Feature Articles - Weekly Feature

Sexual harassment and discrimination against women are rearing their ugly heads once again in the trucking industry. Lawsuits are being filed against major carriers, and there is talk both in-print and on-line. You would think that, with it being the 21st century, these would now be non-issues, but they are not. Perhaps it is time for a little sensitivity training for both genders.

A male driver I knew decided to become a trainer years ago for a large carrier. They expected mixed gender trainer/trainee teams to work together, so they provided so-called "sensitivity training" for their male trainers. The driver told me that the sensitivity training was quite simple; the male trainers were told by the HR person, "I do not care if they look like Marilyn Monroe and are built like Dolly Parton, do not EVEN THINK anything beyond that they are another driver!" That was it, class over! The HR person was right in a way, though too simplistic in his instructions.

Overcoming that biological attraction to someone who is aesthetically appealing is difficult if you do not at least acknowledge that it exists and have the willpower that prevents you from acting impulsively. If you are a trainer, you also have power and control over your trainee's career. This too is difficult to control if you are of the mindset to use power and control to coerce someone to do something they do not want to do. Put the two together and you have a breeding ground for sexual harassment claims and suits.
Most women who enter the trucking industry do so to provide themselves with a good living to support themselves and their families; for the most part, this is the same reason men enter the industry. Neither gender should have to submit to any sort of sexual advances or sexual intimidation from anyone to get into the industry or to stay there. On the other hand, those who enter the industry should gain some understanding of the lifestyle and living arrangements necessary during the training process and also some understanding of how both genders talk to each other before entering the profession.

Truckers are notorious for calling people by non specific names such as: buddy, pal, driver, baby, honey, etc. This is true of both genders, male and female drivers alike. To most of us, it means nothing and is just a little more personal than sir or ma'am. However, to some people of both genders, being called ‘honey' or ‘sweetie' makes them feel like they are being looked down upon, and this is far too personal for others.
Some truckers love to tell off color jokes. They mean no harm by them, but comedians like Gene Tracy are trucker comedians and, yes, sometimes, the jokes get a little out of order. Same goes for cussing. Truckers live by themselves for the most part and some get in the habit of talking to themselves using cuss words. Then when they get around other people, they forget to watch their language, because they are so used to no one being around to listen. Again, most do not mean any harm by it.

So what is a person to do to get along with the opposite gender? It all boils down to respect, understanding, control, and taking responsibility for your own actions, capabilities, and failures.

  1. Trainers, remember that other person who is in the truck with you in a trainee capacity is there to make a living, just like you are. They are not there to be your personal slave, bunk-warmer, or whipping child. Treat them with the same respect you would like to be treated with; they are there to learn, not be abused. It is better for them to look up to you for being courteous and respectful than to look down on you and file charges against you.
  2. If you are a trainee, make sure that the company you choose allows you to change trainers if the mix is not right or if there is abuse. Find out who to contact within the company if those situations arise. Also, alert the company if you cannot tolerate, for health reasons, to be around a smoker or someone with pets BEFORE you go with a trainer who smokes or has pets. Set your boundaries up front before getting on the truck with a trainer. Finally, accept that not everyone can drive a truck successfully once they get out of school. If you cannot hack it or your trainer does not pass you on to go solo, do not make up stories about the trainer because you cannot accept not being able to do the job.
  3. For the males, look at women truckers as female family members. Would you like your daughter to be treated in a sexual manner or talked badly to by some stranger? Apply some logic to the situation. That lady driver is just out doing her job; she is not there to provide entertainment of any kind for you. Treat her with some respect.
  4. For the women, take a look at how the guys interact with each other. Do not get upset if someone calls you an endearment instead of ma'am or if someone uses cuss words around you. If you do not like the language or the joke, walk away. Do not think a male driver is coming on to you if they say good morning or ask an innocuous question.
All of the mess of sexual harassment and discrimination can be avoided if we treat each other with respect; we are truckers and deserve that respect, especially from each other.