The “Image” of Women in Trucking

resize compressed RWIT imageHere is some insight on why there is a sudden 2015 “image” of Women in Trucking campaign targeted at women truckers. Perhaps the “image” that needs improvement the most is industry executives, including the women who colluded to cover-up sexual harassment and discrimination in entry-level driver training carriers.

2014 was a year of milestones for the REAL Women in Trucking. We finally launched our membership organization and experienced a number of transitions, triumphs,and bittersweet moments. Each achievement, no matter how small has moved us a little closer to the organization we wish to become.

The big news on December 23, 2014 was that an appellate court overturned the $4 Million fee award granted to CRST Van Expedited in the Class Action Sex Harassment Case. Here is the link: “Universal Finding” that EEOC claims against CRST Trucking are without foundation fee award reversed“.

The history of the legal debacle that served injustice to so many aspiring women truckers is worthy of a suspense motion picture script.

Here is the synopsis> Poorly educated , disenfranchised women struggling to make a new life for themselves, driven by faith and determination enter truck driver training. They naively believe that if they work hard and show aptitude for the work, they can live a life of freedom from office shackles, the loneliness of empty nest syndrome or escape from toxic relationships. Alas, something sinister is underfoot, a corporate system set up for failure, a training system chock full of paper pushers that are motivated to push drivers rather than offer a supply chain of support. The system does not work, trainers and co-drivers are empowered by the weak misconduct reporting system and the female trucking student population is viewed as “fresh meat” , an opportunity for predators and control freaks. A potential victim to be isolated for selfish pleasures. Not all of the victims are women, the men rarely report the abuse and the few courageous women that make it through the trucking obstacle course to reach out for help find they are shouted down into silence by seasoned female drivers. Intimidated into silence by female executives and organizations that aim to protect a few sponsor dollars from the most offensive carriers over human beings. The road to becoming a qualified lady trucker becomes an abyss for those who dare to “STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT ON INJUSTICE“.

This is the route we have traveled to get to the 2015 “Image” campaign.

Here is an overview of some of the highs and lows in this journey.

In 2008 and into 2009, when the CRST Sex Harassment case first broke news it was primarily ignored by trucking media. This helped to keep the truck driver population uniformed. When the first dismissal occurred, CRST Van Expedited sent out a fleet wide message through it’s Qualcomm messaging system to drivers to say that they had won the case and had won a fee award from the EEOC to pay them for their legal fees. The way the message was worded according to CRST drivers who were working there at the time was that in essence, the message spoke to them to express “… don’t even think about ever accusing us again , the reach of our arms go further than you think …“. This is a carrier that has a number of complaints against them for their lease program and training practices in addition the the class action allegations of sexual misconduct in the entry level driver training program.

Ellen Voie , President of the Women in Trucking organization remarked in a workplace bullying documentary that the women truckers of the CRST Van Expedited class action sex harassment case “...just wanted to be part of a lawsuit...”. She even tweeted about the dismissal as if it was victory rather than an injustice. I won’t even go into how far the allegiance to CRST goes with the WIT organization, it is already well documented on the internet. I will say that in a recent presentation that Ellen gave (Fall 2014) she alludes to the “image” of drivers. In the presentation, she cites the Karen Shank case which was the $1.5 Million judgement that was won against CRST Van Expedited. She does not mention that they have been one of her corporate sponsor/members during the entire time the litigation , appeals , dismissals and ongoing misconduct reports have been occurring over the years. She also cannot answer a participant in the conference that asks essentially: How many women are entering trucking and not making it 1 year?

The answer to that question according to a truck driver trainer is only 1 in 6 women who enter trucking make it 1 year. The reason? Women are poorly prepared for the industry, they are misled with unrealistic expectations of the work entailed, many believe that trucking is a opportunity to hook-up with guys rather than work, women are naive about co-driving training phases and are not instructed how to properly report sexual misconduct, violence and unsafe practices during the critical first year in trucking. Men tend to stick together, Women are less likely to stick up for one another in trucking. There are also filters, barriers and ignorance on making contact with the human resource departments in entry-level driver training carriers to avoid fleet operations reporting which is often responsible for mishandling critical incidents.

The problems are complex:

In August 2014, a federal judge ruled that the same sex training policy at New Prime, Inc. violates federal law. Here is the link> “Judge Rules New Prime, Inc. Training Policy Violates Federal Law” This is a case that Ellen Voie cites in her industry presentation but she fails to mention she had the opportunity to give expert testimony on behalf of the female trucking student plaintiff and instead opted to provide her “expert” opinion for $150.00 per hour on behalf on New Prime, Inc., the carrier defendant. You can read her testimony here: “Ellen Voie Testimony in New Prime, Inc. Discrimination Against Female Trucking Student” . A order to exclude her “expert” opinion was granted 11/24/2014.

The problems for women entering trucking and being retained in the industry is not gender specific. Ellen knows this and has become quite well-versed in reciting the problems in entry-level driver training carriers though she has proven to be unable to resist taking money from the handful of most offensive and notorious training carriers.

Testifying against women entering trucking? Not a nice image from the President of Women in Trucking in my opinion.

In mid December 2014, I was asked to produce a Webinar on sexual harassment best practices targeted to the unique challenges in entry-level driver training. Oddly, I had begun writing about this in 2008 and as most know, Ellen Voie was provided a number of my insights , the issues that should be addressed and solutions from not only myself, but Donna Smith and Tracy Livingston (formerly of CRST, a plaintiff in the original CRST sex harassment case and an expert witness in the Monika Starke case which was silently and weakly settled by the carrier in hopes of making all of this go away).  This was prior to the publication of the WIT Anti-Harassment document that is available for FREE to top level paying corporate sponsor/members.

A week before my Webinar presentation was to be delivered, it was abruptly cancelled. I have a pretty good idea why. I have since published it anyway fully realizing that my work often turns up in WIT repackaged achievements. Stolen content from a number of recognizable trucking writers and bloggers that is either not cited at all or cited from inaccurate second hand sources. In any case, here is the presentation I created that was cancelled just 14 days before the Webinar was scheduled in December 2014 and less than two weeks after the company who solicited me to produce it said that the bullet points of the content were “Perfect” : “Sexual Misconduct Training for Entry-level Driver Training

My motivation has always been to expose injustice not to capitalize on the injustice of others. This is why I made the presentation available for free. Here is the thing though, without implementation and accountability there is really no achievement, just words. So I am baffled that WIT seems to paint a picture that they are a salvation for women entering trucking. My understanding from a current student (December 2014) at a team driving training carrier where she has already experienced sexual misconduct with her first trainer, something changed abruptly in the last few weeks of 2014. Perhaps it was the EEOC press release that the CRST fee award was overturned and that the EEOC has not given up on serving justice on the trucking industry sector that trains students?

So now what “Image” is emerging?

Do Women Truckers need a better image? or does the industry and organizations need women truckers to improve THEIR image?

In the previously mentioned “presentation” on industry challenges for Women the “image” topic surfaces featuring a cartoon of a fat male trucker over a photo of a polished “Lisa Kelly” from the Ice Road Truckers reality television show, she is dressed in her fur parka.

WIT Challenge It’s typical of someone who doesn’t drive a truck to want to sell a sexy image of women truckers as yet another vehicle to advance themselves but remember that an obstacle to the retention of women in trucking is unreal expectations, a lack of aptitude for driving and for the lifestyle which makes it impractical to want to ruin your fur parka with the smell diesel and grease after a day of work.

This presentation was not meant for women truckers to view and give their opinions. It is expensive and not offered in an area that women truckers would normally have access. There are images of Ellen and former FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro at a baseball game though Ellen has never been vocal about any substantial trucking issues that affect drivers. The presentation was meant to paint an image of WIT that is untrue in my opinion.

In a slide meant to promote accomplishments and honor female trucking pioneers , our own Sandi Talbott, the Vice-President of REAL Women in Trucking is pictured. The audio portion of the presentation states that the seven women were honored THIS year (2014) for their 4 million miles each.

This is not accurate. The photo was taken in 2012 before Sandi Talbott understood how the WIT organization was taking advantage of the imagery of women truckers without serving them properly. Sandi did not consent for her picture to be used for WIT material.

So here we are in the early days of 2015 and WIT has announced an “Image” campaign for Women Truckers. I have no doubt there will be many who apply for some long overdue recognition , I just hope they realize whose “image” and which “image” they are campaigning to improve.

Sexual Misconduct Training for Entry Level Driver Training

Best Practices: Sexual Misconduct Training for Entry Level Driver Training

The "Queen of the Road" Conference

IMG_20140913_161743802In September we had our first face to face Board of Directors meeting in South Florida.

Though the event was intended only for our 5 board members to discuss 2015 objectives, a day of learning was scheduled that was open to other lady truckers who might like to attend.

We did not IMG_20140912_170413824_HDRpromote this event widely because it was our first time doing it.
This inaugural event was a way we could test the waters to gauge response and needs. We all learned something new and I learned that there is so much more we can do to help one another in the future.

IMG_20140912_170501967_HDRBuilding communication skills is imperative to gain the type of recognition seasoned women truckers desire and deserve.

Since I entered the trucking industry I have been perplexed about the public misconceptions IMG_20140912_133828428about the kind of truckers I come have come to know and admire. This is especially true of the under recognized women of trucking.

The public fear of truck drivers seems to have been born from media and organizations that have the power to limit what imagery of professional drivers the public is allowed to see.

Movie PosterFew working drivers have the time to refute negative and offensive stereotypes such as this image to the left. A sexy women trucker? Yes, there are many, but the image, tagline and the movie this poster promoted is the often re-told story of a women trucker who operates a cat house on wheels.

This is what sells in mainstream media and too often our own industry helps encourage this belief. It is also true that there are women who enter trucking for the wrong reasons believing this stereotype and that trucking will accommodate them even if they are not qualified to perform the job function. This is not the image we wish to promote.

Seasoned drivers who are out on the road pulling freight, often for decades have not had any opportunity to learn basic computer skills that could help them with their business as well as improve communication to the world outside of the trucking bubble. These are the faces of the unseen , and unappreciated. They carry with them the real stories of the deterioration of an industry , the driver shortage myth and the work conditions that require a higher standard of students than the ones graduating from the CDL mills of today.

In order to capture the true experiences of the seasoned female driver population our organization has begun to introduce learning sessions that are free of charge. The first one was held at the Bienes Museum of the Modern Book ceremonial room in Ft. Lauderdale. We thank them for their gracious hospitality.??????????????????????????

Split into four sessions, we covered Microsoft Word ®, Microsoft Excel ®, Facebook and Twitter.

IMG_20140912_121221194_HDRThe first obstacle was finding out that not everyone had Microsoft Office properly loaded on their computers. Often we make assumptions that everyone that has a computer or a tablet knows how to utilize the features it offers. Our learning sessions uncovered very quickly that some of us did not know that we had some very powerful tools at our fingertips that we really never knew were there.

Computers that we use primarily to visit on Facebook and play games have the power to communicate our words and pictures to the public and send a representation of professional drivers that has rarely been given exposure.

One of the exercises in our morning learning session was to use the computer application Microsoft Word® to practice writing letters and creating documents. After practicing some of the basic skills to create and save documents a short essay exercise was assigned that asked participants to do the following:

“Write a few paragraphs explaining to a non-trucker what it was like the first time you drove solo. Do not worry about misspelled words or grammar. Just think about your memory of that first solo run and how you felt and write it now. Start your story with: I remember the first time I drove a big rig solo …

It was an awe-inspiring moment for me to see eyes light up in the class when these seasoned female drivers were given a few basic skills that could help them express how they feel about something they love and cherish.

I have uploaded the PDF links for our Microsoft Basic Word ® for REAL Women Truckers and Microsoft Excel ® for REAL Women Truckers learning sessions to our blog to be used as a self-help tool for those who wish to use them.

As we move toward 2015, our goal is to develop more virtual learning classes and schedule another face to face learning event with a variety of other topics so that we can develop as an organization and bond with one another. We hope to attract more like-kind women truckers that have a desire to improve themselves and the imagery the public perceives as the person behind the wheel of the big rigs.

As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments as we move into the next chapter of our grassroots driver movement.

Our mission is to empower the women of trucking and those entering the industry through outreach programs, continuing education, advocacy, mentoring, networking, and ongoing support to promote retention, encouragement, and unity between both new and seasoned female drivers.