Special Coverage



Panelists Emphasize Importance of Women in Trucking

Arkansas Trucking Association President Shannon Newton (left) with Women in Motion panelists
Moderator Shannon Newton of Arkansas Trucking Association (left) with Women in Motion panelists Cari Baylor, Tamara Jalving, Tina Peterson and Angela Tillery. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

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SAN DIEGO — The importance of women in trucking and how the industry can be made more attractive to female candidates were focal points of a session during American Trucking Associations’ Management Conference & Exhibition on Oct. 23

“I feel like sometimes because it isn’t really normal for a woman to be behind a truck that people are really watching what I’m doing,” said Tina Peterson, a professional truck driver for Red Pine Transport. “Sometimes that gets uncomfortable. But then I think about the little girls that are watching me do it or maybe I can inspire another woman to see that women do this.

“So, I just kind of put the good and bad together and I just try to make it positive.”

The ATA Women In Motion initiative is one way the industry has worked to encourage women to consider careers in the industry. The initiative seeks to create opportunities for women and show success stories of those who have done it. The program is about empowering women in the trucking space and beyond.

“There are so many different interpretations of the word empowerment,” said Angela Tillery, managing director of learning and development at FedEx Freight. “When I think about empowerment, I think about two specific things: access and execution. And by access, I mean, you have to have people who are investing in you, who will see your potential, see your talents and strengths to open up different opportunities for you.

“But it means nothing if you don’t take the initiative and execute against it. So, it’s super important to have them both.”

Angela Tillery

Angela Tillery of FedEx Freight (John Sommers ii for Transport Topics)

Tillery added that it is about recognizing when opportunities arise. She noted that sometimes opportunities don’t look the way that someone might think they should. She noted that when opportunities come or someone opens up space, it’s about knowing how to recognize it and how to take advantage.

“None of us are here looking for a participation trophy,” Baylor Trucking President Cari Baylor said. “Women in Motion has the ability, with ATA and all of its member companies, to create and highlight stories that inspire so women can aspire. So, it’s important to highlight the great leadership so that they can build hopes and ambitious career paths.”

Tina Peterson

Tina Peterson of Red Pine Transport (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

Peterson pointed out that the initiative can help normalize the notion of women in the industry, including being behind the wheel of a truck.

“My hub manager, she worked her way up,” Peterson said. “She used to work the docks. She did the yard switchers. So, she was out in the yard doing that kind of stuff. But she worked her way all the way up to the hub manager, and she kind of adopted me. She swooped me in right when I got there. So, she really helped me in my career.”

ATA estimates the industry has a shortage of about 80,000 drivers. It also says that number could rise to 160,000 in less than a decade if the trend doesn’t change. The driver shortage has meant carriers expanding their recruitment efforts beyond where they normally would look.

Tamara Jalving

Tamara Jalving of Yellow (John Sommers ii for Transport Topics)

“We’re missing out on the tremendous talent pool if we’re not intentional about bringing more women into the workforce,” said Tamara Jalving, vice president of safety at Yellow.. “And we can’t afford that.”

Tillery echoed the point while pointing out how women can bring new strengths and perspectives. She noted that women tend to have tremendous buying power. They’re not only buying for themselves but also influencing the purchasing patterns of families and friends.

“I would just simply think about every company wants, at the end of the day, to make money and be profitable,” Tillery said. “And really, the only way to do that is understand your consumer base or the end user. Women have tremendous buying power.”

ATA data shows that nearly 8% of professional drivers are women. While that may seem low, it does represent an all-time high. By extension, initiatives and programs to bring women into the fold are having an effect.

Cari Baylor

Cari Baylor of Baylor Trucking (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

“I think that working with your schools and doing it early on,” Baylor said, “we have different schools from different districts visit each quarter. It’s taken truly like six years, but this is the first year now we have women coming for our engine class.

"We show engines from Cummins and some other engines and even engines from lawnmowers, and now we have women in that space. Showing them that whether it’s a professional driving career or being an industry leader … they have those hopes and dreams in this industry.”

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