Ryder, Women in Trucking offer trucks spec'd for female drivers

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 2/12/2015

In an effort to get more women on the road as professional drivers, the Women in Trucking Association, Ryder System Inc. and various original equipment manufacturers are currently offering trucks that are ergonomically designed specifically for female drivers, according to a press release.

Based on results from a study conducted last year, the modified trucks can have up to 16 unique specifications:

  • Height and placement of cab steps
  • Height and placement of cab grab handles
  • Seat width and armrest height
  • Adjustable foot pedal height (accelerator, brake, clutch)
  • Height of seatbelts (shoulder area)
  • Visibility of dash cluster/gauges
  • Integrated ladders for double bunk sleepers
  • Sleeper berth light switches on cab wall, not the ceiling
  • Electric/hydraulic hood lifting mechanism
  • Automated transmission shift lever placement/location
  • Access to the top of the dash
  • Security system for cab (personal protection while in sleeper berth)
  • Better access to the windshield
  • Better access to oil and coolant check and fill
  • 5th wheel pull pressure
  • Height and placement of catwalk steps and back of cab grab handles

“Class 8 trucks have typically been designed with the ‘average’ truck driver in mind,” Women in Trucking President and CEO Ellen Voie told Land Line. “In the past, this has been a male, and the average weight and height of a male is typically greater than their female partners.”

According to Scott Perry, Vice President of Supply Management and Global Fuel Products at Ryder, many of the specs have been integrated by the OEMs at no extra charge. However, other features such has automated fifth wheels and automated trailer landing gear will add to the cost of the truck. How much will vary by manufacturer.

“The major emphasis here is providing the industry with visibility that these solutions are commercially available and can be utilized to improve vehicle configurations in any fleet,” Perry wrote in an email to Land Line. “The desire is to have all fleets working toward these configurations so that more women find that they are being welcomed into the industry.”

Announced in March 2014, the partnership began after a Women in Trucking study with Dr. Jeanette Kersten, assistant professor of Operations and Management Department for the College of Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Dr. Kersten and her graduate students conducted a survey to evaluate truck cab design and driver experience. The results revealed a need for improvement for female drivers.

Within the research, Dr. Kersten found that the average female driver is 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter than the average male. According to a March 2014 press release, those differences can make it difficult for women drivers to adjust seat levels for optimal access to pedals and visibility of gauges and mirrors. Placement of steps and handrails also made it more difficult for women to get in and out of a truck.

Last spring, Dr. Kersten and Voie presented the findings during the “Women’s Issues in Transportation Summit” in Paris, France. As a result, Citizen’s Mobility, a not-for-profit in Europe, has been working with WIT to implement changes in trucks and buses in Europe, according to Voie. The National Transportation Research Board and the Technology and Maintenance Council have also been presented the data, but Voie is unaware of any actions taken on their part.

According to Voie, similar modifications in American passenger cars have already taken place.

“The automobile industry recognized a long time ago that women were often the primary influencers in the purchase of a new car, so they have incorporated changes over the years with women in mind,” Voie told Land Line.

Voie is confident that after Ryder begins to spec all of their trucks to ensure greater adaptability, more fleets will join them in modifying their vehicles to ensure a better ride for women.

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