En­cour­ag­ing Women to En­ter the Cana­dian Trucking In­dus­try


Road Today - - Contents - RT

Shel­ley Uvanille-hesch wants to see more women work­ing in the trucking in­dus­try, but she knows it won’t hap­pen with­out those who are al­ready there lend­ing a hand.

That’s why in 2014 she founded the Women’s Trucking Fed­er­a­tion of Canada, which re­cruits and men­tors women in a pro­fes­sion that is over­whelm­ingly male. The group es­ti­mates that only 3 per­cent of Cana­dian truck driv­ers are women.

The fed­er­a­tion has about 50 mem­bers, in­clud­ing men, and a hand­ful of cor­po­rate spon­sors, in­clud­ing the High­way Western Star deal­er­ship in On­tario. The group in­cludes pro­fes­sion­als who hold non­driv­ing jobs in the trucking in­dus­try, such as dis­patch­ers, man­agers and parts tech­ni­cians.

“We re­ally want to en­cour­age more women into the in­dus­try. It’s a good job and there is a def­i­nite need for more truck­ers,” she said. “It’s a man’s world, but it’s com­ing around.”

Uvanille-hesch worked her way up to the cab of a big truck with­out the ben­e­fit of an or­ga­ni­za­tion like Women’s Trucking Fed­er­a­tion. The daugh­ter of a truck driver, she knew from a young age she wanted to drive as well: “I al­ways had the bug, but I wanted to be home with my kids.”

She com­pen­sated by driv­ing a school bus; once her chil­dren were grown, she grad­u­ated to a mo­tor coach, then a straight truck, and has been driv­ing a Class 8 truck for 17 years. For the past 13 years, she’s driven for Sharp Trans­porta­tion, a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals car­rier based in Cam­bridge, Ont., that serves Canada and most of the United States. Her

reg­u­lar runs in­clude Ge­or­gia, Florida, Texas and Cal­i­for­nia.

As a se­nior driver at Sharp, Uvanille-hesch drives a 2016 Western Star 5700XE she’s named “Destiny Star.”

“I love it. There is so much room and it’s a smooth ride,” she said. “I’m only 4’ 11”, but I can see over the hood and I can ac­tu­ally see out of the hood mir­rors into my blind spots.”

A solo driver for a long time, she now teams with her hus­band, Chris, who earned his CDL so he could join her on the road.

She also praised Detroit™ Vir­tual Tech­ni­cian™, which comes stan­dard on the 5700XE. The in­te­grated re­mote di­ag­nos­tic sys­tem records crit­i­cal ve­hi­cle per­for­mance data im­me­di­ately be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter

a fault oc­curs. Within min­utes, Vir­tual Tech­ni­cian gives driv­ers and fleets a pre­lim­i­nary di­ag­no­sis, rec­om­men­da­tions and, if needed, di­rec­tions to nearby ser­vice lo­ca­tions with the avail­able parts.

She also likes the at­ten­tion the Western Star at­tracts: “It doesn’t mat­ter where we go, peo­ple are al­ways tak­ing pic­tures of my ride and ask­ing ques­tions about her, even when I’m fu­el­ing. Quite of­ten, I pop the hood so they can look at the en­gine.”

She’s put 191,000 miles on “Destiny Star” in her first year, and she ap­pre­ci­ates it more than ever.

“It’s my first Western Star, but I wouldn’t want to drive any­thing else,” she said.

When her hus­band is be­hind the wheel, Uvanille-hesch stays busy with the Women’s Trucking Fed­er­a­tion, which is ac­tive on a num­ber of fronts, from men­tor­ing women in driv­ing school and host­ing ca­reer events at high schools to giv­ing in­ter­views to pol­ish the pub­lic im­age of truck­ers. The fed­er­a­tion also is in­volved in a num­ber of char­i­ta­ble causes and ap­pears at in­dus­try events to gain vis­i­bil­ity and re­cruit women driv­ers. Shel­ley will also be a key­note speaker at the ‘Smart Trucker’ sem­i­nar be­ing held on Septem­ber 12th at the Casablanca Win­ery Inn lo­cated in Grimsby. Women truck­ers can do a lot to en­cour­age newer driv­ers by men­tor­ing them and be­com­ing fleet and school train­ers, she said: “They’ll get a wealth of knowl­edge from all an­gles.”

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