Portrait of beautiful young woman professional truck driver sitting and driving big truck. She is dangerously trying to take smart phone while driving.

Women Play a Vital Role in the Transportation Industry

March is National Women’s History Month. As we celebrate and uplift the women in our lives, it’s important to acknowledge the women in fleet management and transportation that have broken down barriers in traditionally male dominated industries. Organizations such as Women in Trucking (WIT) and the Women in Fleet Management group (WIFM) have been advocating for women in the transportation industry for over a decade. While there has been an increase of women working in transportation related industries, women still remain widely underrepresented in the field. According to the US Census Bureau, women make up only 3.7% of technicians, 10% of truck drivers, and 16.8% of fleet managers. However, 33.8% of C-suite executives and 44.7% of dispatcher roles are filled by women; these percentages have gradually grown over the years. 

Women have been making an impact on the transportation industry since the early 20th century. Take Luella Bates for example, she was the first female truck driver in U.S. history. During World War I, she and around 150 other women were test drivers for Four Wheel Drive (FWD), an auto company in Clintonville, Wisconsin. Although she was initially hired as a temporary replacement for the men serving in the war, Bates remained working at FWD long after the war had ended. She was a master mechanic and managed all the maintenance on her truck herself. Her dedication and passion for truck driving has inspired many other women to take up the profession. In 1953, Lois Cooper became the first female African American transportation engineer to be hired in the California Department of Transportation. Not only was she the first black woman in California to pass the Professional Engineers (PE License) Exam, but she was also a remarkable mathematician, encouraged STEM education, and was an advocate for Civil Rights. 

Single mother of three, Adriesue “Bitsy” Gomez, had always dreamt of becoming a truck driver. Once she started driving professionally to support her family, she quickly noticed the discrimination embedded in the transportation industry. Gomez sought out to change this, and in the mid 1970s, she founded the Coalition of Women Truck Drivers, a 150-member organization that challenged sexism and discrimination in the trucking industry. The group campaigned for an increase in the number of women’s restrooms at truck stops and beyond. Gomez maintained a lifelong dedication to enhancing the safety and inclusivity of the trucking industry for women. 

These women have paved the way for future generations of women who want to work in transportation. Though there is still much progress to be made for diversity and inclusion in the transportation and fleet management industries, we have come a long way. It’s important we continually recognize the hand women have had in shaping the transportation industry as we know it today.