NZ TRUCKING ASSOCIATION - Whose fault is it?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

I believe New Zealand could lead the world by having the highest number of women drivers. But it means getting rid of the bias and outdated boys’ club mentality. Just because something has been done one way for 50 years does not mean it should continue.

Consider this: only 4% of truck drivers are women, a fact pointed out at a recent industry event by RTF CEO Nick Leggett when explaining the new Road to Success Traineeship programme. It’s time to stop wondering why that figure is so low and start actioning simple things to improve it, such as:

• clean restrooms;
• uniforms that are designed for women, so they are comfortable;
• split shifts to accommodate childcare hours;
• job-sharing options;
• gender-neutral job advertisements.

These are just a few things that could help to attract more women into the industry. Evidence of bias is everywhere. At a recent event attended by operators, stakeholders, truck drivers and suppliers, a speaker welcomed the gentlemen in the room and referred solely to male truck drivers throughout his presentation. In the audience were women truck drivers and women who own companies and work in the industry. It is hard to believe that in 2021 this attitude still exists. One young woman approached the man after his presentation. She politely mentioned that there are also women drivers in the audience and maybe in future he should not just acknowledge men. His reply was, “Okay, next time, I will say men and 4%.” It may have been a joke but his attitude is unacceptable, and I applaud the young woman who dared to let him know that. You could describe the comment as flippant. But it devalues the women who have worked hard to achieve the skills and licenses to drive a truck or those who work in the industry. The point that is often missed is, who is the decisionmaker? If you are a supplier and sell products and services to the industry, do not overlook the women working in your organisation if you want to be successful.

It would be good to do research to see which gender makes the most decisions in a company, or who has the most influence. I am pretty sure that the difference would be smaller than people think. Many women run transport companies. We need to break down the barriers, and that means showing some respect. Not acknowledging women at an event and then referring to them as a percentage is something that will not – nor should – be well received. Although much has been done in recent years, we are not even close to accessing the huge workforce of women who could be truck drivers – and we want to be more encouraging, not off-putting. The issue was highlighted at a recent school visit with the Road Safety Truck. One of the volunteers was a young woman truck driver who came with her tractor unit. When the students got into the cab, she told them it was her truck. A seven-year-old asked her if she was a boy. She said, “No, I am a girl, and girls can drive trucks.” The students were then interested to know more. The Road Safety Truck allows us to inspire the next generation.

Having more young truck drivers along as volunteers is an excellent opportunity for us to showcase them. It’s quite a powerful conversation when a female driver says they drive the truck they are sitting in. I believe New Zealand could lead the world by having the highest number of women drivers. But it means getting rid of the bias and outdated boys’ club mentality. Just because something has been done one way for 50 years does not mean it should continue. Think about your branding and your public image. Is it good enough? Do you have a good safety record? Do you have clean and well-maintained trucks? Make some subtle changes to look more appealing to women and showcase your company as a great place in which to work. Get involved in your local community. Be seen. Please send your stories to the NZ Trucking Association about how you successfully employ women and what you have done to make them feel like one of the team.