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DoesaWomanBelongBehindtheWheelofaTruck?

Holly Lichtenfeld
1y United States Story
Does a Woman Belong Behind the Wheel of a Truck?

Of course, if that’s what she wants to do.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Desiree Wood is the first female truck driver I’ve ever met (we connected at the Office Depot Women’s Symposium) and she gave me a view into the unknown world of trucking.

How Does a Woman End up Behind the Wheel?

Desiree has been driving for almost a decade.  Surprisingly, her path to trucking began with a nervous breakdown.  Her kids had moved out and she found she couldn’t function anymore.  She explained “I was in a really bad spot; in fact, I became homeless.”  Then she reached out to a friend and confessed that she was at the end of her rope.  Her friends came together and brought her to Florida.  Around this same time, she had been noticing trucks and thought it was something she’d want to do.

Why Do Only 1 in 6 Women Make it Through Training?

In her opinion Desiree feels the best candidates entering the industry are nurses, school bus drivers and women from the service.  She explains, “These women are already problem solvers.  Yet only one in six women who attempt to go through the training make it through.”  

This is how Desiree explained it: One of the issues is that some of the companies (carriers) assign new drivers to team-driving after the training period.  These team driving student fleets are unsafe for both genders because the trainer is generally sleeping while the student, who has not reached the skill level to drive unsupervised, is in fact driving unsupervised.  These fleets then go on to have student teams of mixed gender.  Since there are few females, most women are paired with a man.  The drivers only get a paycheck if they are living, working, and sleeping on the truck with this other person.  It creates an explosive situation that can lead to harassment, violence, threats, and belittling. And this situation is a problem for both genders; women can be abused by men, women can be abusive to other women and men have been the victims of violence as well. There have also been sexual assaults and retaliation for reporting assaults.   And many don’t come forward.  Desiree concludes, “The culture is one that if you complain you must be weak.  It creates a victim blaming climate.”


Every Load is an Exciting Adventure Story

This sounds incredibly tough, why would someone stick with it?  It became clear that there’s something magical about driving for Desiree, here’s what she said when I asked her favorite things about the job:

“When I was a kid we traveled a lot, my mother was always taking me on road trips.  I like going to new places; going over bridges, rivers, seeing the sunset and the sunrise   And I feel my job is something that really serves the public.  When I pick up something in a small town that they manufacture, grow, or assemble there, it gives me a sense of pride to get what they have made to other people.  I actually did something.  As a grandma, I can sometimes see my grandchildren when I am out driving.  I had my grandson with me and I got to show him the truck and explain what I was doing.  He told me he was going to tell his friends at school that is grandma brought the water glasses to Walmart.  He was proud, and it made me proud.”

“If I deliver some coffee pots, through a hail storm and a tornado at the end I celebrate…Yay, I did it. Every load is an exciting adventure story.”


A Personal Mission: To Make Trucking Better for Women

Desiree is co-founder of an organization called Real Women in Trucking.  Her mission is to make trucking better for women.  For example, she wants to guide women away from team driving starter companies which have unsafe conditions.    She also wants to get the message to business owners who use trucking carriers to hire the companies with safe and appropriate training and working conditions, and to not hire the problematic ones.

Desiree explains, “There are a lot of women entering trucking, they are getting bad information and I want provide to women what wasn’t there for me.”

Desiree’s goal? “Trucking was a matter of survival for me.  I loved it as soon as I tried it.  But the industry was doing whatever it could for me to fail.   I ultimately want to change the industry. That’s going to take a long time, so in the meantime I will educate one woman at a time.”

If you know of anyone interested in trucking, refer them to Desiree and Real Women in Trucking so that each female trucker’s exciting adventure story can be a better and safer one.

Follow me on Twitter @holly_bl

Or on Twitter & Facebook @brightgirlsco


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10 comments

  • Maddy Bernstein

    She is inspiring and this opened up my mind to this world! I'd honestly never seen a female truck driver and it's about time someone put the focus on them.

    She is inspiring and this opened up my mind to this world! I'd honestly never seen a female truck driver and it's about time someone put the focus on them.

    • Holly Lichtenfeld

      I absolutely agree. When there was a table of women truckers at the Office Depot Symposium and they shared their mission, they went from being invisible to visible and I've learned so much.

      I absolutely agree. When there was a table of women truckers at the Office Depot Symposium and they shared their mission, they went from being invisible to visible and I've learned so much.

  • Bethany Heinrich
    Bethany Heinrich Mogul Influencer
    1y ago

    Desiree is awesome! Good for her for breaking the mold and entering into a profession where it's typically male-dominated. Do you think she would like to be a Mogul Influencer? It would be wonderful to hear about her experiences while on the road. Thank you for posting this informative story, Holly!

    Desiree is awesome! Good for her for breaking the mold and entering into a profession where it's typically male-dominated. Do you think she would like to be a Mogul Influencer? It would be wonderful to hear about her experiences while on the road. Thank you for posting this informative story, Holly!

  • Be Supportive

    What a great, inspiring story!

    What a great, inspiring story!

  • Mary Wilber 88

    I got my class-A CDL in a classroom of all men..& l was the ONLY one 2 pass the road test....the FIRST TIME...!!!!!! Women ARE better drivers in BIG TRUCKS, less likely 2 show "road rage" care more about delivering safely,instead of trying 2 beat the time allowed,,its NOT just about the money....if it was...ANY idiot could drive....& believe me they can't. & they shouldn't,if ALL they care about is the money......

    I got my class-A CDL in a classroom of all men..& l was the ONLY one 2 pass the road test....the FIRST TIME...!!!!!! Women ARE better drivers in BIG TRUCKS, less likely 2 show "road rage" care more about delivering safely,instead of trying 2 beat the time allowed,,its NOT just about the money....if it was...ANY idiot could drive....& believe me they can't. & they shouldn't,if ALL they care about is the money......

  • Jennifer SV 1
    1y ago

    Fantastic information. I'm in trucking school at a community college, and I love it. Thanks for all you do for us women Desiree!

    Fantastic information. I'm in trucking school at a community college, and I love it. Thanks for all you do for us women Desiree!

  • 1y ago

    Although still in trucking as an Owner, I'm studying Law where I feel over 30 years on the road will help me help others.

    Although still in trucking as an Owner, I'm studying Law where I feel over 30 years on the road will help me help others.

  • Cat Z
    1y ago

    I got my Class 1 license when I was 19. [I'm 56]. I learned driving a narrow nose Pete with a 4x4 hauling produce. I had my fill of snide remarks back in the day. But once they guys saw that I could drive as well or better and didn't back down, they backed off. I kept my license up but didn't drive for a living until I became a divorcee with 2 small children & a dead-beat Dad ex husband and had to support myself & my kids. I'm still in the trucking industry today & it is WAY better for Women in the business now than it was back in the day.

    I got my Class 1 license when I was 19. [I'm 56]. I learned driving a narrow nose Pete with a 4x4 hauling produce. I had my fill of snide remarks back in the day. But once they guys saw that I could drive as well or better and didn't back down, they backed off. I kept my license up but didn't drive for a living until I became a divorcee with 2 small children & a dead-beat Dad ex husband and had to support myself & my kids. I'm still in the trucking industry today & it is WAY better for Women in the business now than it was back in the day.

  • preciousdiamond

    I currently am in okc and have the problem of finding a job local. Its either i need 2 yrs exp or they give me some excuse that is out of this world on why they cant hire me. Bottom line is im a women. One company said that if i cant float gears then they wont hire me.

    I currently am in okc and have the problem of finding a job local. Its either i need 2 yrs exp or they give me some excuse that is out of this world on why they cant hire me. Bottom line is im a women. One company said that if i cant float gears then they wont hire me.

  • Shelley Uvanile-Hesch 44

    Great article on Desiree.

    Great article on Desiree.


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Girlpreneur, Author, & Speaker. As founder of Bright Girls I teach girls about business and money so that they can envision themselves as entrepreneurs, business leaders and CEOs. I also love judging at FIRST Lego League Robotics Tournaments. The first book in the Bright Girls series is getting [...]

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