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Home » Women in Skilled Trades » In a Competitive Job Market, Women Choose a Road Less Traveled: Trucking

The trucking industry remains the backbone of the economy in the modern world, but a chronic shortage of drivers means it’s also something unexpected: an ideal career choice for women. While only about 8 percent of all drivers are female, there are many reasons more women should be exploring trucking as a career.

“If you are open to seeing the U.S. while working, if you are looking to be your own boss, if you are more of an independent woman, this is a perfect career,” says Anne Beyette, a former driver and current Atlanta terminal leader at Swift Transportation, the largest full truckload carrier in North America. A terminal leader is one of the highest operations positions with the company and is also considered a vice president.

Supporting female drivers

Beyette, an Air Force veteran, found her way to truck driving in part because of the challenge. “Truck driving was a job not typical for women to do,” she says. “I hate to be told I can’t do something, so I went off to get my commercial driver’s license (CDL).”

For Beyette, having a female mentor was crucial. “I had decided on another company,” she says, “but it ended up being 7-8 weeks before a female mentor was available.” When Swift Transportation offered to pair her with a female mentor in just a few weeks, she took the job — which quickly turned into a career.

Mutual support

Companies like Swift know that attracting female drivers is essential. Swift offers training and hundreds of dedicated routes that allow for more home time. It also operates a network of more than 40 terminals nationwide where drivers can park safely, shower, and even do laundry at no cost — and they pay competitively; new drivers can make up to $60,000 in their first year. Swift’s efforts have paid off; over 10 percent of its drivers are women, beating the industry average.

One of those drivers, Lisa Benally, caught the driving bug from a boyfriend and was eventually inspired to earn her CDL. When she began her job hunt, Swift’s appeal was obvious. “They were willing to train me with a female mentor and give me the opportunity to start my career,” she says. “It was the best decision I ever made.”

Another of Swift’s drivers, Marjorie Nichols, believes this support is crucial to attracting women to the industry. “The main part of why women don’t get in the industry is because of their families,” she says. “Most of them are at home raising their kids. But with this specific company, they’re adapting to that. When I was raising my kids, I was on a dedicated fleet. I was home at the times that I needed to be.”

Swift’s focus on pairing women with female mentors when requested is a big positive for many. “My mentor, Sheila, was amazing,” says Benally. “I was comfortable, I was learning, the communication was there. I want to be like Sheila, passing on my knowledge to new drivers.”

“I feel well supported by Swift,” Nichols adds. “I trust my leadership team. I wouldn’t be where I am as a Diamond Driver today without them.”

Benally, Nichols, and Beyette have no regrets concerning their choice of career or employer. “I’m excited about the future with Swift,” Nichols says. For Benally, the work is its own reward. “I love driving a truck,” she says. “I don’t see myself doing anything else.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Beyette. “I haven’t regretted a day of my time here,” she says. “It’s a career that I enjoy, love, and hope to make a difference with.”

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