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August 22, 2018 10:30 AM, EDT

Missouri Carrier CFI Embraces Veterans, Women as Drivers

CFI Debra/Flickr

If you see an eye-catching new big rig on the interstate, you might be able to thank a Joplin trucking company for it.

CFI, based on East 32nd Street in Joplin, on Aug. 21 unveiled five trucks with new commemorative graphics, joining two military-themed trucks that were unveiled in 2015. Four of the five new rigs display a “True to the Troops” military theme, while the fifth truck carries a “She Drives” theme that honors women in the field.

The graphics are representative of a larger shift for CFI and companies across the country. Veterans and women are playing increasingly important roles in building the future of the industry, which is struggling with driver shortages. According to a recent study by American Trucking Associations, the United States is 50,000 drivers short of the number it needs, and the shortage could balloon to more than 174,000 over the next eight years.

“It’s a big, big deal for us at CFI to be able to honor our veterans as well as our women drivers,” company President Greg Orr said.

The goal, he said, is to ensure that veterans and female drivers understand their value in the industry.

“Professional truck drivers do not get enough recognition for their hard work and the crucial role they play in our economy,” he said. “The job is challenging. Those employers who are best at retaining drivers step up to the plate.”

Veterans in Trucking

Orr said CFI has long taken pride in offering job opportunities to veterans, who make up 16% of the company’s 2,000-driver workforce.

“We are dedicated to supporting our veterans and providing stable, reliable jobs for them,” Orr said. “The qualities of integrity, commitment, teamwork and a strong work ethic ingrained through their military service are the same we value highly in our employees.”

The four military-service veterans who will drive CFI’s new “True to the Troops” trucks are Tom Christian, of Austin, Texas; Michael Slack, of Lebanon; Scott Bell, of Boroda, Mich.; and Josh Armstrong, of Leland, N.C.

Darrell Bogan, a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard in Mississippi, has driven one of CFI’s original “True to the Troops” trucks since 2015. He spent more than a decade after leaving the service working in a furniture warehouse before pursuing a career as a truck driver, he said.

“I’ve always had a love of trucks,” he said. “The job market in Mississippi is bad, so I went to school and started driving a truck.”

Bogan said it has been “an honor and a privilege” to represent veterans in his troops truck. For its part, CFI has returned the support.

“I think they do a great job,” he said. “This was my first choice in driving a truck.”

Women in Trucking

Women represent a population that the trucking industry is beginning to look toward for investment and growth.

“As more women take on the role of truck driver, it will reduce the burden of the truck driver shortage,” Knight Transportation, an Arizona-based trucking company, wrote recently in a blog post on its website. “Part of this increase comes from a change in our culture that can make it easier for women to apply for trucking jobs. … Single women, entrepreneurs interested in owner-operator roles, and women with older children are in the perfect position to start a career as a trucker.”

Even as the industry opens itself up, women still lag behind their male counterparts in the workplace. Yet approximately 14% of CFI’s driver workforce is made up of women, compared with an industry average of about 6%, Orr said.

The company seeks to encourage more women to enter the profession, he said.

“The female drivers bring a different perspective to our industry,” Orr said.

Pictured on CFI’s new “She Drives” truck are four of the company’s longest tenured women drivers, including Stephanie Klang, who retired in March after 31 years with CFI.

“It was rewarding,” she said of her trucking career, which spanned 38 years total. “In the 1980s, the only way women got into the field was to marry a driver. I was ready to go — I did not have a good family life, and that made it great for me to go out on the truck and leave. And I got to travel.”

Klang, of Joplin, said her career allowed her to pay off her home and build a savings account. She also was afforded the opportunity to do some charity work with a mobile dentistry office, for which CFI had provided the transportation.

Also pictured on the “She Drives” truck are Alisha Slaughter, of El Paso, Texas; Tanya Lateyice, of Albuquerque, N.M; and Jemcia Turner, of Tulsa, Okla.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC