drivers?
Britain needs lorry drivers urgently. The estimated shortfall is over 50,000 drivers, with thousands more set to retire in the next 10 years, and not enough young drivers to replace them.
And with Brexit complicating our access to overseas workers, it’s past time to ask a disturbingly obvious question.
Under 2% of HGV drivers are women, according to the Road Haulage Association (RHA). We’re missing half our talent pool. Why aren’t we doing more to recruit them?
A Twitter poll by the Freight Transport Association found that 79% of women would be willing to work as the driver of a 44-tonne truck. The Government has suggested recruiting more women, along with more people of colour and young people, as a possible solution to the crisis.
Increasing diversity in the industry isn’t just a solution to the skills shortage. Multiple studies have found that diverse workforces boost profits and innovation in every sector. Haulage and freight are no exception.
So why are women rejecting commercial driving as a career option – and why might they want to consider it?
15-hour or even overnight shifts are not uncommon for lorry drivers. While this is a serious issue for any driver with children, the burden of childcare still falls disproportionately on women, making lorry driving a less realistic option for them.
To remedy this, it’s vital to offer more flexible hours. Some haulage companies are now opening up part-time roles and job shares.
Poor working conditions
Again, every lorry driver suffers from the often-disgusting lack of clean, working loos and washing facilities in service stations – but not every lorry driver has to deal with having a period in those conditions.
And when male lorry drivers often complain of feeling unsafe sleeping in lorry parks, it’s understandable that women are even more deterred. Better lighting and security in lorry parks is crucial if we expect women to sleep in their cabs.
No need for massive muscles
Lorry driving doesn’t require big, burly muscles. Many modern HGVs now have power steering, automatic gears, and hydraulics that work at the push of a button.
More industry support
The driving sector is taking positive steps to create a welcoming environment for women, including the RHA’s “She’s RHA” initiative and the Horsepower training scheme, founded by two women drivers.
While we still have some way to go on the road to getting more women behind the wheel, the industry is modernising, bringing more diversity and inclusion to this traditionally male-dominated industry.