All That's Trucking

Can Women Handle a Manual Transmission?

One reader takes exception to the notion that we have to spec automated or automatic transmissions to attract women drivers.

May 28, 2013

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Who says women can't handle driving duties just as well as men?
Who says women can't handle driving duties just as well as men?

In my April HDT Editorial, "Why the industry needs more women," I made the statement, "Women need to be part of that expanded [driver] pool. And while spec'ing equipment with automatic and automated transmissions and other female-friendly features is a step in the right direction..."

John DiGregorio wrote to tell me he was "shocked and annoyed" by that statement:

"That was one of the most misguided and ignorant statements that I've heard on this subject.
 
"I've been driving over 39 years and a professional driver trainer over 20. I have had the opportunity to train numerous women as class A tractor-trailer drivers. All of the drivers that I've trained learned the proper way to double clutch including pulling loaded trailers up and down mountains. Making the statement that an automatic transmission is required for a woman driver is just wrong. I can only assume that you cannot operate a manual transmission.
 
"The women drivers that I've had the opportunity to train and develop as class A drivers out performed their male counterparts most of the time. They didn't have the macho attitude of "I can do this" that many male drivers have entering training. They knew that and studied more, paid attention more and overall performed as good as any male driver and often better. The only problem I ever encountered with a woman driver was one that needed to work on her upper body strength to pull the fifth wheel release. That's it!
 
"You do women class A drivers a disservice by saying they need automatics. I would put any woman driver I've ever trained up against anyone when it comes to shifting a manual transmission (or anything else for that matter)."

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John has a point. For some reason it is conventional thinking in the industry that women drivers would be more easily attracted with automatic or automated transmissions, and I guess I just bought into that without thinking.

Actually, I do know how to drive a stick, and have owned cars with manual transmissions for 30 years. Like John, I have known plenty of women truckers who have no problem at all handling the more complicated non-synchro manuals in trucks.

Here's where we actually may need more automated and automatic transmissions: To attract young people in general, male or female. Fewer and fewer cars are even being offered with manuals these days – typically only small cars and sports cars – and learning a manual transmission may be one more factor that makes the idea of becoming a truck driver intimidating.

What do you think? Do automated and automatic transmissions help you recruit and keep women? How about the younger generation in general? And what happens if a driver who only has experience on one of those do if they break down and have a loaner truck with a manual?

Comments

  1. 1. MICHAEL BEANE [ May 26, 2013 @ 02:22PM ]

    I have been in the logistics business for over 35 yrs. I was a trainer for 15 yrs. some of my best students was women. Yes ,When i first started in this business women where given a hard time because this was a man's world. Well ,Let me tell you something 3 times I broke down it was women that stopped and helped me. After that I shut my mouth and honor women driver's . I know some out there that are tougher and better then some of the men I heard wining on the radio about things.

  2. 2. Sunshine Driven [ May 28, 2013 @ 03:46AM ]

    I have only been driving for about 8 years and when I went to school was being pushed to a company that had automatics cause I was a woman and my response was NO I want to learn to drive a truck so I will go to standard shift so that way no matter what happens or what truck I drive I can
    cause I was not put into an automatic which is a rareity in this career choice. Automatics might draw more in but if the attitude of trucking companies don't change it is not going to keep the drivers. Trucking companies need to treat the drivers with respect, cause WITHOUT us they Don't have a job.

  3. 3. Kurt [ May 28, 2013 @ 06:15AM ]

    At a warehouse in the late '70s, a woman driver was taking a bit longer to get into the dock. A male driver asked if she wanted some help. She said sure, and hopped out of the truck for him to back it in. The truck only moved about 20 feet, and the male driver hopped back out and exclaimed "I can't drive this truck, it doesn't have power steering!" We all got a laugh out of it, and admired her for what she was doing. But the lesson I learned that day was that a woman driver was capable of driving anything I could drive, and perhaps something even more difficult!

  4. 4. Judy Lamb [ June 03, 2013 @ 04:07PM ]

    This conversation just shows what this world has become... A bunch of babies wanting life to be easy with no challenges.. I am a female driver with over a million safe miles logged... I had a 1 day crash course of a 13 speed and then turned loose to figure it out in Denver. I don't recommend this to anyone, but I learned it all by my frail little self.... Women are not the "weaker" sex anymore... And I find most of the company drivers to need more "training" , and personality makeovers... Happy drivers are better drivers. If automatics are the new thing it is not for the female drivers it's for the guys wanting life to be easy... I love me an 18 spd and a Big horse Cat..

  5. 5. Roxanne Smith [ June 09, 2013 @ 05:22AM ]

    I thought we had come too far for the above article to be a reality! I have trained many women and the first thing I teach them is that we are just as capable as the men. If you feel you can not do the job then it is the WRONG job for you.
    The reality today is that yes most new entrants would rather drive an automatic. This has nothing to do with gender simply a shifting of the times.

  6. 6. Tanya Bons [ June 12, 2013 @ 11:21AM ]

    Women are awesome drivers, often better than their male counterparts as far as truck driving goes. No ego, easily taught.

    Drive safe!

  7. 7. Scott Andrews [ December 13, 2013 @ 09:34PM ]

    Can women handle a manual transmission?! Somewhere, from the Great Beyond, I think I can hear my late Grandmother laughing. Born in 1909, all of the cars she learned to drive on were equipped with non-synchronized gearboxes and, even though most of them had only had three forward speeds, they were far more finicky and cantankerous to operate than today's heavy truck transmissions. I'm sure she'd laugh out loud that anyone is still asking the same tired old question they asked in her youth, nearly 100 years ago.

  8. 8. rand feura [ February 14, 2014 @ 12:31AM ]

    I don't know that its necessarily sexy or that she is a control freak. Maybe it indicates she possesses a certain amount of control with a streak of independence. Either way, l'm a softie for girls who prefer manuals. Yesterday l knocked 600 bucks off the expected selling price of my 2004 Mazda6 because this girl had the hots for it compared to the automatics she was looking at. Yeah, l'm a sucker...

  9. 9. Marie [ May 01, 2014 @ 04:09PM ]

    Driving a manual transmisison car is nothing like driving a manual transmission truck. Trucks are changing to automatic but there are other reasons for this than just because its easier. The computer in the truck controls the transmission not the person. This should mean better fuel economy and a bad driver doesn't keep grinding gears and wrecking the transmission. The company saves money. Buses used to be manual too and now they are automatic. There is a lot more to driving a big vehicle than shifting. No reason men or women can't do it. It takes practice until it become a natural reaction.

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Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

Editor in Chief

Truck journalist 21 years, joined us in 1998. Plans and coordinates editorial, specializes in maintenance, drivers and fleet operations.

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