Here is some personal insight on why there is a sudden 2015 “image” of Women in Trucking campaign targeted at women truckers. Perhaps the “image” that needs improvement the most is industry executives, including the women who colluded to cover-up sexual harassment and discrimination in entry-level driver training carriers.
2014 was a year of milestones for the REAL Women in Trucking which was founded in response to the lack of responsible representation from the trucking industry. We finally launched our membership organization and experienced a number of transitions, triumphs,and bittersweet moments. Each achievement, no matter how small has moved us a little closer to the organization we wish to become.
The big news on December 23, 2014 was that an appellate court overturned the $4 Million fee award granted to CRST Van Expedited in the Class Action Sex Harassment Case. Here is the link: “Universal Finding” that EEOC claims against CRST Trucking are without foundation fee award reversed“.
The history of the legal debacle that served injustice to so many aspiring women truckers is worthy of a suspense motion picture script. Here is the synopsis> Poorly educated , disenfranchised women struggling to make a new life for themselves, driven by faith and determination enter truck driver training. They naively believe that if they work hard and show aptitude for the work, they can live a life of freedom from office shackles, the loneliness of empty nest syndrome or escape from toxic relationships. Alas, something sinister is underfoot, a corporate system set up for failure, a training system chock full of internal support that does not work, trainers and co-drivers who are empowered by a weak misconduct reporting system and a female trucking student population that are viewed as “fresh meat” , an opportunity for predators and controls freaks. A potential victim to be isolated for selfish pleasures. Not all of the victims are women, the men rarely report the abuse and the few courageous women that make it through the trucking obstacle course to reach out for help find they are shouted down into silence by seasoned female drivers. Intimidated into silence by female executives and organizations who accept sponsor dollars from the most offensive carriers. The road to becoming a qualified lady truckers becomes an abyss for those who dare to “STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT ON INJUSTICE“.
This is the route we have traveled to get to the 2015 “Image” campaign.
Here is an overview of some of the highs and lows in this journey.
In 2008 and into 2009, when the CRST Sex Harassment case first broke news it was primarily ignored by trucking media. This helped to keep the truck driver population uniformed. When the first dismissal occurred, CRST Van Expedited sent out a fleet wide message through it’s Qualcomm messaging system to drivers to say that they had won the case and had won a fee award from the EEOC to pay them for their legal fees. The way the message was worded according to CRST drivers who were working there at the time was that in essence, the message spoke to them to express “… don’t even think about ever accusing us again , the reach of our arms go further than you think …“. This is a carrier that has a number of complaints against them for their lease program and training practices in addition the the class action allegations of sexual misconduct in the entry level driver training program.
Ellen Voie , President of the Women in Trucking organization remarked in a workplace bullying documentary that the women truckers of the CRST Van Expedited class action sex harassment case “…just wanted to be part of a lawsuit…”. She even tweeted about the dismissal as if it was victory rather than an injustice. I won’t even go into how far this allegiance to CRST went with her organization, it is already well documented on the internet. I will say that in a recent presentation (Fall 2014) Ellen gave she alludes to the “image” of drivers. In this presentation, she cites the Karen Shank case which was the $1.5 Million judgement that was won against CRST Van Expedited. She does not mention that they have been one of her corporate sponsor/members during this entire time the litigation , appeals , dismissals and ongoing misconduct reports have been going on. She also cannot answer a participant in the conference who asks essentially how many women are entering trucking and not making it 1 year.
The answer to that question according to a truck driver trainer is only 1 in 6 women who enter trucking make it 1 year. The reason? Women are poorly prepared for the industry, they are misled with unrealistic expectations of the work entailed, many believe that trucking is a opportunity to hook-up with guys rather than work, women are naive about co-driving training phases and are not instructed how to properly report sexual misconduct, violence and unsafe practices during the critical first year in trucking. Men tend to stick together, Women are less likely to stick up for one another in trucking. There is also filters, barriers and ignorance on making contact with the human resource departments in entry-level driver training carriers and avoid fleet operations reporting that often mishandles critical incidents.
The problems are complex:
In August 2014, a federal judge ruled that the same sex training policy at New Prime, Inc. violates federal law. Here is the link> “Judge Rules New Prime, Inc. Training Policy Violates Federal Law” This is a case that Ellen Voie also cites in her industry presentation but she fails to mention she had the opportunity to give expert testimony on behalf of the female trucking student plaintiff and instead provided her “expert” opinion for $150.00 per hour on behalf on New Prime, Inc., the carrier defendant. You can read her testimony here: “Ellen Voie Testimony in New Prime, Inc. Discrimination Against Female Trucking Student” . A order to exclude her “expert” opinion was granted 11/24/2014.
The problems for women entering trucking and being retained in the industry is not gender specific. Ellen knows this and has become quite well-versed in reciting the problems in entry-level driver training carriers though unable to resist taking money from the handful of most offensive and notorious training carriers.
Testifying against women entering trucking? Not a nice image from a the President of Women in Trucking in my opinion.
In mid December 2014, I was asked to produce a Webinar on sexual harassment best practices targeted to the unique challenges in entry-level driver training. Oddly, I had begun writing about this in 2008 and as most know, Ellen Voie was provided a number of my insights , the issues that should be addressed and solutions from not only myself, but Tracy Livingston (formerly of CRST, a plaintiff in the original CRST sex harassment case and an expert witness in the Monika Starke case which was silently and weakly settled by the carrier in hopes of making all of this go away) and Donna Smith. A week before the presentation was to be delivered, it was abruptly cancelled. I have a pretty good idea why. I published it anyway fully realizing that my work often turns up in WIT repackaged achievements. Stolen content that is either not cited or cited from inaccurate second hand sources. In any case, here is the presentation: “Sexual Misconduct Training for Entry-level Driver Training”
Here is the thing though, without implementation and accountability there is really no achievement, just words. My understanding from a current student (December 2014) at a team driving training carrier where she experienced sexual misconduct with her first trainer, something changed rather abruptly in the last few weeks of 2014. Perhaps it was the EEOC press release that the CRST fee award was overturned and that the EEOC has not given up on serving justice on the trucking industry sector that trains students?
So now what “Image” is emerging?
Do Women Truckers need a better image? or does the industry and organizations need women truckers to improve their image?
In the previously mentioned “presentation” on industry challenges for Women the “image” topic surfaces featuring a cartoon of a fat male trucker over a photo of a polished “Lisa Kelly” from the Ice Road Truckers reality television show, she is dressed in her fur parka.
It’s typical of someone who doesn’t drive a truck to want to sell a sexy image of women truckers as yet another vehicle to advance themselves but remember that an obstacle to the retention of women in trucking is unreal expectations, a lack of aptitude for driving and the lifestyle which makes it impractical to want to ruin your fur parka with the smell diesel and grease after a day of work.
This presentation was not meant for women truckers to view and give their opinions. It is expensive and not offered in an area that women truckers would normally have access. There are images of Ellen and former FMCSA administrator Anne Ferro at a baseball game though Ellen has never been vocal about any substantial trucking issues that affect drivers. The presentation was meant to paint an image that is untrue in my opinion.
In a slide meant to promote accomplishments and honor female trucking pioneers , our own Sandi Talbott, the Vice-President of REAL Women in Trucking is pictured. The audio portion of the presentation states that the seven women were honored THIS year for their 4 million miles each. This is not accurate. The photo was taken in 2012 before Sandi Talbott understood how the WIT organization was taking advantage of the imagery of women truckers without serving them properly. Sandi did not consent for her picture to be used for WIT material.
So here we are in the early days of 2015 and WIT has announced an “Image” campaign for Women Truckers. I have no doubt there will be many who apply for some long overdue recognition , I just hope they realize whose “image” and which “image” they are campaigning to improve.