As the supply chain tries to recover from the pandemic, there's still a desperate need for truck drivers to get our food and other important goods where it needs to be.
In the past year, the United States has been about 80,000 truckers short. That number could double over the next several years.
But women are playing a huge role in filling the labor gap.
"It's not just a career that men can do, it's for everybody,” said Keosha Farris, one of several local women who have left their past careers to become a trucker. “Anybody can do it, you can do anything that you put your mind to."
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It's a male-dominated industry that's slowly changing. Right now, women make up 10 percent of all drivers but that number is growing.
Farris is actually following in the footsteps of her mother, who also drives trucks.
“My mom was literally the start of everything. I've seen her drive trucks, she drove buses. She's my inspiration for everything,” she said.
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Farris is now part of a four-week commercial driver's license program at Edge Tech Academy in Arlington.
She’s training behind the wheel of a big rig, learning defensive driving, size and weight laws, cargo handling, and safety regulations.
Her husband is joining her in this trucking journey as well.
“In order to do the schooling, there's no way we can work with the way our schedule is at work,” explained Farris. “Sometimes you have to be willing to step out on faith and just do things that are uncomfortable to get to a spot where you feel comfortable. So we decided to quit, and then enroll in applying.”
After just four weeks of training, the academy will help the duo get connected to the many companies that are hiring truck drivers.
As a team, they can make up to $90,000 each. Companies are offering these huge incentives, as well as big bonuses to get more drivers.
So the Farris' are working toward setting up a better future for their young son.
"I can't wait to get on the road. And as he gets older, he'll be able to go on the road with us. And it'll just be an adventure for us all and then we get to set that foundation for him,” Farris said.
The increase in women joining the workforce could be spurred by a federal, bipartisan infrastructure law passed this year.
One of its goals includes creating pathways to recruit, retain and advance women to fill those labor gaps.
The American Trucking Association also launched the "Women in Motion" initiative over the summer to accelerate the rise of women throughout the industry. The Women in Trucking Association is a nonprofit working to diversify the workforce.
The school Farris is going to is noticing the trend.
"It's an industry that's still growing. We still need truckers. I say if it comes in on a plane or a boat, a truck is the last thing that touches that freight and gets it to the dock door – which then gets it to you. “So we need that gap filled,” said Lawrence Turner, lead instructor for the CDL program at Edge Tech Academy. “Female truckers are the new face of trucking. We love it.”
Industry leaders say women tend to pass the driving test at a higher rate than men. Statically, companies also save money on insurance with women drivers.
“There is a lot of need in this industry for drivers period. I think women coming into the workforce, it's going to offset that a whole lot,” added Turner. “It's going to allow the industry to increase in pick up of product and productivity of moving freight across the country. Of course, a lot of freight is local, but a whole lot more of it is over the road long miles. A lot of miles, a lot of hours. So we do need people in place to cover those.”
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