Sexual assault/Sexual harassment (SASH) in trucking is a very specific issue that primarily affects new entrants to the industry and individuals from non-dominant groups who are vulnerable such as LGBTQIA+. Gender Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) is intolerable in any work setting, this includes trucking.
The 1st organization to attempt to address this issue was Bitzy Gomez and the Coalition of Women Truckers who termed this issue as the “sleeper test” in the late 1970’s. In 2010, we here at the REAL Women in Trucking organization began to sound the alarm as a growing number of women were being targeted for recruitment without any plan on how to retain them or to take immediate action on the widespread SASH/GBVH that was causing primarily women of color to abandon their training in the first months in the industry.
On April 27, 2022, the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau hosted a “Day of Action” - To Promote Safety and Prevent Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment in the Trucking Industry. Though it was a history making milestone event, it was poorly attended by the trucking industry. (Read More: Driving Change - Ensuring a Safe Work Environment in the Trucking Industry)
RWIT President Desiree Wood was the 1st person to create a presentation to outline some of the specifics of this issue as it relates to safety in the trucking industry.
It is important to note that though truck drivers are held to a high standard of highway safety, during their initial training they are required to live and work unsupervised for weeks at a time in close quarters with a total stranger. SASH/GBVH in these situations is not gender specific. Over the past decade of our existence we have had reported to our organization, women assaulting women, and men assaulting men. There have been cases of murder between trainer/student and co-driver/co-driver in recent history at some of the major truck driver training fleets. This is workplace violence between co-workers in every situation that would not be tolerated in any other work stationary work setting. Conduct training and SASH/GBVH training is mostly non-existent to laughable at best in the vast majority of trucking companies.
The worst offender companies use the "team business model" for training which requires team driving between trainer/student and then student /student for up to 6 months. This is where the greatest frequency of SASH/GBVH occurs.
No trainee can focus on learning to drive a commercial motor vehicle when they are being terrorized by a trainer or co-driver. Often, the victim, if they report the incident, are left in a motel and the perpetrator goes on working making money while the victim is left stranded while in trauma not making money. (See TimesUp Foundation - Institute for Women’s Policy Research: Financial Costs of Workplace Sexual Harassment attached to this email that cites our organization and the trucking industry)
These are the specific immediate actions RWIT wants implemented to address SASH/GBVH:
Comprehensive sexual harassment training mandated in all companies that train students.
Training should be transparent and include situational videos specific to truck driver training environments.
Annual retraining should be conducted for all staff including CEO’s and high-level executives, trainers, independent contractors and any persons who will be working with team driving student fleets.
We support legislation that would make SASH/GBVH training a mandate and to be a FMCSA scoring element.
SASH/GBVH training initiatives should include “bystander intervention” education programs for Recruiters, Law Enforcement, Truck Stop Operators
FMCSA implementation of an industry specific crisis and reporting line through the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) just like the Peace Corps and Armed Services, this must not be managed by any special interest groups like ATA, or WIT due to conflicts of interest.
“Truckers Against Trafficking” training has been implemented and in some states is a mandate. Many companies and organizations are using their support of this training as a check box “women’s issue”. This is why legislation is the only way forward.
Did you know that Uber rideshare has partnered with the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network to require video training that must be completed before the driver can work on their platform? Uber has been forced to become more transparent about the number of rapes they have each year; the trucking industry must follow. A RAINN crisis and reporting line will facilitate data collection in addition to properly trained trauma assistance for victims.
Training fleets should have a higher level of standards. Many worst offender companies are self-insured which helps conceal "incidents". There should be more transparency on student fleets.
Truck driver training should be held to the standards of any other educational program under DOE Title IX regardless of whether they receive funding under the agency of the Department of Education or not. There is no reason the trucking industry cannot model sexual harassment training policies and procedures along the existing DOE Title IX guidelines that have established perceived authority between student and instructor.
Every training fleet should have a Title IX Coordinator and it should not be something that human resources, or the safety department does since they have conflicts of interest.
Procedures to file complaints should be known for students and trainers.
Consequences must be swift
We support the Department of Transportation - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Restrict and Revoke existing Commercial Driver's License Learners Permits (CLP) waivers from truck driver training fleets that use the team business model and/or who are engaged in current and ongoing litigation for SASH/GBVH, wage theft, and anti-trust litigation. These fleets should be placed on probation not given special treatment.
We support the creation of a national database to identify sexual predators who are working as truck drivers.
Did you know that the FBI linked long haul truck drivers to serial killings? Currently, a sexual predator can simply vanish back into the population and easily get a verification of employment to work elsewhere with a clean slate. Violent individuals and sexual predators should be forbidden from working as trainers or co-drivers or even be prohibited from employment in training fleets where they will have access to vulnerable students. It is unacceptable that in some training fleets, records are wiped each year. Often perpetrators are re-hires who know the current lax system is built for them.
Problem fleets identified by our organization for SASH/GBVH complaints include but is not limited to CRST Van Expedited, New Prime, CR England, Covenant Transport, US Xpress, PAM, Western Express, Werner, Swift and JB Hunt.
We support a proposed national legislation modeled after the State of Nevada battery law NRS 200.481 that makes it an automatic felony with jail time and fines to harm a service worker that would include truck drivers. Legislation like this would satisfy multiple immediate issues that occur:
Truck drivers being attacked on the highway during civil unrest
During truck parking scarcity altercations
Immediately create consequences in student fleet assaults between trainer/student, co-driver/co-driver and any other co-workers and entities where truck drivers load and unload freight.
We support banning trucking companies from participation in or be the recipient of ANY state or federal subsidies to train, government contracts and should not be permitted to advertise training on any state unemployment websites. This includes banning participation in the DOL Accredited Apprenticeship Program, if they are involved in federal lawsuits for SASH/GBVH, wage theft, blacklisting workers, or any type of discrimination.
Any same gender training choice must not create a situation where the female student must wait longer than males for training unless they are compensated at the same rate of pay as their males' peers who start training right away AND including motel expenses to be paid by the company. Currently many companies have written polices contrary to this which is in violation The Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title VII.
Student fleets should be required to conduct third party exit interviews and periodic updates throughout the 1st six months of training and include reporting to an outside oversight agency to determine what the source of the retention issue is, so action can be taken.
Cameras should be mandated in training tractors in the driver cab area only. These inward facing cameras already exist for insurance purposes for hard braking incidents so there is no reason they cannot be utilized for training safety and supervision.
Truck driver training trucks should be clearly marked to the public that they are student fleets.
Blue Light Emergency Call Boxes with cameras should be installed in public and private truck parking areas. This sort of security can help all drivers. These call boxes are commonly used at college campuses and large event parking lots.
Written by Desiree Wood
Jane Doe v CRST, a sexual assault case settled for a landmark $5 million, a sexual assault case settled for a landmark $5 million , a sexual assault case settled for a landmark $5 million