According to a regulators adviser, a federal study attempting to assess threats and abuse against female truck drivers and minorities will need to be revised before it can be deemed useful for the trucking industry.
“Crime Prevention for Truckers,” a report from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Research Bureau, was presented Wednesday at the first meeting of the FMCSA’s Women of Trucking Advisory Board (WOTAB). The 16-member body was tasked with encouraging women to enter the trucking industry as part of the infrastructure bill signed last year.
However, the study’s findings and methods were immediately criticized by WOTAB member Anne Balay, an author and union organizer. Balay, who also worked as a commercial truck driver, was particularly concerned about the study’s finding that “inappropriate touching” was the most serious offense reported by respondents.
“I’m a social scientist and have done extensive research on the subject, and I have to say that hearing that inappropriate touching is the worst reporting is incredibly inaccurate,” Balay said during the public gathering. “Rape is incredibly common, and to call rape ‘unreasonably touched’ is extremely offensive. I have interviewed many [women] Truckers who reported that rape is considered part of the job. It is very important that this group recognizes that.”
Panel members were also concerned about the scope of the survey and who was being asked to respond to it. Of the 653 participants, about 70% were men – and 63% of them were white. Studies have shown that out of approximately 3.5 million truck drivers in the country, 7% (245,000) are women.
“I was one of the 200 women who responded that I had received multiple incidents of harassment,” said WOTAB member Kellylynn McLaughlin, a driver at Schneider National. “I am always surprised by the small number of respondents in surveys that are supposed to represent us. We know that most of the time rape or molestation goes unreported because it’s difficult and often not well received. But I don’t know a single driver who hasn’t encountered some form of harassment.
“How do we get real numbers, 200+ women responding to a survey? I would like to see action points as we get better numbers. There is power in numbers.”
Tom Keane, FMCSA assistant administrator at the agency’s research office, said he was “pleased” with the responses FMCSA received, but also acknowledged the board’s shortcomings and concerns in the survey.
“The issue of rape may have to do with limitations in the survey,” Keane said, noting that some respondents said they did not want to go into detail about their experiences. “I think that speaks to the seriousness of the crimes that are being committed. From our point of view, we regard this as a first step. However, we welcome any contribution to improvement.
“I intend to follow this up as we move forward together, so I’d welcome input to improve subsequent surveys.”
Keane listed a number of “next steps” related to the survey, including the development and distribution of outreach materials to reinforce it through social media and presentations at industry conferences.
However, Balay warned that instead of releasing the original survey, “we as the Women in Trucking Advisory Board need to question how this survey was conducted and get a survey with meaningful data that reflects what’s happening in our industry.”
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