The transport and logistics driving industry can be perceived as male dominated. However, as with many occupations, a shift is taking place and professional driving is becoming much more accessible to female drivers. It is in fact an interesting career for women, pays decently, and depending on the type of HGV driver you decide to become, it can also mean you get to travel to and experience different parts of the country, or even other countries too.
The United Nations (UN) and World Economic Forum cautioned us that the Coronavirus pandemic may lead to increased inequalities for women in the UK, as female workers were more at risk of losing their jobs than their male colleagues. This, in conjunction with the changes in the industry, make careers as an HGV driver more attractive to women than ever, with plenty of opportunities for them to succeed within this sector. From an attractive salary to better work-life balance, women entering the industry can not only have such benefits, but they can also bridge the gender inequality gap.
In this article, we’ll discuss how the industry has changed for female drivers, the benefits of a career within this sector for women, as well as tips to keep in mind.
Whilst the haulage industry has historically been dominated by men, women have been behind the wheel of trucks for a long time. In the 1960s, Rita Jane became the first female long-distance lorry driver in the UK. Therefore, female HGV drivers are not new to the profession, but their presence in the industry has always been significantly lower than men.
“Looking back, it’s funny, but I’d no qualms about entering a male dominated industry.”
In the US, the number of female long-haul HGV drivers has reportedly risen as high as 7% in recent years. Numbers in the UK are somewhat behind this figure, as in 2021 just 2% of truck drivers were female. Having said that, industry improvements, recruitment efforts and changes in technology, have made a career in the haulage industry much more appealing.
One change in particular has made truck driving more attractive to women and that is that long-haul driving has become safer than it used to be. For instance, to prevent breakdowns, many fleet managers now put in place preventative maintenance schedules for vehicles to undergo regular checks. Or in the case that a breakdown cannot be avoided, HGV drivers can simply call the depot and a specialist team will come out to help. This has been enhanced even further with tracking apps which alert fleet managers if vehicles are being overworked as well as ensure preventative maintenance programs are being followed.
Truck stops have also become safer places for female HGV drivers. Plus, apps such as Truck Parking Europe (free on both Apple and Android) offer access to over 34,000 truck stops across Europe, and these can be checked based on reports made by other drivers who have been there. Not only that, but cabs are more comfortable and more secure too.
As well as the haulage industry being safer than before, truck driving offers women the chance to earn a good living regardless of gender. With the gender pay gap in the UK currently sitting at 15.4%, salary in many industries is still influenced heavily by gender. However, the criterion for pay is clear cut, as depending on who you work for, HGV drivers can be paid by the hour, per mile or for the job, whilst others can be salaried employees instead. Therefore, this leaves little room for a gender-based pay gap.
The haulage industry pays one of the highest salaries and offers the greatest benefits for roles that do not require a college qualification or university degree. This can open more opportunities for some women who are keen to get involved in the industry as HGV drivers. Whilst at first some can feel reluctant, the benefits of a career as a driver have in fact been enhanced massively, with opportunities to travel abroad, and advance on the career ladder. In an interview with the BBC, former hairdresser now HGV driver, Leonie John, stated:
“You get to go out and see the world. And it’s nice knowing you’ve delivered something that’s going to appear in the shops for people to buy.”
In the early days of truck driving, it was tricky to recruit women for positions within the industry for several reasons. For instance, men were stereotypically known to be better drivers than women. But in fact, as of June 2021, the HGV pass rate for men is 56.9%, whereas for women it’s 64.8% – a 7.9% difference. Other difficulties when it came to recruiting female truck drivers included:
However, with new policies and stringent measures in place, the transport industry offers desirable positions to women of all levels across the UK.
Hilary Devey and Nikki King occupy the most senior leader roles in their company within the fleet and logistics industry. This demonstrates that female HGV drivers should always strive to advance within the sector, as progression within each role is very much achievable.
In 2019, Scottish fashion student, Jodie Lawson, became the UK’s youngest ever female truck driver. She is breaking the industry norm and is at present on a mission to utilise her platform and encourage other women to be inspired and thrive within the transport sector. In an interview with the Mirror, Lawson said:
“My advice would be to just go for it. Don’t be scared because when you’re up there in that lorry it’s an amazing feeling.”
Women are driving change by helping industry superiors to think differently when it comes to protecting females in their workforce. For instance, in the UK, Women in Logistics (WiL) has been a major factor in increasing the opportunities for women in the industry. Established in 2008, and with almost 4,000 members, its stance is to address gender imbalance and promote broader diversity, nurture female talent, and provide networking and professional development events.
There aren’t many careers that allow you to see a country the way that being an HGV driver does. Being behind the wheel allows you to travel and see sights in a way that very few people get the chance to. For instance, many HGV drivers will drive coast-to-coast, and experience the nation in all its seasons and climates. Each day will always look a little different when you’re a commercial driver, making this an exciting and dynamic career opportunity for women.
Over half (62%) of working women in the UK want better work life balance in their careers. Fortunately, in the logistics industry, working as a commercial driver can not only be a fulfilling and enjoyable career, but a range of options exist for setting up a functioning work life balance too. For instance, if your availability changes and you require flexibility, being an agency truck driver could provide the most work life balance for women. Temporary roles can be chosen that work around availability and there is also the option to switch these quite simply by moving between positions as requirements change.
Corbitt is a prime example of a female HGV driver who makes both their career and personal life work harmoniously:
“Everyone talks about this work life balance thing – agency work gives me a good one. And I love getting paid weekly!”
Every company is different and whilst many employ female HGV drivers, some do a better job than others of supporting, growing, and promoting women in their workforce. Ensure you find one that shows they care about, and actively supports, both safe trucking and women in the haulage industry.
Before accepting a role, get to know the firm’s culture first. Do their values and priorities support your own? To thrive in a male-dominated sector, it’s crucial that your fleet manager offers you a sense of belonging and plays an active role in your development.
You need to get to know your truck inside out, and this will mean that when you do your pre-trip inspection, you’ll immediately know when something isn’t right with your cab.
Always be aware of your surroundings, make smart decisions about safety and don’t be afraid to speak up when you don’t feel safe. Communication is key when you’re unsure of how to do something!
When you’re new to the transport industry, it’s essential that you work on your confidence and to feel self-secured. You can do this by doing research into what to expect on the road as well as speak to other HGV drivers to get real life insights. This is how you can build your confidence in your job. But don’t forget that the main factor will be the experience you’ll get whilst driving.
Meeting and connecting with other HGV drivers, regardless of gender, is vital whether you’re new to the industry or have years of experience. Networking with other commercial drivers may also lead to being informed about new opportunities too.
Driver Hire Training can help you kickstart your career as an HGV driver. Once you’re qualified, we can provide all ongoing training you require, for instance the Driver CPC. As well as this, our sister company, Driver Hire Nationwide, is one of the UK’s largest specialist recruiters – so we can support you in finding the perfect job too!
Despite the chatter that the haulage industry is a male domain, it’s actually never been a greater time for women to enter the sector. The industry has opened up more than ever before, and many firms are actively taking steps to make a career as an HGV driver more appealing to women. A skilled and reliable commercial driver can command a good salary, better work life balance, and job security – things individuals desire no matter their gender. If you’re a woman and have a passion for driving, don’t waste any time and get out onto the road!
If you’d like to talk to us about how we can kickstart your career as an HGV driver, call us on 0808 178 9977 or chat to one of our agents right now.