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Whichever country in the world you look at, when considering the transport and haulage industry, they share some commonalities. Firstly, the industry is incredibly short of drivers. Transport is always recruiting. Secondly, the demographic of the driving workforce is mostly male.

Only 2,200 of the 315,000 drivers in The United Kingdom are female. Lastly, the industry seems to contend with some stereotypes of what a career in driving is like. Stereotypes which ultimately limit the attractiveness of working in transport to other groups, such as younger people, and women.

Transport in Trouble

The transport industry is in the thick of a recruitment crisis. There are too few fresh faces coming through the door to start a career in the sector. Also, the UK driver workforce is an aging one, with the average age of a UK driver around 48. Haulage and transport are essential sectors, and so the recruitment issue is an urgent one. However, there are several hurdles that could be contributing to the lack of new drivers. For example, you must be over 25 to qualify for training to be a heavy goods driver in the UK, something some have blamed for the lack of young drivers. Additionally, training can cost a couple of thousands of pounds, something many simply cannot afford.

Furthermore, the recruitment problem has pulled the lack of diversity within the sector into focus. Particularly, the lack of women. There is no question the transport industry is a male-dominated one, with the ‘typical lorry driver’ stereotype perhaps alienating potential new workers. Many would not consider transport a traditionally female-friendly workplace. Furthermore, the lack of gender balance may be a contributing factor to why women may find the sector intimidating to work in. However, transport and haulage companies are eager to change that perception and show that driving roles can be carried out as successfully by a woman, as they can by men.

A Place for Women?

With such strong male stereotypes surrounding transport, many women never even consider a career in the industry. Previously, driving an HGV was a physically demanding job, and so the work was very much limited to men. Also, HGVs could be complicated to drive, and so having a mechanical or engineer brain would serve you well. Again, we can see the association between transport and other very male-dominated industries. So, it seems since the beginning there were job role requirements as well as social attitudes keeping women from entering the world of transport.

For female drivers today, working out on the roads can still have some downsides. The poor roadside facilities can be off-putting, and in some locations, there are no female shower facilities at all! This highlights how the industry has historically been for men, and thus is built for men’s needs only. Many report that over the year’s things have improved, however, adequate facilities can even be a problem for male drivers, let alone women.

Additionally, the solitary working style when it comes to haulage can be a concern, with some women stating they would not feel safe or comfortable sleeping overnight in a cab. Also, many assume that the long hours mean unflexible working, and therefore working as a driver would simply not work around family commitments.

How can Companies Recruit more Women?

Since the coronavirus pandemic, we have been reminded of how important our lorry drivers are. They carry out essential work every day and hold a key role in the supply chain of everything! Be it food, medicine, clothes, or otherwise, at some point it was transported in an HGV. Everyone wants to do something meaningful and worthwhile with their time. So, what better way to recruit women than by emphasising this fact. Show them why lorry drivers should be respected, championed, and how the country truly depends on them to keep the supply chain moving.

It is also important that companies show women and young people how far the technology in HGVs has come. No longer are you required to be a ‘big burly bloke’ to operate these vehicles. With the right training, anyone can do it. From lane departure technology to cameras around the vehicles, there is far more support for drivers to be safe and efficient on shift. For drivers sleeping overnight in the cab, today there are a plethora of alarms and CCTV cameras to put driver’s minds at ease. Also, many manufacturers are trying to emulate the inside of a car within their HGVs. Therefore, new professionals can feel some sense of familiarity and confidence when they step into a cab for the first time.

Also, it is important to remember that many roles exist within transport that does not involve driving a 20-tonne vehicle. Roles exist within marketing, accounting, sales, you name it! Many of which require the basic skills that so many women around the country will have, with no prior industry knowledge needed. Also, it is important to note that a career in driving is a stable one. We will always need HGV drivers to meet the never-ending demand.

Women Behind the Wheel

For many reasons, the transport industry needs women. The recruitment issue will not resolve itself, and women may be the perfect group to fill these vacant positions. As well as getting a grip of driver shortages, this will begin to tackle the industry’s gender balance problem. Igniting the industry with fresh ideas and perspectives from female employees. Once more women are present, it will become easier for other women to enter the profession.

Furthermore, women are typically more risk-averse than their male counterparts. A desirable quality if you are undertaking a long journey with very valuable cargo, in an extremely large vehicle. Also, in office-based roles, for example, fleet management, this can be a huge benefit. Finally, we cannot ignore the lack of diversity in the transport industry. Hiring women could soften in the industry’s image, and in turn, help recruit other underrepresented groups.

If companies make training more accessible it will really help get more young people involved. Also, educating people on what is physically required within driving roles could make all the difference when recruitment. Hiring more women may also help negative perceptions of the industry. Those who have never considered transport, or are put-off by long-standing stereotypes, may see that opportunities are open to them too. Hopefully, with a little effort made, people will view transport as an inclusive industry, where everyone can succeed.

Author Helena Ferraro

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