Truck driving is still considered a profession not suited for women, which is a stereotype that is still prevalent today. According to the International Road Transport Union (IRU), the proportion of female truck drivers in most European regions is less than 3%. However, the situation is gradually changing as more women are entering the profession, and companies that are facing staff shortages are taking measures to attract and retain women in this sector.
Women, who have recently become truck drivers and work for Girteka Group, a Lithuanian transport group, share their experiences and what it means to be a woman behind the wheel of a truck.
Switching from a taxi to a truck driver
Before entering the world of freight transport, Oksana Fedorenko from Ukraine used to work as a taxi driver. Her motivation to improve her family’s financial situation, interest in driving, and the support of her husband, who is a professional truck driver, encouraged Oksana to take up driving a truck.
“There are many women on Europe’s roads today who often drive better than men,” says Oksana. She notes that the profession is now accessible to everyone if you have the desire and the passion.
However, as she only got her CE license two years ago, she admits that it was not easy at first. “It was scary the first few times, but today I can open and close the tent by myself, and I am not afraid to get out of the truck even 10 times if I see that I can not park the truck properly,” says Oksana, adding that she feels confident at work and can always rely on the help of her colleagues.
She spends a lot of time on the road, but enjoys traveling and manages to visit interesting places during her weekly breaks of 24 or 45 hours: “Every country, be it France, Italy or Spain, is interesting in its own way. For example, I recently visited a car museum in Germany. I also like to go for a walk by the sea, if there is a parking place close by.” Being a truck driver is like a journey, she says, and you also get paid for it.
Driver shortages are one of the biggest problems facing the freight transport sector. Involving women in this field can be one way to remedy this situation. According to Oksana, women’s participation can contribute to improving the quality of the sector as well.
Oksana has been working at Girteka for more than a year now and it seems that she has no plans to get into a taxi anytime soon. As she jokes: “Driving a car is no longer interesting.”
Always excited about “manly” professions
Another Ukrainian woman, Yulia Stoliarchuk, who has two children and a passion for driving since childhood, is also fascinated by the profession of a truck driver. Yulia, who trained as an oil and gas driller, breaks gender stereotypes: “I have always been interested in ‘male’ professions,” she says.
She says she loves being on the move: “Every day I experience something new: meeting new people, seeing the differences between countries and cities, admiring the scenery out the window, learning many foreign words.”
After just six months of working as a truck driver, she is already motivated to improve her family’s financial situation. She believes that truck driving is not just a man’s profession anymore. Even though there are still more men in the industry, she has seen more women in the loading and unloading stations who are successful and content with their work. It is evident that the situation is changing for women in the trucking industry.
Yulia also notes that long-distance drivers face plenty of challenges. Driving at night requires extra skills, she says, and buying groceries can sometimes be a problem because shops are not always close to parking lots. But like many other truck drivers, she has developed a special skill of cooking on a portable stove.
“In this profession, you have to plan everything: sleeping, traveling, arriving at loading and unloading points, and so on,” says Yulia.
Being far from home doesn’t stop you from being a mom
Both women say that it is possible to successfully combine a career as a truck driver with family life, even with children. “The main thing is that the family understands where mum has gone,” says Oksana, who has a 13-year-old son, adding that she has learned to check her child’s homework remotely. She laughs and says that even her husband’s checking of her son’s homework is controlled remotely.
With two small children, Yulia also helps them with their homework remotely. She finds that video calls help a lot: “We laugh and cry online.” The women are happy that in this profession they can easily plan their time and usually work in a cadence, spending carefully planned time both on the road and at home with their families.
Women are changing the outlook of the freight sector
Women bring unique skills and experience to the freight and logistics sector. “I think girls and women tend to be more responsible,” says Yulia.
She advises women considering a career as a truck driver not to be afraid of facing challenges and taking unusual decisions in their career: “You will only know if it is the right profession for you when you get behind the wheel and drive at least a few thousand kilometers.”
Oksana admits that she does not always get it right the first time. “I did not pass the test drive on the first try, but I kept going and tried my best,” she says, stressing that if you want to drive a truck, you can do it.