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Female truckers describe the extra precautions they take to stay safe on the road from disguising their gender and avoiding tight clothes to carrying weapons

Grace Kay,Hannah Towey   

Female truckers describe the extra precautions they take to stay safe on the road — from disguising their gender and avoiding tight clothes to carrying weapons
  • Female truckers say they take extra precautions to alleviate safety concerns on the road.
  • Cargo theft and crime against truckers has surged since the pandemic started.

Jeana Hysell said she carried a knife, club, and 357 Magnum revolver with her during the 15 years she worked as a long-haul truck driver.

"It was illegal. It wasn't the right thing to do, but that's what I felt like I needed to do to maintain my safety," she told Insider, adding that most cross-country truckers she knew also owned guns.

As the trucking industry attempts to recruit female drivers to combat labor shortages, some women say they go to great lengths to conceal the fact that they're a "lone female in a truck" due to the dangers of the job.

And despite seeing a greater acceptance of women entering the male-dominated field, five truckers and three safety experts told Insider that female truckers must take extra precautions to protect themselves on the road.

"We face what any woman faces when traveling alone, except we face it every day," 27-year trucker Trish Bennett told Insider. "I tend to do everything I can to avoid advertising that I'm a lone female in a truck. I keep my curtains closed and I stick to the areas where it's more well lit. I avoid the big cities at night."

Different ways female truckers stay safe

More than 60% of female drivers have felt unsafe on the job at least once in the last year, according to a recent survey of over 400 female truckers conducted by the non-profit organization Women in Trucking (WIT). Approximately 20% of respondents said they had been threatened by a weapon, while 4% said they had been raped while on the road.

Current and former female truckers who spoke to Insider described protective measures they've taken on the road, including bringing a dog, rape whistle, learning self defense, and carrying weapons like knives, tire thumpers, and guns.

Some drivers also said they made efforts to disguise their gender and avoid tight clothes, as well as take extra steps like using makeshift restrooms inside the truck, creating DIY door locks with ratchet straps, and displaying "masculine" items on the dashboard such as baseball hats.

All five drivers said the most important thing is to be constantly aware of your surroundings.

Multiple female truckers told Insider they avoid parking in the "back 40" of truck stops to circumvent walking long distances through the lot alone. However, this is made more difficult by the lack of parking spots available to truck drivers.

But truckers won't find these strategies taught in company trainings or at driving schools, Hysell, a former trucker turned safety consultant, told Insider. Instead, female drivers often rely on each other to learn realistic ways to prevent unsafe situations.

Bennett explained that female trainers and instructors can be rare to come by.

"[Male trainers] can't tell you what to expect as a woman on the road," she said.

Both male and female drivers say truck stops can be unsafe

To make safety concerns worse, cargo theft has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic as overstressed supply chains and the rising costs of everyday goods have turned truckers into easy targets. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics continually lists trucking as one of the most dangerous occupations for vehicle accidents and health concerns, and cites a high level of violent crimes against truckers.

"If somebody is intent on breaking into a truck, they don't care if it's a male or a female," Walmart truck driver Carol Nixon said. Two male truck drivers told Insider they've been mugged and had their personal items stolen at truck stops.

"I'm very leery of other people when I'm on the road," 26-year trucker Sally Feinen said. "Truckers used to be known for stopping and helping people on the side of the road. Now we never know if they're waiting to rob you."

The majority of female truckers surveyed in another WIT survey identified truck stops and rest stops as locations with "significant safety threats."

While there is no federal law that prohibits truck drivers from carrying weapons, including guns, many carriers do not allow company drivers to carry weapons of any kind.

Feinen said her carrier does not allow her to carry mace, which means her sole weapon is her truck's tire thumper, a wooden bat-shaped tool that helps a trucker check their tire pressure.

"There's some women who will tell you that they're always scared. And then there's some women who say there's never anything to worry about," Nixon, the Walmart driver, said. "We all have different experiences, different opinions. Overall, this is still a great job."


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