It's funny that we live in a world in which women routinely sail and fly in harm's way while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces and take on criminal elements and the elements of nature while carrying a police or fire service badge, yet just over 5% of all American truck drivers are now women.

Funny but unfortunate, for women who seek better livelihoods but are unaware of the opportunities posed by truck driving. And for fleet managers, who are missing out on hiring potentially excellent drivers by not reaching out to nearly half the work force.

In researching this month's cover story on driver demographics, the number that most jumped off the page was the Bureau of Labor Statistics figure that states women comprise just 5.3% of the nation's truck drivers.

Unless you're a sexist pig or just plain stupid, it stands to reason that a few more driver's seats could be filled by some of the millions of women who now make up 48% of the nation's work force.

Thinking along those lines, the American Trucking Assns. (ATA) and the Truckload Carriers Assn. (TCA) joined forces recently and delved into this issue by conducting a survey. It offers some enlightening data about women truck drivers.

The “Women in Trucking” survey was based on results obtained from 89 respondents. Here are some key items: average age of respondents was from 41-45; almost all (93%) were white; over half were married (26% divorced, 15% single); 74% have children (ranging from 1-40 years of age); 85% have high school diplomas (28% have some college, 9% have college degrees).

Nearly one-quarter of the women had office jobs before becoming truck drivers. Homemaker was listed as the previous job held by 11%; 17% had warehouse jobs. Other prior occupations given made an eclectic list, including nurse, farmer, sales manager and dog groomer.

Even more germane to recruiters, only 33% had any commercial vehicle driving experience before operating Class 8 trucks. The average starting age for truck driving was between 31 and 35.

As for experience, 55% of the respondents have been driving a truck for over seven years — including almost 20% who have been driving for over five years.

The average length of haul for the respondents fell between 751 and 1500 miles. Over half (64%) said they are away from home driving more than four nights a week while 28% are home every night and 12% are away between 1 and 4 nights.

But the drivers overwhelmingly said they preferred being home every night and an “increase in nights away from home resulted in drivers responding that the haul was unacceptable.”

The survey also asked the drivers to rate job ‘irritants’ in order of importance. Not surprisingly, waiting time to load/unload was the biggest irritant followed by lack of respect from other drivers (presumably male ones).

When asked what they liked most about driving, the biggest response was pay (43% ranked it the most important). Close behind that (34%) was pride in their job.

As for what they found most satisfying about truck driving, 80% said taking pride in a job well done, 60% said driving safely and 50% said travelling.

But 60% said the pay, 49% said the travel, and 42% (more than one response was allowed) said the opportunity to accompany their spouse was what attracted them to trucking in the first place.

If this survey is any guide, women view trucking as a well-paying occupation — and one they take pride in. Maybe given that, it's high time to rewrite some recruiting pitches to help draw more of them to where they are sorely needed — in your fleet's driver's seats.