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)."
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?