Recruiting female heavy-duty truck drivers could help reduce the record number of truckers dying in crashes because women outperform male drivers in every significant safety behavior, according to a report by the American Transportation Research Institute.
An ATRI analysis of a dozen behaviors, including prior collisions, traffic law violations and convictions, found that male truck drivers are 20 percent more likely to get into a crash than their female counterparts.
“We always knew that women were safer drivers,” said Ellen Voie, chief executive and founder of the nonprofit Women in Trucking Association. “We just didn’t have proof.”
Reckless driving and failure to yield the right of way were the top indicators of a driver’s likelihood of getting into a crash, according to ATRI’s Crash Predictor. The model was built from examining 435,000 individual driver records over two years.
Drivers involved in previous collisions are 74 percent more likely to be involved in another, the study found.
“We always knew that women were safer drivers. We just didn’t have proof.”
Ellen Voie, right, chief executive and founder of Women in Trucking Association
In ATRI’s comparisons of female vs. male drivers, male truckers were more reckless, more likely to be convicted of running a traffic signal and less likely to wear seat belts. The organization is the research arm of the American Trucking Associations.
Not buckling up is a big contributor to fatal crashes. At least 38 percent of truck drivers killed in 2017 were unbelted, according to Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Only a small group of drivers is responsible for crashes. ATRI said that 93 percent of all truck drivers, both men and women, had no crashes in the two-year period.
Biology and Psychology
A female trucker’s reticence to exhibit risky behavior is partly biological, according to Voie.
“Women are more risk-averse. It’s because of our maternal roots,” she said. “We activate the fear factor faster than men.”
Crashes involving women typically occur at slower speeds and result in less damage to the truck, she said.
Psychology also plays a role, said Laura McMillan, vice president of Training Program Development at Instructional Technologies Inc.
Women are more willing to admit what they don’t know, ask for help, and listen and learn, especially from others who are competent and display safe behaviors, McMillan said.
“Women seem to connect the dots that they are driving large equipment in high-speed environments and modify their behavior,” said McMIllan, who has trained women seeking commercial driver’s licenses.
Motivated by Safety
Female truckers will quit over poorly maintained equipment or the lack of a safety culture. They care about things such as whether a dispatcher considers the safety of locations to which they are sent and factors like bad weather conditions, according to Stay Metrics, which counsels carriers and shippers on driver retention.
Collecting data about how female drivers perceive safety is new for the industry, said Voie, who managed recruitment and retention programs for Schneider National, a large carrier and logistics supplier.
“Twelve years ago, when I started Women in Trucking, nobody had any data on gender, not even the insurance companies,” she said. “Carriers are finally recognizing the value women bring and are actually focusing on recruiting women drivers where in the past they tried to be gender-, age- and race-neutral.”
After years of recruiting with little attention to gender, age or race, carriers are recognizing the value women bring to the profession, Voie said.
By the Numbers
Women accounted for 7.89 percent of truck drivers in 2017, up from 7.13 percent in 2016, according to the National Transportation Institute, a research organization that collects data regarding driver wages, benefits and retirement plans from hundreds of trucking firms.
“Fleets tell us that women operate safer,” Leah Shaver, the institute’s chief operating officer, told Trucks.com. “They communicate better. They stay longer.”