FMCSA advances plan to study assaults against female and minority drivers

Federal regulators will be seeking approval from the Office of Management and Budget for a request to study and assess the prevalence of harassment and assaults against female and minority truck drivers.

The Federal Motor Carrier Administration (FMCSA) received three public comments – all from women – when it announced its intention last year to conduct the study.

“Every woman should feel safe, regardless of her career choice, and currently, this isn’t always the case,” asserted Women in Trucking Association President Ellen Voie in comments filed last year. Voie noted that respondents to a study conducted by her association indicated a safety level of 4.4 on a scale of one to 10 (10 as the highest safety level).

“This is unacceptable, and our industry must work harder to ensure these drivers are safe on the road, at a warehouse, truckstop or in between.”

Desiree Wood, President of REAL Women in Trucking, urged the trucking industry to “become proactive and fix this issue by breaking from the herd of enablers,” she stated in her comments. “You do not need a government study to act on something as serious as this issue. Show some leadership and initiative.”

Bunny Sterling, a driver from East Calais, Vermont, tried to convey what it is like “to go to a shipper or receiver and be a female truck driver and have [a] male employee ask you what you will do to get your freight off” the truck. “If you overreact or react at all you’ll be turned away and not get loaded that day.”

The FMCSA said in its proposal request that it is looking into harassment and assault against women and minorities for two reasons. “First, there seems to be a perception among these subpopulations of truckers that they are more vulnerable than others. Second, there is a critical shortage of truckers, and helping these subpopulations of truckers protect themselves from crimes could draw more truckers from these subpopulations, while stemming turnover, to alleviate the shortage.”

The agency has contracted with research firm Battelle to create the women and minority survey that it plans to submit to the Office of Management and Budget. The survey will be “limited in scale and scope” and will not be used for rulemaking, according to FMCSA. However, it may consider developing training or outreach materials to help truckers protect themselves from crime or harassment if a “significant problem” is identified in the survey.

“Such training or outreach materials could help foster motor carriers’ employee retention efforts and help make the truck driving profession more attractive to a greater range of people,” FMCSA stated.

It foresees collecting information from a maximum of 440 males and 440 females, using a combination of an online survey and in-person interviews. A $25 incentive will be given to eligible respondents.

“For respondents to be eligible and to receive the incentive, they must report that they are a female or a minority male who has driven a truck professionally in the past two years and complete the survey – at least through the initial questions of what events, if any, they have experienced,” according to FMCSA.

The agency was named in companion bills introduced in Congress last year directing the FMCSA administrator to create a Women of Trucking Advisory Board. The board would be tasked with identifying ways trucking companies, trucking associations and other groups can support women pursuing trucking careers, as well as finding opportunities to enhance training, education and outreach programs exclusive to women.