Jodi Smith is a Class 2 truck driver for JMS Powered Access. She has been driving trucks since 2016 and is an advocate for female drivers. Famed for her pink cab, Jodi is determined to share the realities of trucking as a woman, with the aim to entice more young people, particularly young women into a predominantly male-dominated and ageing industry. In this Q&A Jodi shares her insights on trucking, safety, advice on breaking into the industry and her thoughts on how truck parks can modernise to give the sector a much-needed boost and ensure its technologies and approaches stay at the forefront of automotive development.
How safe do you generally feel as a female truck driver?
As a female class 2 driver, I work with some amazing people, mainly on building sites – so most of the time I feel pretty safe.
If I were to feel unsafe anywhere it would be nights out in a truck park. They’re often dimly lit, and not very secure – and I know the other female drivers have felt insecure staying overnight in their cabs at certain truck parks; they try not to draw attention to themselves. My cab is pink – so it’s hard for me not to draw attention!
What measures would you like to see implemented within truck parks to make you feel more safe and secure as a driver?
Truck parks need to adapt to make drivers want to stay there and feel secure while doing so. All drivers want to feel more secure; both personally and also feel secure about whatever they are transporting, and I feel this would help attract more women to the industry.
Layout & Security
Truck parks can feel quite secluded. They are dark and have lots of alleyways and often the lorry bays are quite a distance from the services and facilities themselves. Better lighting, better facilities, and more security would make a lot of drivers feel more comfortable when using truck parks.
Security is particularly an issue for drivers with curtain-side lorries who often have things stolen from them – even diesel! It’s even happened to me. I think better security at truck parks would be amazing and make drivers feel a lot safer – especially as you’re usually sitting in the cab when a theft is happening which can make you feel vulnerable as a woman. Because of this, I’d avoid parking in lay-bys when driving a curtain-side lorry.
It would be nice to have more drive-through facilities for truck drivers. A lot of service stations cater to the general public or people on holiday rather than lorry drivers who actually need to stay there overnight.
We find it really hard using service stations for the necessities as the prices are marked up so much – it makes it hard for lorry drivers to buy simple things like milk, teabags etc., at a normal price as you’re restricted by the size of the vehicle as to where you can stop. I can’t roll up to Tesco Metro in an artic (articulated lorry) so it would be great to have more variety and better more affordable drive-through facilities for truck drivers.
Quality and Quantity
I prefer the modern service stations, not only do they have the best food but also the quality and convenience of the car park is important – we need to ensure our services have good-quality roads and lots of dedicated parking spaces for lorries.
At the moment, there just aren’t enough facilities for all the drivers needing to use them, and the popular services don’t even have enough parking bays. Often drivers end up parking on the hard shoulder and risk getting tickets, just to use the better services.
In terms of what the future will look like, I know that there is always going to be development in the industry – and a need for drivers to learn and understand new technologies. Having that driver support and opportunities to learn is so important to get to grips with emerging technologies – you have to accept; times change and you are never going to know everything. You have to learn – you have to look after your vehicle.
Things are changing in the industry, and like cars, lorries will evolve too, and we have to adapt to that as drivers. I love my job, so I’d like to keep driving my vehicle and I’d rather not think about self-driving lorries, but companies will have to get with the times and make sure they’re evolving too.
What else do you think could be done to entice more women to become truck drivers?
Lorry driving isn’t a man’s job – I can do this job with a full set of acrylics! It’s quite physical but it’s not hard. I just love my job! It is good money and a great community and I want more girls to consider it.
Do you see women as the answer to help address the current driver shortage?
More female drivers would certainly help the driver shortage. But, in essence, the industry just needs more younger people coming into it.
We need to do more to put haulage into the public eye – more people need to consider it as a profession. Although the driver shortage is unfortunate, it has let us as advocates for the industry get the message out there – we want to tell people that it is a good job. The industry needs more young people, it needs more women, and we need to do more to make people consider it as an opportunity.
It’s not roses all the time. The perception is that it’s a ‘strong man’s job’ and not for women. Lorry driving is definitely for girls!
What would your advice be to women that are considering becoming truckers?
Do your research and ask for help are my two golden pieces of advice. You’ll always be offered training on a job – and it comes with time in role and confidence; the more you do it, the better you get. You’re always learning – there are always opportunities to get involved – sometimes I’m even showing the men what to do (even with broken machinery!)
Support for drivers is 100% there at most haulage companies. At my company, we’re all quite young and there is a really good network of drivers. The industry really isn’t as dinosaur as it used to be!