Amanda Jones has been on the road with husband Art Johansson for 13 years and driving for a little less than a year, so she's got some interesting perspectives on what fleets can do to attract and keep drivers, especially female ones.
Art, she says, has been driving for more than 34 years, "since he was a kid … he's been trucking longer than I've been alive." She met him while she was working security at a packing plant and was attracted by both the man and the job.
"I like traveling," she explains. "I'm not very good at sitting home and doing nothing, and going to a factory job every day seems extremely mind numbing. I was a cashier for a while and I hated it…. Security was good, a little more stimulating."
She was exposed to trucking at the security job, checking in trucks and monitoring reefers while they were running on site.
When she met Art, he was running local. By going long haul, he said he could make more money, but he would only do it if Amanda went with him. So she did.
Although she only got her CDL about a year ago, the two have been a team for 13, with Amanda handling paperwork, navigation, trip planning, border customs, dealing with dispatch and customers, and the like. And she keeps a Facebook page that looks at their life from the point of view of their dog, The Trucking Titan.
Treating Drivers Right
The two work for a Canadian company, JBM Logistics, which has about 45 trucks and specializes in hauling to and from the U.S.
The relationship with the company has been good, she says – much better than another company they worked for.
"I don't know how anybody can treat drivers like that," she says. "They were always giving us heck for things that were totally out of our control." Amanda said that company pushed them on a very tight schedule, yet they would get to the delivery point and the customer wouldn't be ready for them. "Then we would sit for two days waiting for the load to be ready and have to do it all over again."
It means a lot to Art and Amanda that JBM cares about safety. "If there are problems with the truck, you just call them up and tell them," she says. Contrast that to a previous company that pushed them to run overweight and over hours. They happened upon JBM when Art's truck was broken down and a JBM driver stopped to help.
The last straw with the previous company came when the company wouldn't give them their paycheck because they claimed Art and Amanda had quit without notice, when it was actually vacation Amanda said they had scheduled with the carrier nearly a month ahead of time.
Creature comforts are important, as well, she says. For instance, her company allows them to put in inverters to power TVs, refrigerators and microwave ovens as long as it doesn't cause permanent damage to the truck.
"I know a lot of companies don't allow you to put inverters in for safety reasons, fear of burning the truck down, but you get a mechanic to put it in instead of the driver himself. You can't expect someone to be on the road all the time in truckstops eating fast food. We stock our fridge so we can eat in the truck or the truckstop."
"This whole driver shortage thing drives me insane," Amanda says. "I think there's a shortage of drivers willing to put up with sh**. If they paid for the time you actually put in working and treated you like a human being rather than a number," she says, fleets wouldn't have such a problem finding good drivers.
Bringing in more women
Of course that's true whether you're a man or woman driver. When asked about the specific challenges of being a female, Amanda said there are things that seem to bother some women drivers more than others.
One is the attention, often unwanted, that women drivers can attract at truckstops, shippers and the like.
"On Facebook, a lot of women post that men are mean to them or tease them or flirt with them," she says.
"You get in places like TA in Ontario, if you go in as a woman and don't have a man with you, you do get a little extra attention, guys will leer at you, no one's ever touched me or grabbed me inappropriately, but it's nothing over and above what I already noticed in regular life. There's assholes everywhere. You can't let them get to you."
Another issue is security. Amanda says she doesn't feel particularly unsafe on the road, but she knows many women drivers who do.
That's why she recommends that fleets interested in attracting more women allow pets. Pets can offer a sense of security as well as companionship.
Which brings us back to that Facebook page for the dog, The Trucking Titan.
Amanda started that as a way for friends and family to keep up with what's happening every day and write about the things that happen day to day that are interesting for non-trucking people. However, it's not always interesting, she says, like waiting four hours at a customer. "That's boring – but through the dog's eyes, it's acceptable for a dog to say it's boring." The page has more than 300 followers.