Women truck drivers don’t report sexual harassment because they doubt that reporting the incident would make a difference, an FMCSA survey released this week found.
The agency’s Crime Prevention for Truckers survey estimates the concern leads about half of all incidents to go unreported. An estimated 200,000 of the 3.5 million U.S. truck drivers are women, making up about 7% of all drivers, the survey said, citing American Trucking Associations data.
The U.S. Department of Transportation dedicated its inaugural Women of Trucking Advisory Board meeting on Wednesday to the survey, releasing the results at the meeting. Input from the panel’s 16 founding members, who met virtually, will guide the federal government’s recommendations for recruiting, retaining, supporting and ensuring the safety of women drivers.
The board members come from diverse backgrounds in the industry and have more than 80 years of driving experience, according to a DOT release.
Women in Trucking Association President and CEO Ellen Voie, who requested the FMCSA study, is not a member of the DOT advisory board. But she was invited to speak at the meeting about her successful push to incorporate efforts to boost recruitment of women drivers in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.
Harassment in the industry is the DOT group’s focus, Voie said in an interview Thursday.
“It's unfortunate that we still have that and still have to deal with it,” she said. “But I know it's a reality and it does need to be addressed. Maybe this will help bring some positive change.”
Voie hopes the panel will lean on Women in Trucking’s research and 15 years of expertise in the area. But she’s concerned about how effective government recommendations will be in addressing carriers’ internal company dynamics.
“It's something I think carriers should be addressing internally,” she said. “Companies that have an absolute no harassment policy and address it immediately are much more successful in containing it.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson issued statements reiterating their message to the industry last month’s ATA MCE about the need for more women in the industry.
“Truck drivers are the lifeblood of American supply chains, yet at a time when America needs truck drivers more than ever and can't afford to leave any talent on the table, women are still vastly underrepresented in the industry,” Buttigieg said. “Everyone deserves to feel safe in the workplace, and we’re grateful to this first Women of Trucking Advisory Board for helping address safety and other industry challenges to ensure these good, vital careers are accessible to all.”
As the trucking industry’s safety regulator, the FMCSA wants all drivers to feel safe in their jobs, Hutcheson said.
“It’s so important to have a diverse board of women trucking professionals who will help make the industry safer and a more appealing career option not only to women but to everyone who has been underrepresented in the industry,” the administrator said.
A total of 548 respondents completed the FMCSA's online survey. Of those drivers, 186 identified as women, 124 as minority men, and 238 as non-minority men. Despite the agency partnering with trucking organizations, drivers were reluctant to fill out the survey, and "the actual number of respondents was lower than what was initially anticipated," it said.