Her mission: Persuading women to choose a job in truck industry
Ellen Voie has a clearly defined mission. She travels all over the USA with the aim of improving the conditions for female truck drivers and persuading more women to choose a job in the truck industry.
On the Volvo Trucks stand at the Elmia Truck fair in Jönköping, men of all shapes and sizes are getting into the black Volvo FH16 truck, the Volvo FMX and the Volvo FE with the lowest entrance on the market to check their comfort and design. However, when a 54-year-old American woman, clearly burning with enthusiasm, wants to do the same, they move to the side to let her in.
“We are the shining light in what is otherwise a conservative, male-dominated culture in the USA,” says Ellen Voie, the president and founder of the organisation known as Women in Trucking.
In the USA, just over five per cent of all truck drivers are women. This may not seem like many, but, in Europe, even fewer women drive trucks. On average, fewer than one per cent of drivers are women.
At the same time, there is a huge shortage of truck drivers.
Ellen Voie and the Women in Trucking organisation have been really successful in their efforts to inform haulage companies, truck stops, schools, the authorities, politicians and truck manufacturers about working as a truck driver and the things that might attract women to choose a life behind the wheel. Perhaps most importantly, they explain how the haulage companies and society can benefit.
“I can’t actually prove that women are better drivers than men, but I know that women have less damage on their trucks and are involved in fewer serious accidents. There are statistics to prove it,” says Ellen Voie.
At the same time, the lack of safety is something that keeps women in the USA from training as truck drivers. This applies, however, to truck stops that are often neither guarded nor lit and terminals without separate WCs for women.
“Driving in a team with a man who tells sexist jokes or makes unpleasant remarks because he is unable to deal with the situation can also cause problems,” adds Ellen Voie.
Harassment is something female truck drivers all over the world have to learn to handle. Ellen Voie says that men sometimes send anonymous e-mail messages to Women in Trucking, such as “Women shouldn’t play in areas that we men need to make a living!”.
The road to equality in the trucking industry is still long. For this reason, Volvo Trucks is also working to attract more women to become truck drivers. This included sponsoring Ellen Voie’s trip to Sweden and the truck fair in Jönköping.
Susanne Frödin, head of market communication and PR at Volvo Trucks in the Nordic countries, maintains that, the more equal workplaces we have, the better it will be for men and women alike.
“With the current driver shortage, it’s insane to stop 50 per cent of the population working as truck drivers,” says Susanne Frödin.