Women In Industry

by Tom Gresham

WHEN REBECCA BREWSTER began her career in the trucking industry in 1986 as a fleet analyst for Moen’s private fleet, it was more about opportunity than design. A recent college graduate with a degree in English, she did not see many job prospects for a liberal arts major in eastern North Carolina. She took a temporary assignment for Moen auditing driver logs, analyzing data from trip records on speed, miles per gallon and hard-braking. She also got to work with Moen’s Driver Quality Circle, meeting each Saturday morning with the drivers to identify issues and solutions.

She was hooked.

“From there, my interest in the industry really took off,” Brewster said.

Today, Brewster serves as president and COO of American Transportation Research Institute, and she said she can’t imagine spending her career in any other industry.

“The people at the heart of this industry —professional drivers and fleet personnel — are all so genuinely interested in doing what’s right and what’s best for fleet safety and productivity,” Brewster said. “I feel very fortunate to be in a position to help advance the industry’s safety and productivity through ATRI’s industry research.

“Certainly across my 30-plus years in trucking I have seen more women come into the industry, across all levels of employment,” Brewster said. “And honestly, I think the industry is better served by having more diverse voices contribute to its success.”


Similar to Brewster, Alicia Echols, who now serves as director of safety and compliance for Bennett Heavy & Specialized, also did not seek out a career in the trucking industry, but her first job opportunity in the field “came to me at a good time in life,” she said.

“I was a young wife and mother with no college degree, but I was eager, smart, organized and I had computer skills,” Echols said. “Primarily, I was looking for a place that would be a good fit for my family, but location, work hours and income were all factors that led me here. After working a little over a year with a brokerage firm, I had the opportunity to change gears and work for a woman-owned transportation company that was closer to my home. I took a leap of faith and I have been at Bennett now for 15 years.”

Echols describes her personal experience working in the industry as “incredible.”

“The most rewarding aspect of my work is knowing that I have had a positive impact on our drivers’ lives,” Echols said. “Whether through a safety event that leads to a learning opportunity, celebrating their accomplishments or simply lending an ear when tough times come their way, trucking is family and that is where I find the reward — in the craziness of it all.”

Echols said she has absolutely seen progress for women in the trucking industry, such as through companies connecting women from their organizations with initiatives such as Bennett’s Women In The Driver Seat (WIDS) and the Women in Trucking Association (WIT).

“These programs offer places and networks where women can speak openly with their colleagues about their accomplishments, advancing their career, their safety, and various initiatives promoting working together to overcome obstacles,” Echols said. “Do not discount the value in these efforts. Women need to know they are supported and celebrated if we are going to continue to contribute to this industry, and these organizations and initiatives go a long way in providing that.”


Echols believes that some of the challenges women face in the trucking industry are not unique to just them.

“It is important to note that a lot of issues we are facing now in the trucking industry are issues that affect both men and women, such as truck parking, safety on the road, healthy eating and medical care,” Echols said. “Common causes go a long way in bringing people together through advocacy.”

In particular, Brewster believes addressing the parking challenge for the industry – one that affects drivers of all kinds – could help bolster the female driving pool.

“The lack of available truck parking is one of my soapbox issues and I discuss it in every single presentation I give,” Brewster said. “As a nation, we owe it to the men and women who deliver for us each and every day to ensure that they have a safe place to sleep and get their mandated rest. If we want to attract more women to driving positions in particular, that’s one issue we’re going to have to do something about.”


Although signs of progress are clear, Echols said the industry still has room to do more to strengthen the climate and opportunities for women in trucking.

“The trucking industry has the potential to support and encourage the growth of the female transportation workforce by actively seeking out and hiring more women, providing professional development opportunities and career advancement paths that are inclusive and supportive of women,” Echols said. “Celebrating the achievements and contributions of women in the industry can also inspire and motivate more women to pursue careers in trucking, fostering a sense of community and promoting diversity and innovation in the workforce. By creating a more supportive and inclusive environment, the trucking industry can benefit from the unique perspectives and talents of women and continue to evolve and thrive.”

Brewster said the industry offers a rich assortment of career possibilities.

“I believe the opportunities for women in this industry are limitless, and if I had a daughter I would definitely encourage her to look for a career in transportation,” Brewster said. “Work in the supply chain is at the heart of this nation’s economy and it’s extremely gratifying to know that you get to play a role in that.”

Noting more growth for women in the industry on the horizon, Echols agreed. “We are coming,” she said. “Attend a few trade shows or conferences and you can see the change in female presence in the past 10 years even,” Echols said. “I cannot imagine the change from what it would have looked like almost 50 years ago when Marcia (Marcia Taylor, CEO and chair of Bennett) started Bennett to now. Women decision-makers are everywhere, making strides in all disciplines of transportation management. It truly is exciting, and I look forward to what is ahead for us in this industry.”


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