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“Don’t listen to what people say.” What it’s like to be a young woman in trucking

2021.03.02

If you thought being a truck driver was a boys club, well, you’d be right by the numbers. Though the gap is decreasing, women accounted for only 10% of U.S. truck drivers in 2019, and just 43.5% of the overall workforce in the trucking industry according to a study by FreightWaves and Women in Trucking.

With a driver shortage of over 80,000 in 2020 too, it’s clear the industry could benefit from an influx of female drivers in many more ways than one. But what could make the profession more attractive in general, especially for women? Organizations like Women in Trucking are advocating for “flexible work arrangements, fair compensation, and inclusive corporate cultures,” and as Einride has found in a survey, remote driving, autonomy, and instituting sustainable logistics solutions like electric trucks made trucking more attractive for over half of U.S. respondents.

In fact, over 50% of Einride’s electric truck drivers are women, a figure that outpaces the rest of the industry in Sweden. To find out what a day in the life is like for a woman in trucking, we sat down (virtually) with Emina, the youngest driver at our carrier partner Erikssons Åkeri.

Did you ever think that you would become a truck driver?

No, I thought it would be crazy boring. I thought I would not be able to cope with the loneliness because I am very social and can not sit quietly. From the beginning, my friends told me not to drive a truck, but I thought, "well, I will." So I applied and I have not regretted it for a second. It's the best thing I've ever done actually.

You don’t get lonely?

Because I don’t drive long distances, it means I get to meet a lot of customers and it is a great deal of fun. In addition, you meet other truck drivers and you help each other.

What was the process like to become a truck driver in Sweden?

When you graduate from the ninth grade you choose vehicle/ transport which is a three-year education. You start by receiving a normal driver's license, then you get a truck licence, and finally a truck with a trailer. You spend one year in the workshop and learn how a car is built. Then they move over to the truck and everything that has to do with load securing. There is a huge difference in the construction of an electric and a diesel truck. With a diesel engine, there is so much more to it. But once you are on the road and driving, the sound is the only difference you actively think about.

How did your family and friends react?

My parents were hesitant, considering that neither mom nor dad had that career. Mom has been milking cows and dad worked on cars.

I was actually going to choose another field of study together with my friends but changed away from them on the last day. So I came to school without knowing anyone. I would have chosen trade and stand at the checkout, but my mom reminded me that I might not need an education to do so, so she asked me to consider other options. Transport was then my second choice. Of course, my friends wanted me to stay with them, but I felt that I could not be in a class for three years just to be with them. I also think I changed on the last day so I would not have the option to undo it. 

What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

The connection with people and actually being allowed to drive a truck, I think it's great fun. But the people around me are the best part. We are one big family of all ages, even though I am the youngest, and nationalities spanning from Swedes to Lithuanians. We like each other and hang out together. That is the most rewarding thing.

What’s the biggest difference between driving a diesel truck versus an electric truck?

With a diesel truck, you work under constant pressure and stress. Electric trucks are not stressful because I know what I need to do and what time I have on me. With diesel, it can be very unpredictable and I have a hard time with stress. Driving an electric truck is easier for me because I have a plan and can set it up myself. Now when you drive between Helsingborg and Landskrona you have a minimum of four loads and then I know that I can catch more loads if I want while I have the time to talk to colleagues. I do not normally have that same down time to socialize with my colleagues when I drive a diesel car. With an electric truck we have just one round, and with diesel we have other rounds and lots of stops to deliver to.

What would your advice be to other women who want to enter a male-dominated field?

My advice is not to listen to what people say. In the beginning, people always asked me why I drove a truck. But you can also flip it and use it to your advantage because it makes you want to disprove the whole thing. But of course you have to take the criticism, but in the right way and turn it into something completely different. Being a woman in this profession can be difficult but I also have many advantages compared to my male colleagues. People are very willing to help me and are nice to me. I love this job.

This interview has been translated from Swedish.


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