The trucking industry is tough — and for female truck drivers, it can be even tougher. Although the trucking industry as a whole has become more welcoming to female drivers in recent years, women still represent a small minority of truckers. According to 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 6.6% of the 3.55 million truck drivers in the U.S. are women.
Women truck drivers must be prepared to stand their ground and prove their worth in a historically male-dominated industry. While on the road, female drivers can take extra measures to stay safe and feel comfortable in their truck. These top 12 tips for female truck drivers can help women in trucking have a more positive experience and enjoy greater success in their career.
1. Be Confident
As a minority in the industry, women truck drivers may encounter discrimination or harassment at some point in their career. Be prepared to face the doubters who think you don’t have what it takes by showing them that you do. The best way to shut down the haters is to prove your abilities through hard work, dedication and confidence.
Most trucking companies shouldn’t care whether a man or woman is behind the wheel — they merely want someone who will get the job done well. If you hope to advance in your trucking career, confidence in your work ethic and abilities can help carry you to the top.
While out on the road, carrying yourself with confidence can also help keep you safe from harassment. Other truck drivers are more likely to treat you with respect when you look like you know what you’re doing. At truck stops, walking and talking with confidence may make you less likely to get attacked or bothered than someone who appears timid or scared.
2. Plan for Safe Parking
A common concern for women considering a career in trucking is that they will not feel safe while parked at truck stops overnight. However, by thinking a few steps ahead and trusting your instincts, you can stay safe and sleep soundly every night of a long haul. Here are a few tips for woman truck driver safety when parking at truck stops or rest stops.
- Plan your stops: Plan a route that allows you to park outside major cities overnight for a bit more privacy. Avoid any notoriously sketchy truck stops and dangerous neighborhoods.
- Use safety in numbers: Look for a truck stop or rest stop that has at least 10 other trucks, and park close to other vehicles. There is truly safety in numbers, and other drivers will be there to help if something goes wrong.
- Park in a well-lit spot: Only spend the night at truck stops that have adequate lighting, and try to park directly under the light whenever possible.
- Avoid the back row: The back row of truck stops has a reputation for being less safe, so park toward the front for more peace of mind.
- Lock your doors: Keep your truck doors locked at all times, especially while you are sleeping.
- Close your curtains: Close your privacy curtains before bed to prevent anyone from looking in.
- Bring your dog: Bringing your dog on the road with you can provide additional security. Dogs are highly alert to their surroundings and will wake you up if someone tries to break into your truck or if there is a commotion at the truck stop.
- Trust your intuition: If you get an uncomfortable feeling at a particular truck stop, trust your instincts and keep moving to the next one. There will always be another rest stop to check out down the road, or in a desperate situation, you can splurge on a hotel room for the night.
These days, most truck stops are safe places that are well-lit and have clean and secure shower facilities. Drivers generally look out for one another, and some truck stops even have 24/7 security and surveillance for extra protection. As you gain experience on your regular routes, you will learn the best spots to spend the night and the places you want to avoid. By planning smart and staying watchful, you will rarely encounter harassment or an unsafe environment.
3. Eat Well
While on the road, it’s vital to take good care of your health. When you exercise regularly and eat healthy meals, will feel better about yourself and about your job. Taking good care of your body can also improve your work performance — balanced nutrition will keep your mind sharp and help you focus better while driving.
Pack healthy meals to take on your next trip. When you eat from your cab instead of stopping for fast food, you’ll save money and feel better. Compared to greasy junk food that weighs you down and leaves you feeling groggy, light meals will give you the energy and focus you need to do your job well.
Fresh fruits and vegetables will help your digestion, so you can take more regular bathroom breaks while driving. An easy way to get more vegetables and fruits into your diet is to make a smoothie or shake to take with you when you head out for a trip. Other healthy meal choices for truckers include sandwiches or wraps with lean meats, salads with fiber-rich nuts or legumes and trail mix or nut butter for a tasty snack.
You can even cook hot meals in your cab using a small slow cooker or lunchbox cooker. Plug these practical appliances into a 12-volt outlet to cook a healthy dinner — like chicken pot roast or vegetable soup — while you drive.
4. Exercise Regularly
Staying active can be challenging in the trucking industry, but the benefits of getting regular exercise are undoubtedly worth it. Exercising daily helps keep your joints healthy and reduces the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle, such as weight gain, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. You will also sleep better and feel more rested the next day when you keep your body active.
At the very least, truck drivers should try to take a short, brisk walk every day to get their body moving and blood circulating. Another benefit of bringing your dog on a trip is that you’ll have to walk it at least once a day. If you do not like walking, try to find another activity you enjoy and plan time for it in your daily schedule. When you’ve already penciled exercise into your day, you will be more likely to stick to your plan.
5. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is another critical component of having good health on the road. While it can be tempting to drink fewer liquids to cut back on bathroom breaks, the health risks of dehydration greatly outweigh the benefits of shaving a few minutes off your route. Dehydration can lead to exhaustion, fatigue, poor concentration, impaired judgment and slow reaction times — which all make it challenging to do your job well and safely.
Aim to sip on water all day, especially when it is hot outside. Drink good-quality filtered water, and avoid filling your water bottle from the bathroom sink at a truck stop. You can also purchase a water bottle with a built-in filter for times when there may not be a filtered water option available.
Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks while driving, as these cause you to become dehydrated more quickly. When you consume a lot of stimulants, your body will eventually become dependent on caffeine to stay awake and feel alert. If you cannot imagine giving up your morning cup of Joe, make sure to drink an extra glass of water in the morning too.
6. Get Good Sleep
When you stay hydrated and reduce your caffeine consumption, you will also sleep better at night, which is essential for success in trucking. Getting too little sleep or poor-quality sleep is a common problem for long-haul truckers. According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, driver fatigue was an associated factor in about 13% of fatal and injury crashes involving large trucks. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also reports drowsy driving resulted in 795 deaths in 2017.
Truck drivers should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, and try to go to sleep and wake up at about the same time each day to reduce the risk of an accident. If you have trouble falling asleep because of stress, try reading, listening to music or other ways to relax before bedtime. Bring some homey comforts to make your cab more comfortable, like your pillow and blanket or pictures of your family.
7. Plan Bathroom Alternatives
When you are trekking across the country or driving through remote regions, you may not be able to get to a truck stop when you need one. For female truck drivers, finding a bathroom alternative can be a challenge. Prepare for when nature calls no matter where you are.
One option for lady truck drivers is to use a laundry detergent bottle as a portable toilet. The wide mouth of the bottle makes it reasonably easy to use, and the sealable lid makes it safe to carry in your cab until you can dump it. However, using a bottle as a toilet can take some getting used to, so test it out in a spot you can easily clean up until you get the swing of it.
Because laundry detergent bottles are opaque, you can pour it out discreetly when you get to a rest stop. Dump the bottle in the truck stop toilet and rinse it out with soap and water to use again. Keeping a little bit of soap in the bottom of the bottle also helps it smell a bit fresher the next time you use it.
For solid waste, a two-gallon bucket works well. Line the bucket with a trash bag and put some non-clumping kitty litter inside to reduce the smell if you cannot dump it right away. You can also invest in a portable toilet to make this even easier.
8. Bring Wet Wipes and Baby Powder
Wet wipes can serve a lot of purposes when you’re on the road. You can use them to wash plates and silverware, wipe down the interior of your truck, clean up spills and even clean yourself. Wet wipes are perfect for taking a makeshift bath in the cabin when you cannot find a truck stop or if you do not feel comfortable using the showers at a particular truck stop. You can also use wet wipes for extra cleanup after nature calls.
Another versatile item for women truck drivers to have in their cab is baby powder. Baby powder can help you stay dry during humid summer days or hot afternoons on the road. After cleaning up with wet wipes, apply baby powder in the areas that tend to get sticky when you sweat. The powder will absorb moisture and keep you feeling dry all day. If you do not want to smell like a baby, there are many other body powders available designed for adult use.
9. Pack Essential Tools and Accessories
Truck drivers can encounter many challenges on the road, from bad weather to engine problems. Women truck drivers should be prepared with all the tools and equipment they need to face any obstacle that comes their way. Here are some essential supplies for female drivers to keep in their trucks.
- Extra fuel filters, chains and fuses: If you need to change a filter or replace a fuse in a remote area, you will be grateful to have replacement parts in your cab. Even if you contact a professional to perform the maintenance, you will never need to order parts or pay extra for them while on the road.
- Extra oil: On long hauls, you may need to top off your oil during the trip. You’ll save time by bringing some along and topping it off yourself.
- Extra antifreeze: To keep your truck in top operating condition, it’s a good idea to check and top off your antifreeze during long trips.
- Paper towels and gloves: When performing any messy maintenance, you will want to have paper towels and plastic gloves available.
- Flashlight: A flashlight is useful for inspecting your truck and for walking around truck stops at night.
- Raincoat and boots: Check the weather conditions before you head out on a trip, but remember the weather can change unexpectedly and leave you drenched if you are not prepared.
- Extra water and food: If bad weather leaves you stranded, you will want to have extra food and water to last you a few days. Pack five gallons of water and plenty of dry foods you can store in your cab just in case.
- Extra clothing and blankets: If you get stuck in a cold climate, extra clothes and blankets will keep you warm at night.
- First-aid kit: Keep a first-aid kit in your cab with bandages and essential medications. Make sure to replace medicines that have expired and restock your kit after you use it.
- Pepper spray: Even if you never have to use it, it’s a good idea to keep pepper spray or another self-defense tool with you while traveling.
Trucking is always an adventure, and you never know what you might encounter on the road. It’s best to prepare for anything by packing the right tools and accessories in your truck.
10. Use Your Resources
Although women in trucking may face some challenges their male counterparts do not, they can also find support through many organizations and resources for female truck drivers. By using the resources available to them, lady truck drivers can discover a thriving and supportive community to empower them and give them the knowledge and tools they need to succeed.
The Women In Trucking Association (WIT) works to make it easier for women to enter the trucking industry and provides educational resources and tools for female truck drivers. WIT also promotes the achievements of women in trucking and helps build a community of female drivers. Through WIT’s online platform, Engage, members of WIT can communicate with women truck drivers across the country. Female drivers can ask questions, connect with mentors and learn from other women working in the trucking industry.
Women truck drivers can also build communities through Facebook pages and other online forums. If other female drivers work for your company, make an effort to connect with them and share your experiences. Finding a female mentor, whether online or in person, can help guide you in your trucking career. Women who have worked in trucking for a long time can give you insider tips for woman truck driver safety and success.
11. Choose a Supportive Company
Finding the right trucking company to work for can increase your chance of success and boost your job satisfaction. If you choose a company that does not have a good track record of supporting women drivers, you will likely encounter more challenges than the job is worth.
Luckily, many trucking companies have taken initiatives to attract more female drivers and support the needs of women truck drivers. As companies seek to hire more female truck drivers, it should also motivate them to make the trucking industry safer for women who wish to enter the industry by improving rest stop security and providing better training.
When choosing a trucking company to work with, look for one that has both women and men in leadership as well as a mix of female and male and drivers. Women truck drivers should feel comfortable asking any questions they have and voicing any concerns. A supportive company will answer their questions and take actions when necessary to improve their work conditions. A good company will also provide comprehensive training for job performance and safety.
Many trucking companies will offer female trainers for women drivers, so they feel more comfortable when sleeping in their cab overnight during training. Other companies may offer to put you in a hotel room during training if they have to assign you a male trainer. Look for a company that provides this courtesy and other accommodations to suit your needs.
12. Choose a Women-Friendly Factoring Service
For a female owner-operator or women-owned trucking business, factoring services can speed up your cash flow while freeing up time for you to focus on more important matters. A factoring service will manage all of your invoices and billing to ensure you get paid for your work promptly. You can move on to your next load while your factoring partner handles your collections and back-office paperwork.
Women owner-operators should look for a factoring company that supports female truck drivers. Some factoring companies, like FactorLoads, offer extra benefits for women-owned trucking businesses and female drivers. Just as many trucking companies are recognizing the importance of attracting women truck drivers, some factoring companies are also taking initiatives to better support women in the trucking industry.
Because FactorLoads is a women-owned and -operated business, we make it our priority to provide totally transparent and honest factoring for women in trucking. On top of our other discounts and benefits, we also offer additional incentives for referrals with women-owned companies.
FactorLoads makes it easy to choose the services you want with true spot factoring and no binding contracts to sign. We offer flat rates with no hidden fees, and also provide 24/7 support for our customers. Contact FactorLoads to learn more about factoring for women in trucking, and to take advantage of the resources and benefits of our freight factoring services.