Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics

The U.S. Department of Transportation projects a large number of job openings for skilled and semi-skilled workers over the next decade and concludes that “the recruitment and training of new workers who will be responsible for the operation, maintenance, and construction of the nation’s transportation infrastructure will be critical” (U.S. Departments of Transportation, Education, and Labor, 2015). Between 2012 and 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment in transportation will grow by 417,000 but because of retirement and high turnover in parts of transportation, this translates into substantially more job openings. Over half of current workers are at least 45 years old, and over a third of transit workers, as well almost three in ten railroad workers, are 55 years or older. As with manufacturing, the extent of job opportunities varies across the country: New York City, Dallas, Los Angeles, Houston, and Chicago are projected to have the highest numbers of job openings.

The U.S. Department of Transportation expects potential difficulties in filling projected job openings because the number of people graduating in educational programs related to some of these middle-skill occupations are not keeping pace with projected job openings (Figure 4.1).

Figure 4.1. Projected Annual Job Openings and Graduates of Related Educational Programs in Middle-skill Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Occupations

Notes: 1 Job openings are projected annual average of change 2012 to 2022. 2 2012 completion of related educational programs.
Source: Compilation of U.S. Departments of Transportation, Education, Labor (2015), p.26.

In 2014 almost one million women worked full-time in transportation and material moving occupations, including 221,000 as laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, 136,000 women bus drivers and 100,000 women ‘drivers, truck and sales’[1] (U.S. Department of Labor 2015c).  Yet overall this sector is only half as likely to employ women as the economy overall, and women are fewer than one in ten workers in growing better paid middle-skill jobs in the industry (Figure 4.2).

Figure 4.2 Women are a Minority of Workers in Growing Well-Paid Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Jobs

Women’s Share of Employment in Good Middle-skill  Transportation, Distribution, and Logistics Occupations

Note: For definition of good middle-skill jobs’ see Appendix A.
Source: IWPR calculation based on IWPR O*Net database (see Appendix A).

Figure 4.1 lists the middle-skill transportation, distribution and logistics occupations with the highest projected job openings nationally between 2014 and 2024. Women are fewer than 10 percent of workers in trucking, the occupation with the highest number of openings; they are fewer than 5 percent of workers in mechanical and technician positions. Women make up a higher proportion of the workforce in bus services and urban transit, and of dispatchers.

Table 4.1 The Middle-skill Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Occupations with the Highest Levels of Project Job Openings, 2014-2024

Notes: Earnings are for workers who work at least 35 hours per week for at least 50 hours per year.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor “O*Net online;” U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau.

Truck Driving

‘Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers’ is the occupation with the highest projected number of job openings in transportation; between 2014 and 2024, the industry expects 404,500 job openings. Median hourly earnings for full-time, year round work in 2013 were $40,588; for women working full-time in this occupation however earnings were only $27,657, a gender earnings ratio of only 67.7 percent. In 2013 there were 236,600 women who worked full-time as truck drivers[2]; women currently working in these positions may be interested in pursuing employment opportunities in the higher paid segments of the industry. Another close occupation is bus driving; 342,464 women were working full-time as bus drivers in 2013, with similarly low median annual earnings as women truck drivers (of $27,180). Thus, quality employers seeking to fill vacancies for truck drivers in the first instance may look to women already working in the industry.

Yet the occupation that is closest in its overall profile to truck drivers and employs a substantial number of women are cooks. Cooks are not in the transportation industry of course, but the profile of the occupation overall is as similar to truck drivers as bus drivers. As discussed above,  overall cooks are more similar to truck drivers than 70% of the 473 occupations we have analyzed, and the job requirement of cooks share many similarities with those of truck drivers according to the O*Net database.

Figure 4.3 Truck Drivers and Potential On-Ramp Occupations Employing Lower Waged Women



Notes: The target occupation uses summary report information for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers. 56 percent of O*Net survey respondents for this occupation had a high school diploma or equivalent. Closeness value Truck drivers to Bus drivers: 0.090; to cooks 0.089.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor “O*Net online and IWPR analysis of IWPR O*Net database (see Appendix A).

Job quality and earnings in trucking vary widely (perhaps illustrated most strongly by the high number of workers who leave the industry each year). Jobs with the highest earnings potential in the industry require investment in commercial driver’s license and on-the job training with a senior driver.  The industry has some formal apprenticeship schemes, providing an opportunity to become qualified while working and earning. One barrier identified by women working in the industry is a sometimes rather hostile working environment. [3] Yet these are barriers that are not insurmountable and certainly not a reflection on women’s capacity to succeed in these jobs. Creating and maintaining work cultures that respect workers and protect their opportunities to be trained and become skilled workers, irrespective of who they are, will benefit the industry overall, not just women seeking to enter the industry.

Mechanics and Service Technicians

The Department of Transportation has highlighted aircraft mechanics and service technicians as one of the occupations likely to face skill shortages because of the gap between skilled workers leaving the occupation and new workers becoming skilled (Figure 4.1). Workers in the occupation had median annual earnings of $56,866 in 2014; the large majority of workers do not have associate degrees. Although median annual earnings are slightly lower in other mechanic and technician jobs in the transportation industry, these also provide good earnings without the need for high levels of investment in formal education (Table 4.1). Yet technicians and mechanics are occupations virtually devoid of women. Women are 5 percent of aircraft mechanics, and fewer than 2 percent of car or bus and truck mechanics.

The occupation of ‘automotive body and related repairers’ is projected to have almost 50,000 job openings nationally; median annual earnings in the occupations are close to $40,000 (Table 4.1). Women are fewer than 2 percent of the workforce. Indeed, the real life job titles listed on O*Net for this occupation include ‘Body Man’ or ‘Auto Body Man,’ signaling that this is not a job typically envisaged for women. Comparing the typical skills and knowledge attributes of this occupation to those of ‘packaging and filling machine operators,’ an occupation that is majority female, shows considerable similarities but provide much lower earnings (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.4 Skills Profiles: Automotive Body and Related Repairers (Median Earnings of $39,582) and Packaging and Filling Machine Operators and Tenders (Median Earnings of $25,851)

Notes: *O*Net data collection uses different scales for different attributes; to allow comparability, all scales have been normalized to 0.0 to 1.0 scale. The closeness value between the two occupations based on all attributes in the O*Net database is 0.096. Median earnings are for full-time, year-round workers in 2014 dollars, adjusted using CPI-U-RS. Attributes listed are those highlighted as most important for Automotive Body and Related Repairers in the O*Net database.
Source: IWPR compilation based on U.S. Department of Labor “O*Net online  and IWPR O*Net database.

Comparing mechanic and service technician occupations through O*Net characteristics does not suggest any other close occupations that already employ a large number of women. The occupations require very specific skill sets that need to be acquired in training and education programs. Yet they also require many other skills that are common in occupations that employ larger numbers of women, including in the on-ramp occupations already profiled in this report. These include precision, monitoring of operations, manual dexterity, use of software, information retrieval, working in noisy environments, and wearing protective clothing. Women and girls are less likely than men to have been given the opportunity to work with tools and to informally learn about engines, and thus may be less confident than men to apply for training programs in such fields. Targeted outreach and pre-training programs can overcome such barriers and improve the attractiveness of the industry to women.

Cargo and Freight Agents

A target occupation with more potential female on-ramp occupations is ‘cargo and freight agents.’ While the occupation is not large, it is fast growing and is projected to have 31,300 job openings between 2014 and 2024. ‘Cargo and freight agents’ have median annual earnings of $42,729; work in the occupation requires a high school diploma and on-the-job experience and training but no college degree. Three of ten workers (31 percent) in the occupation are women. Figure 4.4 shows majority-female occupations that are very similar to ‘cargo and freight agents’ according to O*Net criteria. Each of the four potential majority female on-ramp occupations have lower median annual earnings and require the same if not more general level of education and on-the-job training: ‘dispatchers (except police and ambulance)’ and’ customer service representatives,’ both occupations that are very similar, apart from being majority female (55.7 percent and 67.8 percent respectively) and having lower median annual earnings ($37,332 and $32,436 respectively). The next two closest occupations —‘human  resource assistants except payroll and timekeeping’, and ‘secretaries and administrative assistants’— typically require higher levels of education (post-secondary vocational qualifications) but also provide lower median annual earnings ($40,738 and $36,401 respectively) and are predominantly female (80.9 and 95.4 percent respectively).

Figure 4.5 Cargo and Freight Agents with Lower Paid Possible On-Ramp Occupations

Notes:* Human Resources Assistants, Except Payroll and Timekeeping; **Dispatchers, Except Police, Fire, and Ambulance. 193 percent of respondents to O*Net survey for occupation had a high school diploma or equivalent; 6 percent had an Associate degree; and 2 percent had some college or no degree. Distance to Dispatchers, Except Police, Fire, and Ambulance: 0.061; Human Resources Assistants: 0.070;  Secretaries and Administrative Assistants: 0.071; to Customer Service representatives: 0.072; to Library Assistants: 0.098.
Source: IWPR O*Net database (see Appendix A).

Attracting women to middle-skill jobs in transportation

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT, 2015) has recognized the severity of women’s underrepresentation in the industry and the need to address it if the industry is to have a realistic chance at meeting forecasted skills needs. The DOT has identified the factors as contributing to women’s low numbers in the industry:

  • Women’s lower level of technical skills and knowledge of tools because they have fewer opportunities to learn these while growing up.
  • A work culture that is not welcoming to women who may be a minority of one.
  • Lack of workplace supports for workers with family responsibilities.
  • Lack of reliable transportation and access to tools for transportation jobs that require workers to travel to job sites.
  • Lack of information about the opportunities in transportation jobs.

These barriers are not unique to the transportation industry, and solutions, such as  educational approaches that provide career and technical education in an inclusive manner, and women-only pre-apprenticeship programs or specific events and workshops for women and girls can make up for such potential deficits. The long-standing Climb Wyoming program, which trains unemployed or low-income single mothers to become truck drivers, shows the potential of pro-active collaborations between workforce developers and employers to tackle poverty while filling urgent skills needs (Climb Wyoming 2016). The Department of Labor’s American Apprenticeship Grant Program includes some grants specifically targeted at the skills needs of the transportation industry (U.S. Department of Labor 2015b):

  • The Transportation Learning Center (TLC) received grant funding to develop new registered apprenticeships for Signals Maintainers and Transit Coach Operators, as well as for the expansion of existing programs. TLC is working with Chicago Women in the Trades and Amalgamated Transit Union to design an apprenticeship programs from scratch, and design it in a manner that is inclusive and open to women and underrepresented minorities. The grant will provide training for close to 1,300 frontline workers in the public transportation/electro-mechanical industry.
  • The Minnesota Apprenticeship Initiative, through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, is receiving grant funding to bring workers in newly registered apprenticeships in almost 30 growing occupations through more than 100 employer partners and across five key industries, including transportation.

[1] For the purposes of having a sufficient sample of women working in the occupation, the IWPR O*Net database had to combine three occupations into the category  ‘drivers, truck and sales’: Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver, a position that needs a commercial HGV license and has earnings of $19.00 hourly, and is taken as the reference group for earnings and job zone requirements; Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers, with median hourly earnings of $14.21, and Driver/Sales Workers- delivery drivers- with median hourly earnings of just $10.70 (ONet OnLine 2016).
[2] See note above, includes women working as Light Truck or Delivery Services Drivers.
[3] See for example EEOC (8-18-14).

Narrow the Wage Gap through Access to Good Jobs

Half of the gender wage gap is due to women working in different occupations and sectors than men. Improving women’s access to good middle-skill jobs can help close the wage gap and improve women’s economic security.

Find a Target JobRead the Full Report

Latest News

4 / 13 / 17

The Surprising Solution to the Equal Pay Problem

Read More

4 / 10 / 17

Closing the Skills Gap with Plant Tours, Pep Talks and Child Care

Read More
Twitter outputted an error:
Could not authenticate you..

A Project of

With Support from