Stephanie Klang, Con-way Truckload’s first 3 million mile female driver and ATA¹s only female Road Team Captain, is a pioneer in her industry.
However, with changing times and technologies, she hopes to see her sisterhood grow.
Gretchen Jackson, manager of driver recruiting for Con-way Truckload, says that goal may be around the corner as more women are entering the driver force.
“It’s a good industry,” Jackson says. “Women work smarter not harder. They tend to be safer, more cautious.”
Equipment upgrades and investments have made the trucks easier to handle, which has opened horizons for female drivers.
“It’s a different job now today than it was in the 1980s,” she says. “We have air ride, the equipment is easier to drive, it’s safer…”
“Now we have power steering,” Klang, a 33 year veteran driver, added.
Jackson says Con-way is always looking for strong individuals (male and female), and is currently seeking independent contractor applicants for its lease-purchase program.
The company recently ordered 325 model year 2014 trucks, and the men and women filling those seats are coming from a different career.
“As factories slow down, people need to find work somewhere,” she says. “Even our students are between the ages of 35 to 45. Whatever industry they were in has collapsed or slowed down.”
Driver pay continues to be among the industry’s largest hurdles, but Jackson sees changes there may be around the bend industry-wide.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen to driver pay, but I foresee that industry-wide the pay is going to need to increase,” she says, adding increases are likely to come from a change in pay structure and an increase per mile. “I can see a reformatting of the pay…possibly guaranteeing pay.”
Con-way commissioned a survey in 2012 that revealed over-the-road drivers make twice the salary of a McDonald’s worker.
“The deserve more…they deserve more credit,” she says of drivers. “They deserve more pay.”
Along with offering competitive compensation packages, Jackson says Con-way tries to support its drivers with programs to get them on the right track, like matching them with an accountant, and helping them budget. Con-way also provides education to its drivers on CSA changes.
And for females looking to join Klang on the road, she says it’s a good working environment, adding many of her customers are surprised to see a woman hauling their heavy loads.
“You take it all with a grain of salt,” she says. “They’re not being mean, they just don’t understand. They’re not used to seeing a lot of women (drivers).”
Jackson’s advice to women interested in entering the marketplace?
“Take care of yourself,” she says. “Exercise, try to eat right. (Con-way provides) a very comfortable truck. Set it up well so you can get your sleep properly. The tools are there to help you do it.”
Affected tractors are equipped with an automated Eaton UltraShift Plus or Eaton Advantage Transmission with right hand stalk shifter. In the affected trucks, the display on the instrument panel can indicate “N” when the shifter is set into “D” or “R,” causing the truck not to move.