Job postings can promote drivers’ and fleet managers’ career development and job satisfaction as well as how the culture and stereotypes in the industry are changing. - Photo: Government Fleet via...

Job postings can promote drivers’ and fleet managers’ career development and job satisfaction as well as how the culture and stereotypes in the industry are changing.

Photo: Government Fleet via

Across the private and public sector, fleet managers are challenged with recruiting and retaining staff. But government fleets have unique hurdles. Drivers are retiring, burning out, and leaving for competitive wages in the private sector.

These agencies have an opportunity to retool their environments, training programs and culture to appeal to a wider pool of potential drivers—specifically, women.

Women accounted for 13.7% of all professional drivers, according to the 2022 Women in Trucking (WIT) Index. While it’s an increase of more than 3% since 2019, cultural hurdles and gender roles remain barriers. Drivers, mechanics, dispatchers, supervisors and managers—nearly every arm of the profession is conventionally performed by men.

Public sector fleets are at a crossroads. To fill these crucial jobs, they must make a cultural shift,
challenge gender stereotypes, and change the narrative around who is capable of a job.

Promote the New Environment within the Public Sector 

Truck manufacturers have made major improvements to the design of their vehicles over the years to remove the brawn needed to drive. Hydraulic hoods, power steering and brakes, and new technologies ease the physical demands of the job, not to mention improvements to the sheer set-up of the vehicles that affect visibility, control and comfort. All this matters whether you’re behind the wheel of a 40,000-pound vehicle or an 8,500-pound light duty vehicle.

Cities and counties can use these environmental factors to challenge stereotypes and recruit more women. Job postings can promote drivers’ and fleet managers’ career development and job satisfaction as well as how the culture and stereotypes in the industry are changing. Brand the job opportunity to focus on driving as service-oriented, supporting government operations to ultimately help citizens in the community.

Driving for a public fleet can be a great opportunity for women to chart a career path with upward mobility, while doing rewarding work for local, county, state and federal governments. These roles provide a range of important responsibilities supporting emergency services, smart city initiatives, public works and general services.

In the private sector, drivers may work alone, in high-crime or isolated areas, sometimes without
adequate escape routes when danger arises. The concerns about physical environments—the routes they drive and where they park—bring unique challenges for women in that industry. Government jobs, by contrast, should promote the differences in physical work environments.

Train all Skillsets When Recognizing Gaps

Physical environment is just one aspect of the challenges women face in these careers. Public agencies must also address the ground floor barriers: training programs.

The U.S. Army, for example, has recognized the gender gap in their recruits, as well as the specific concerns and challenges of female officers. In response, they adjusted the implementation of genderneutral physical fitness standards.

To date, the commercial fleet industry has not tailored physical testing requirements for women’s body types, and many programs do not consider gender-neutral testing. But government organizations have an opportunity to give female drivers a choice to complete training with women trainers, something not frequently available in the private sector. Additionally, review your job posting materials and check whether the job description lists only essential skills or includes technical skills that can be learned during an initial training period. Avoid the latter.

To add strength in numbers, there are several women organizations within fleets and the industry to advocate for change to better support women in the trucking industry. For example, Women in Trucking, a nonprofit association, provides mentorship and safety training resources for women in the industry, in addition to encouraging their employment, promoting their accomplishments and addressing unique obstacles women face in the field.

Government agencies can create new standards and thereby encourage private sector adoption of policies to actively provide resources, gender-specific training, and skill development programs so that women can do their duties confidently and safely.

Build a Drive and Thrive Culture

As public fleets look to target and recruit female drivers, they have an opportunity to change the narrative around who is fit for what job.

Inclusion goals, such as doubling the percentage of women hired or hiring crews that reflect your region’s demographics, are legal and accepted tools for combating underrepresentation, according to the ACLU of Southern California.

The best solution to increase women’s representation in this industry is to understand the barriers that create the imbalances in the first place. Consider the unique safety, operational and personal needs of your employees. For example, work-life balance and support for caregivers can make a job more appealing for women. Case-in-point, 61% of U.S. caregivers are female, according to a report by the National Alliance for Caregiving and the AARP Public Policy Institute.

The public sector has made strides to meet the safety, operational and personal needs of women, and should be proud of the progress it has made in fostering gender equality. However, more work is needed. Driving, as a career, is at a pivotal moment. The gender norms within public and private fleets are shifting, and women’s role within it is more visible, involved, and critical than ever. 

About the author: Jill Snyder is the compliance and safety director for Zonar.