How Trucking Industry can support LGBTQ+ Drivers
The LGBTQ+ community is an integral part of the fabric of our society, and their lives and stories are a meaningful and important part of who we are as Americans and as people. Recent years have seen this community become more visible and their struggles become more openly discussed, and Americans are asking themselves what they can do to be more effective allies. June is pride month, and with that comes an additional opportunity to recognize, support, and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Many companies take this opportunity to tokenize the community or offer lip-service support while advocating against them behind closed doors.
Supporting an Inclusive Workforce in a Changing Labor Market
One of the most effective and genuine ways to support any marginalized community is to consider what we as allies can do to welcome them into our lives with the same compassion, consideration, and humanity that we would offer to anyone. For organizations that want to support the LGBTQ+ community authentically, some of the most meaningful tools they have at their disposal are employment and inclusion. It’s well-known that more inclusive and diverse organizations outperform less inclusive and diverse companies in profit, revenue, and employee satisfaction.
It’s no secret that many employers are struggling amid the Great Resignation and are trying to keep up with a fast-changing labor market. The trucking industry is no exception, currently experiencing a major driver retention issue and driver shortage that sees more than 80,000 trucking jobs open at any given time. At a time when the industry is reconsidering who and how to recruit the LGBTQ+ community is finding a foothold in trucking. The unique working conditions provided by commercial truck driving are opening the doors for many LGBTQ+ folks who are looking for honest work and who may not feel comfortable being themselves in some other professions. Workers who identify as LGBTQ+ are facing much higher unemployment rates than their heterosexual peers. In many ways, these opportunities make for a perfect match.
Trucking & the LGBTQ+ Community: A Great Match
Trucking is an industry that’s long been dominated by blue-collar, conservative, white males, a population that makes up two-thirds of the more than 3.5 million truckers. At the same time, trucking has been a haven for those who felt they did not fit into traditional society or work opportunities. According to Anne Balay, a truck driver and author of the book, Semi-Queer: Inside the World of Gay, Trans, and Black Truck Drivers, “The industry has long been a haven for misfits and people who don’t follow rules well.” This presents a unique chance for carriers to altruistically support a community in need while making a decision that will benefit their business at the same time. Indeed, it is moral and right to support LGBTQ+ people, but it is also a unique win-win for carriers to reach out to and recruit members of this community by showing their support for them and their safety in the trucking industry. By talking openly about LGBTQ+ issues in trucking and working together with the community to determine solutions and best practices, trucking can become a more inclusive space. And it’s not just LGBTQ+ folks who will benefit from this. If carriers commit to making trucking a more open and inclusive environment for them, for women, and for BIPOCs who want to drive, the industry might see some improvements in the driver shortage at a time when few are interested in joining the industry.
Trucking is honest work, vital to the fabric of modern society, and like many other industries, it is evolving to meet the changing landscape of employment in America. This means that opening the doors to and recruiting members of the LGBTQ+ community is not enough on its own – continual and comprehensive efforts must be made to ensure that drivers are safe, protected, and free from discrimination. Shelle Lichti is a 25-year veteran truck driver and the founder of LGBT Truckers – she also drives the Rainbow Rider to show support for the community. She and Bobby Coffey-Loy, a media and public relations specialist, has been working to support and encourage LGBTQ+ individuals across the transportation industry, especially in trucking. Their suggestions to carriers involve being open, educated, and prepared, and always prioritizing drivers and their safety, whether they are queer or not. The pair offer some specific ways carriers can support this community, but they are not alone.
In addition to a host of activists and drivers who is working to increase the visibility and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in trucking, there are other groups aiming to open the industry up to even more groups. Ellen Voie, President, and CEO of Women in Trucking, is working to bring gender diversity and equity to trucking. In addition to advocating for women in trucking, WIT is also working toward the support and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community in the industry. Carriers should learn from these activists and their movements – a more inclusive trucking industry is more profitable, effective, and safe.
As with all industries in the US, embracing diversity, inclusion, and equity in your workforce as a carrier is not just the right thing to do, but it makes good sense. This year, Pride month is an opportunity for carriers to consider what they can do to support the LGBTQ+ community. Moreover, it’s an opportunity to consider how being inclusive and supportive can be mutually beneficial for the community and your organization. Everyone deserves the right to work, free and safe from discrimination, to support themselves and whomever they love.