149: Celebrating Women in Trucking with Ellen Voie

This week on the Oakley Podcast, host Jeremy Kellett chats with Ellen Voie, the Founder of Women in Trucking Association. During the episode, Ellen and Jeremy discuss the founding of Women in Trucking, obstacles women face in the trucking industry, the opportunities for women in transportation, and more.

Key topics in today’s conversation include:

  • Ellen’s journey in starting the Women in Trucking Association (4:12)
  • Salute to women behind the wheel (7:31)
  • The “why” behind the Women in Trucking Association (9:34)
  • Obstacles women face in the trucking industry (13:30)
  • Getting the word out about the Women in Trucking Association (18:14)
  • Final thoughts (24:52)

Oakley Trucking is a family-owned and operated trucking company headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. For more information, check out our show website: podcast.bruceoakley.com.


Ellen Voie  00:00

I started it with just an idea. Then here we are 16 years later with 1000 members in 10 countries. So we’ve really grown so that means that the industry has embraced the idea of gender diversity. I mean, we represent everyone in the industry. So we have engineers, we have safety professionals. We have women who own truck schools and truck dealerships, so it’s not just drivers who are members. I just got to mention the mission encourages the employment of women in the industry, to address obstacles and then to celebrate success.

Jeremy Kellett  00:42

Welcome to the Oakley podcast, trucking, business and family. This show is brought to you by Oakley trucking headquartered in North Little Rock, Arkansas. The purpose of this podcast is to communicate with Oakley owner operators and their families by giving them up to date information concerning Oakley trucking and the trucking industry. From business advice to safety updates to success stories. Also to give an insight to outside truck drivers that might be interested in joining the Oakley family. There’s Jeremy kellett, Director of recruiting here at Oakley trucking and I’m your host for this podcast. It is the Oakley podcast, trucking business and family. And this podcast is for our owner operators and their families to keep them informed of what’s going on at Oakley trucking here in Northern Rock, Arkansas. Also we use it, it has turned into a recruiting and retention tool. But it’s a great tool that we have discovered to communicate with truck drivers. So we appreciate everybody listening to you. And if you’re not at Oakley Trucking, we thank you so much for listening to the podcast, be sure to like, subscribe, and comment and share with a friend. That is the way we get out there as you guys are doing it for. So please try to do that. So here’s what we’ve done. We’ve got to record quite a few episodes at the Mid America Truck Show. So that’s what’s going to be playing next. You know, I don’t have maybe five or six weeks, we got some really good ones. And I want to get it out to you guys, when we record them there at the show while it is going on. So it’s a pretty neat environment, a little different setting with a different background, instead of watching this, this normal one here in the booth at the Oakley terminal. So a little something different to look at. But so we’ve got just to give you an idea. I mean, I sat down with Casey Phillips of Sirius XM, you know, we got to hear his story, and how he got into radio and where he is today, we got to sit down with the founder of Pittsburgh power. Bruce Mallinson. And that was a great, that was a great episode, you know, to listen to you, he’s a great individual, you know, truckers against trafficking, we talk to the person with that in a IT organization. I mean, we just did several ones that we’re gonna bring to you that are pretty interesting, pretty good things to, to know and to learn about what’s going on at the Mid America Truck Show. And this one actually, that’s coming up right now that it is Women in Trucking with Ellen Voya. What a great story that is and what a great person she is, and doing what she’s doing. And I think you’ll be interested in that. And that’s what we’re coming up with now. So what we’ll do is just kind of introduce that. We’ll start with her in the next few weeks. We’ll be some different ones you know from the truck show. Hope you enjoy them all. And be sure and check us out on YouTube. Also don’t forget that here we are episode 149 with women and trucking Elon Voya Tao So this episode is sponsored by Arrow Truck Sales. Arrow Truck Sales has been in business for over 60 years and a longtime partner of Oakley trucking and the Oakley podcast. Dre visor and Keith Wilson do a great job at putting you in the right truck to fit your needs and our needs here at Oakley. They carry all makes and models to choose from with onsite financing through transport funding. So whether you’re a seasoned owner operator or a first time buyer, be sure to contact Keith Wilson at Arrow Truck Sales at 573-216-6047. And tell him you heard it on the Oakley podcast.

Ellen Voie  04:15

It’s like a movie theater.

Jeremy Kellett  04:16

I guess. You know, I’ve had several people have to do that for some reason.

Ellen Voie  04:22

For comfy chairs,

Jeremy Kellett  04:24

yes, a little bit more relaxing. Last year, we did it. And we had a table and he kind of had to, you know, when you’re sitting on the same side of the table, you’re gonna turn and talk to people like that. So, you know, it’s a little bit different, a little bit easier. Like this. I think we’re more comfortable, you know, getting it out. So

Ellen Voie  04:43

feels good to me. Yeah. Nice. Relax. So okay. Oh, and it’s a boy. Yeah.

Jeremy Kellett  04:49

I was gonna ask Voya Yeah, cuz I’m sure everybody goes boy. Ellen Voya.

Ellen Voie  04:55

It’s actually Norwegian. I was wondering if it is in Norway? It’s spelled W O ie No kidding. Yeah, I got changed when it came over here because those Norwegians don’t say W they say v. So now, every time you hear that Voya is financial, you’re gonna think about me. I tell people that all the time.

Jeremy Kellett  05:15

That’s a great lie. It’s a great night, when I haven’t heard from shirt for sure. pretty uncommon. Okay, we are here at the Mid America Truck Show. And we’re sitting down with Miss Ellen avoya. I want to make sure I get that last night, right boy up. And I guess, Ellen, we’ll get into some of this. You know, first of all, this is a great venue, Mid America truck show, especially for women in trucking, along with all of us, but it’s just a great format that brings all of us together. You know, even if it’s competition, we all get to come together and kind of celebrate or, you know, let trucking know what’s going on in the world and let everybody else know about trucking I think is getting started. I would like for you to introduce yourself kind of, you know, give our listeners an idea of who you are and what you do and where you’re from. Sure.

Ellen Voie  06:12

So, as you said, Ellen Goya, and the founder of the Women in Trucking Association, started it in March of 2007. So 16 years old, I started it with just an idea. And put together a board of directors got the legal paperwork done. And here we are 1616 years later with 1000 members in 10 countries. Well, about 15% of our members are men they join because they support our mission. Our conference last year had close to 1800 registered attendees, which is pretty amazing. So we’ve really grown. So that means that the industry has embraced the idea of gender diversity, and not just the fact that we need it. I mean, we represent everyone in the industry. So we have engineers, we have safety professionals, we have women who own truck schools and truck dealerships. So it’s not just drivers who are members. But a lot of our focus is on drivers because there’s a physical component. And so a lot of our work does, you know, include safety and security and things like that for drivers. I just got to mention the mission encouraged the employment of women in the industry, to address obstacles and then to celebrate success. Where are you from? I’m from Wisconsin with Orual Yeah, a driver that has a Midwest accent.

Jeremy Kellett  07:25

Know, just wondered if you have family.

Ellen Voie  07:28

I actually do have a son and a daughter and they both live pretty close. Within half an hour.

Jeremy Kellett  07:33

Good. What about you seems like a very busy woman, but what do you do when you have time? What’s your what’s your downtime?

Ellen Voie  07:40

Well, I’d like to go for long walks and I like to read and I have an airplane. I have a Cessna Skyhawk, so I like to go fly, yes,

Jeremy Kellett  07:48

nice hobbies. It’s a great hobby. That’s cool. So you get to fly that or you get to fly it very often.

Ellen Voie  07:53

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, but summer is more. I have more opportunities. In the summer in Wisconsin, we have something called the Flying hamburger social. So on Wednesdays in central Wisconsin, all the little airports host a little fly in and everyone just flies to them and they get food and you do what we call hangar flying, which is talking, you know, and it’s just so much fun. You know, it starts at five o’clock on Wednesdays. And so anytime after four, I am not in my office on Wednesdays, if the weather’s good, and I’m finding these little airports and just having fun.

Jeremy Kellett  08:21

That is really good. I have a friend that has a plane. And they realized how important the weather is when you start to get up. Wind and everything. You have to really know what’s going

Ellen Voie  08:33

on. So there’s still limits. Yep, I don’t go if it’s over 14 nuts.

Jeremy Kellett  08:37

That’s awesome. Great. Well, good. What are y’all doing? I guess first let’s get started. What are y’all doing here at the truck show?

Ellen Voie  08:44

So we have a booth in the atrium. But we also have our Whitney which is our driver Ambassador tractor trailer. It’s parked right outside the front of the Atrium. And that tractor trailer has a learning environment in there. It’s got a hands-on learning environment. It’s got videos, touchscreens, and there’s a simulator in the front. So I encourage everyone to go through the tractor trailer, and it’s a driver ambassador. Our driver is from Schneider. And so she works for Schneider two weeks out of the month and works for us one week out of the month and goes to trade shows like this. So that’s the booth in the atrium, but the big event is tomorrow night. So tomorrow at about 330 in the south wing and upper level. We will have our Salute to Women behind the wheel where we honor female commercial drivers. We give them all a red t-shirt. We have chocolate phones, and you’re welcome to come Oh yeah, but we have a cake that’s in the shape of a truck. We have some speakers and we have some awards that we give out. We are recognizing the driver of the year. We’ll announce the driver of the year. And then at the end. I am giving away a truck. Come on No Arrow Truck Sales donated a Volvo in 2018 Volvo VNL and a lot of people have donated items that will go with that truck and I get to you know, I keep saying I’m going to hand the keys of the truck to someone but it’s a keyless entry. So yeah, it’ll be on your phone and like in a hotel room, you know, donated the keyless entry. And, you know, it’s, I get to give that truck away to someone else does that for you? Oh, we did it once before, about six years ago. And it’s just the neatest thing to make someone change someone’s life.

Jeremy Kellett  10:18

Yeah. You know, that’s, that’s what we’re here to do. That’s what Women in Trucking does, I think can help change people’s love for sure. Hope so. Yeah, we do it, we have a lot of business with Arrow Truck Sales. You know, we’re very familiar with them. And we actually have Keith here in our booth, you know, helping us I know, I told him, he needs to go look at the truck donating. Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s fantastic to be able to do that. So what? You know, I know, you said you got to get started a long time ago, small operation, you did it. What really got you fired up about that in the beginning.

Ellen Voie  10:51

So I was working for a large company? Well, I’ll say it, I was working for Schneider. And I was the manager of recruiting and retention programs. So that was corporate level initiatives. And they said, figure out how to attract and retain non-traditional groups. And that was returning military, Hispanics, seniors and women. So at the time, I was getting my pilot’s license, and I belong to a women’s aviation organization. And I thought, Well, why isn’t there something in the trucking industry to support women in the industry? And so I started, I did my research, and I got a whole bunch of influential women that I talked to, and they all agreed to be on the board, and got paperwork done by our attorney. And, you know, it’s just, it’s really cool, because, you know, there’s very little pushback, there’s a few drivers out there who think women shouldn’t be driving trucks, but you know, they’re boomers, they’re going to age out, you know, they’re gonna retire pretty soon, because younger guys think that women can do anything. So it’s just been overwhelming. To see the industry support for what we do. We do things like, we work with the truck stops, on safety, security, and amenities. We work with the truck manufacturers on truck cab design, ergonomics, we’ve sent women down to their fat factories, to sit and have them measure female drivers. And so we, you know, we work with, we have white papers, we have a lot of white papers, we have one on how to attract and retain female drivers, we have one on parking, we have one on same gender training. We want to be a resource.

Jeremy Kellett  12:18

So women were I guess, women, if they want to get in it, contacting you first, can show them the avenues, the best avenues way to go.

Ellen Voie  12:27

Well, and I’m glad you said that, because we recently launched our driver portal, and it’s for men and women. I mean, it’s you know, and we have men drivers who join, because things that we’re doing, like at the truck stops, ta Petro put in hair dryers and big fluffy towels. You know, the men are like, we’ve like big fluffy towels. No, right. So, you know, but we have a driver portal on our website now. And you can ask questions, you know, like, what questions should I ask when I go to a carrier? What questions should I ask when I go to school? You know, how do I, you know, I always stay safe on the road, how do I stay healthy? How do I maintain relationships with my family? It’s even when people start asking questions, then we put the answers up there. And one of them recently is can I have a felony? And drive? And we’re like, yes, but you have to choose the companies that allow, you know, you can’t hold government and unit munitions with a felony, but you can certainly haul trash, you know. So, you know, we want to be the resource I serve on the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee at the D O T. And I’m proud of that, because apparently I have something to contribute. So again, it is a resource.

Jeremy Kellett  13:36

You know, that’s good. I mean, having that offering more, you know, opens up a lot of other people, not just women to join Women in Trucking, you give so many different services that I mean, encompasses all truck drivers,

Ellen Voie  13:51

right? Exactly. It does. And we have a lot of member benefits so they can get discounts like, for example Arrow Truck Sales. I mean, they’ll get an extended maintenance and things like that, by being a member of Women in Trucking is

Jeremy Kellett  14:03

how many do you have an idea how many women truck drivers there are in the United States, or what percentage they are

Ellen Voie  14:10

the percentage is 13.7. And that’s over the road drivers. Now if you look at the Department of Labor, they call them truck drivers slash sales delivery drivers, which is someone taking a straight truck to a grocery store with chips. So we do an annual Women in Trucking survey and for over the road drivers. It’s 13.7% Right now, is that going up since you started? Well, it’s 3% when I started, so you know what? I’d like to take credit for that one. Okay, well,

Jeremy Kellett  14:35

what a good story that you’re seeing progress then,

Ellen Voie  14:38

I think the biggest obstacle for women in the industry, whether they’re working as a dispatcher, safety director, CEO, women in the past didn’t picture themselves in the industry. They didn’t just look at a truck and go, oh, I want to work in that industry. But we tell stories. We have a member of the month, a Driver of the Year, influential women in trucking, so we tell their stories. So we might have someone who has trash, we might have someone who hauls cars we might have, you know, and then we tell their stories and other women go, oh, I hadn’t thought about that.

Jeremy Kellett  15:10

Well, that’s, yeah, I could see where, you know, they might think, well, I can’t do that. Right. You know, that’s always been a man’s job. I can’t drive a truck, you make it. Reality form of, I guess, first you gotta get them to believe that they can drive a truck. And then you have avenues to form. We had

Ellen Voie  15:29

a driver on the Megyn Kelly show, when she still had her show. And there, our driver talked about how she got to see sunsets and her husband saw the sunrises, you know, their team, and our phones just lit up. And so many women said, if she can do it, I can do it.

Jeremy Kellett  15:44

Yep. Yeah. What are some of the obstacles, the biggest obstacles they face? I know, we just talked about that one getting over the fear of it. But what some of the big obstacles, face

Ellen Voie  15:54

it is safe, they don’t feel safe. On a survey, female commercial drivers on a scale of one to 10, the average response was 4.4. So if I were to say to you, Jeremy, when you go to work, and you feel safe, less than half the time, would you want to work there? No, no. So safety, there’s three aspects of safety. One is how well maintained is the truck? How new is the truck? You know, we all know that broken down trucks or non maintained trucks are not safe. Secondly, where are you sending the driver? You know, are they unloading in an unsafe part of town that’s not well lit? Or maybe there’s no security?

Jeremy Kellett  16:31

Well, that’s a safety I’m thinking of. Their safety versus personal safety was what I was thinking of you.

Ellen Voie  16:36

Right? Well, then the third part of safety is, are they the captain of the ship? So if they say, Well, there’s a tornado coming, and there’s a snowstorm, I don’t want to go there. What is the response from the company? Is this trucking, get out there? Or is it? Do we respect your decision? So those three aspects and I will tell you that women look for companies with better safety ratings, newer trucks? And most? How many trucks does Oakley have?

Jeremy Kellett  17:04

850? Well, we don’t actually have any drugs. But they’re all They’re

Ellen Voie  17:07

all owner operators. So you’re a little more women who go to companies with about 50 trucks. Oh, really? Yeah. So company isn’t personal? Totally. It’s family. Yeah. But he is good. It’s the ones that are over 10,000 or 1000. You know, the big ones? Very few female drivers, they might start there, you know, but then they leave because they like that family atmosphere. Yeah. And,

Jeremy Kellett  17:33

you know, I guess I kind of figured it might be the opposite. I thought maybe, you know, the bigger companies would welcome women drivers, a lot more than maybe a smaller company that didn’t know, you know, taking a chance on it. But you can’t be right, I don’t know, you know, that’s a different way of looking at it. But that’s probably where they have to start a lot of times is the bigger company just to get in the foot in the door to get in the experience. And

Ellen Voie  17:56

so you are actually in a good position because 83% of female drivers come into the industry at the urging of a family member or friend. So if you have men driving for you, I would say go to your wife, go to your mom, your sister, your aunt, your daughter, and talk to them about teaming with you. And get them in the industry. And then once they come into the industry, they already know what it’s like. So the fact that 83% of women come into the industry because of a family member friend, that means that they already know what the industry is like.

Jeremy Kellett  18:27

Yeah, yeah, if you’ve got it, I guess a lot of them don’t come in cold. They do kind of know a little bit of what’s going on. So that’s good. I know you’ve got avenues of introduction. I mean getting in front of these women out there that’s probably got to be a full time job. Just like coming on Oakley podcast spreading the word. It looks like you’re really good at spreading the word about women and trucking and getting through all the media outlets that you possibly can.

Ellen Voie  18:53

You have a great relationship with the media. I love it. I’ve been on Fox News. In fact, I gotta return a phone call to Fox News Today. You know, it’s just being a resource. The board wants us to be a resource. And along with the white papers and the information the surveys that we do, we are resource but the other thing is we have an image team. In our image team. We have one of the United States and one in Canada they do Rydel On stage, we give legislators and regulators a ride along we gave Robin Hutchinson recently she’s the FMCSA administrator, a ride, we want our drivers to talk to them about what life is like on the road, because of their rules, you know, especially FMCSA. But we also gave the media, we gave Diane Sawyer a ride, you know, she spent six hours with one of our drivers. So we want them to help us tell our story. A couple other things that we’ve done, we created a Girl Scout transportation patch, we found out the boy scouts had one girl scout. So we created that, and along with an activity book, that it’s called scouting for cookies. So it talks about how the grain from the field goes to the bakery in a truck bakery to packaging, packaging, all in a truck. We want kids to look at your trucks and say, Mommy, that could be my milk, it could be my gas, it could be the cookies, you know it whatever we want them to have a relationship with the truck, or the end the driver, the industry put it that way. And the other thing we have girls, we have a truck driver doll. So to introduce kids to truck driving as well, it’s a plus but a 13 inch tall doll. 

Jeremy Kellett  20:22

So men are not gonna come up with that idea. Only women are gonna come up that ideal is over drug, you know,

Ellen Voie  20:44

Exactly. And I really wanted to do a truck driver doll than a technician doll, then maybe safety director doll, but you have to order I had to order 3000 to get a maid, it’s like, you know, that

Jeremy Kellett  21:27

That reminds me sometimes Ellen, my wife will say, you know, again, she was something will happen? Or will we come across something that was really neat. You know what you say? I guarantee you a woman came up with that? Probably right. You know, I’ll get her into doing, you know, talking about some of my fishing and stuff I do. She said, Well, I know a woman couldn’t come up with that. But she, I can probably fix some of that for you, you know, just the end of looking at different perspectives of things. Yeah, that makes us make this whole world go round. And it’s really neat to be able to do it together. Another question we touched on a little bit earlier. And I know we’re focused mainly on truck drivers, which is what we do. But what other avenues you know, you introduce women into transportation into the trucking world. I mean, what else does that include self driving a truck?

Ellen Voie  22:18

Well, there’s so many careers and that’s in our driver, Ambassador tractor trailer, we actually talk about what other jobs are available? You know, how many women have said, well, I want to be a dispatcher. You know what I’m really surprised about. I’ve been in this industry a long time. And I’m seeing and I was a dispatcher at one time. I’m seeing that about 44% of dispatchers are women, which is awesome. That is awesome. Because why not? And safety directors we’re seeing more women become safety directors. Because, hey, safety is a huge issue. We’re seeing more women take over from their dads. So for an example, it is very trucking. Jack Barea started it and his daughter, Karen Smartcheck, is now the CEO, even though she has a brother who works for the company, you know, so there’s that it’s not automatically assumed that the sun is taking over. Yeah, so we’re seeing more and more that we’re seeing more women? Look, Shelly Simpson’s a president at JB Hunt. You know, I mean, we’re seeing more women in the C suite.

Jeremy Kellett  23:16

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that’s long overdue, I guess. I mean, it’s just that now I think women are morning, wanting to be more involved in that. And you’re given that avenue, exactly for them to learn about the transportation industry, which a long time ago led to think it was an OP, one option for them. And through Women in Trucking, you open up all these doors to all these jobs and professions that women can see now of hey, why, you know, that’s all because the transportation industry, Elon is fantastic.

Ellen Voie  23:50

It is there’s so many jobs and so many jobs when I stand up in front of a group of women executives, and I’ll say how many of you in high school or college said I want to work in trucking. Rarely does a woman raise her hand? Rarely. But we’re seeing more and more women now actually going to college for supply chain. But my generation, I ended up in trucking. I wanted to be in radio broadcasting hoes that actually went to radio broadcasting school. But I ended up working at a trucking company in the drafting department. And one day they came in, they said we want to move you to traffic and we’ll send you to school. So I earned my diploma in traffic and transportation management. 1979 And here I am.

Jeremy Kellett  24:26

That’s awesome. It was funny. You say that because this week’s episode that came out on the Oakley podcast, I talked to a professor at University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Arkansas that runs the supply chain logistics division. And we talked about young people getting in it going through it getting out having opportunities, you know, because it’s companies like us that reach out to him for people coming right out of college or interns or people coming out and getting jobs into the transportation industry is really good, you know, real The good they used to that didn’t be I wasn’t offered

Ellen Voie  25:03

no schools. No, I know we’re seeing more supply chains. And we actually have a sister organization which is our foundation, which gives out scholarships to women seeking careers in trucking. So that would be as a driver CDL or safety or diesel tech we need diesel techs. And the third one we call leadership so somebody who’s working in the trucking industry and they want to advance their career we have scholarships available

Jeremy Kellett  25:28

lease on with Oakley trucking Americans drop off call our owner operators are the top paid in the country and we will prove it to you. We offer steady year round freight as well as a yearly annual bonus and increase each year your lease to us. Oakley has multiple divisions in dumps Hopper, bottoms and pneumatics. So we are sure to have something that works for your schedule and hometown. Check us out on YouTube as well as our weekly podcast or give us a call today and see what Oakley trucking was everything you have been looking for. How does somebody get in touch with women in trucking?

Ellen Voie  26:02

Womenintrucking.org. It’s pretty simple. 

Jeremy Kellett  26:07

They just basically go to the website to reach out to you through that. Absolutely.

Ellen Voie  26:11

There’s a button that says join. And men can be members. We encourage men to join because they support our mission. Sure. I mean, look Oakleys a member.

Jeremy Kellett  26:21

Yeah. And you have I mean, even husbands trying to get one of their wives to become co drivers. Absolutely. You know, and that’s a way to do it. We get asked that a lot of times we have that happen a lot of times, you know, so let’s see,

Ellen Voie  26:34

it’s the men bringing women in. I told you more women come in because of someone in their life.

Jeremy Kellett  26:39

So check out women in trucking.org. Okay, and if you have any questions, you guys can send them to me. I’ll be glad for them to Miss Ellen. I appreciate you coming on and doing this. 

Ellen Voie  26:50

Well. Thank you for having me on. This is fun. This is great. 

Jeremy Kellett  26:52

Thank you once again, we appreciate it. Thanks. Hey, thanks for listening to the Oakley podcast. We appreciate all you guys. Listen today, week in and week out. We got some real good feedback from everybody too. And it’s just, it’s good to know that it’s getting out there. And you guys appreciate it. Keep giving me feedback. Talk to us about what you want to hear and what you want to see. And as always spread the word and we’ll talk to you next week. Thanks. Thanks for listening to this episode with Oakley podcast, trucking, business and family. If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to write or review the show in the podcast platform of your choice and share it with a friend. We love hearing from our audience. So if you’ve got a question, comment or just want to say hello, head over to our website, the Oakley podcast.com and click the leave a comment but we’ll get you a response soon and may even share some of the best ones here on the show. We’ll be back with a fresh episode very soon. Thanks for listening!