Big Rigs: Time to make room for the lady drivers

I’m sure you’ve heard some older dude, or dudette, one time or another, take a deep breath, sigh, and say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Yep. I’ve heard it countless times too. What’s worse? I’m saying it myself.

But I can hold my head high when I mutter that cliché in reference to the Driving-Big-Rig profession. Things are changing, but they are not staying the same. Some big time changes are coming down the turnpike.

Right off the top, I gotta talk about the ladies. No. Not checking out the babes as we’re driving down the street. That’s not something that’s ever going to change. What I am referring to is the growing number of ladies who are now behind the wheel of a rig, and often times, they are not that comfortable driving.

Stopping on the side of the highway is not what I’m referring to, as “that” is a problem that will never go away. I am hearing more and more, from the lady drivers, (to me, all women drivers are ladies), who are having a hard time just operating the new rigs.

There are close to a quarter of a million women truck drivers in North America today, and that’s a conservative number. It is growing as you are reading this column.

Research over the last decade has found that the average female driver is 22.7 kg (50 lbs.) lighter than us guy-drivers, and a full six inches shorter. Those two facts and figures present significant problems, and can create issues when the ladies try to drive a rig that was designed and built for a male driver.

Today, ladies have a difficult time getting into the rig due to where the steps are placed, and where the handrails are located. These two simple items make it more likely lady drivers will slip and fall just getting in or out of their rig.

Some commercial truck designers are now trying to incorporate simple changes that will help the industry cater to the lady driver. They are talking about building rigs with adjustable foot pedal height, changing the height of seat belts, allowing greater visibility of dash gauges, and re-thinking transmission shift lever placement.

Before you macho guys start moaning and groaning about how women should stay home, and forget about getting behind the wheel of a big rig, etc., etc., I suggest you look around you first. There are a lot of short male drivers already in the industry, struggling, day to day, just to do their job.

These design changes will make it much easier for them to do their jobs, too. It’s a win/win proposition, as long as there is no sign put on the side the unit that states: “This Rig is Female Friendly.” That could pose a double-edged problem. You have to agree, it did make you smile though, at just the thought of such a sign. Heck. I smiled too, just writing it.

I know my wife would not be too happy if my rig had such a sign, but changes are needed to attract lady drivers. The rig designers will have to be more subtle, I guess.

These design change proposals all comes due to the decade-long driver shortage. Too many divers are giving up and walking away. They complain of too much BS, poor pay, long hours, and no respect. Others, especially owner/operators, are losing their rigs because they can’t make the payments. Many lost their rig because they believed the cliché of “chrome gets ya home” and couldn’t earn enough to support the wife, house, two beemers, and the shiny rig, all because they accepted low-paying runs that barely covered the diesel to make the trip. They were drivers, not businessmen. To succeed, you need to reverse that thought process.

Yep. Changes are happening. Time to wake up and move over guys. The ladies are knocking on the door, and they don’t want to party. They want to drive.

As for me, I’ll be there to hold the door open for those ladies. Better late than never. They are the solution.

I could fill a news­paper with sto­ries about life on the road, but why not share yours with read­ers? Send them to Driving edi­tor An­drew McCredie at [email protected]

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