Christina Ameigh, regional vice president — western region, of Volvo Trucks North America.
According to a report by American Trucking Associations, in 2018 the trucking industry was short roughly 60,800 drivers, which was up nearly 20 percent from 2017's figure of 50,700. If current trends hold, the shortage could swell to over 160,000 by 2028. Additionally, a 35 percent increase in freight volume is expected over the next 10 years.
Volvo Trucks North America is working on various solutions. It is committed to providing career opportunities for women and recently brought Volvo Dynamic Steering (VDS) to North America.
Perhaps where there is a will to integrate women into a solution, there is a way.
Christina Ameigh, regional vice president — western region at Greensboro-based Volvo Trucks North America, is a powerful advocate of Volvo's culture and has a strong pitch for women to consider a career in the trucking industry.
"Volvo Trucks' core values are safety, quality and environmental care," Ameigh said. "I try to pull these values into the day-to-day activities when supporting our customers and drivers, and it's really satisfying."
From 2013-2019 Ameigh was fleet sales manager. In this role she was the sales strategy leader for conquest and retention fleet accounts in the northeast United States region, working primarily with dealer partners to bolster sales. Her responsibilities included creating sales and pricing strategies with dealers to provide the right product for each customer. She also helped develop and maintain long-term relationships between Volvo Trucks and its fleet customers.
In her current role, Ameigh is responsible for sustaining and increasing market share, profitability and growth and managing field sales activities for the western region of Volvo Trucks North America.
"I enjoy empowering the dynamics of my team to change and grow," Ameigh said. "And also strategizing with our dealer leadership to increase sales and garner new customers, and then seeing the results of those efforts and our customers' satisfaction with the products."
The most challenging part of her role as regional vice president is the cultural differences in the west compared to any other part of the country.
"They wear the ‘wild west' reputation as a badge of honor," Ameigh explained. "On one hand they are very spirited and on the other hand, they run fast and loose. As a person that appreciates processes and details, this goes against the foundation of my personality. But my team is doing a great job of loosening me up, which is probably good for me in a lot of ways."
The Driver Shortage
The United States Census Bureau reports that more than 3.5 million people work as truck drivers, an occupation dominated by men who hold more than 90 percent of truck driving jobs.
Here are some other key points about the demographics of the trucking industry:
- Only 6.2 percent of about 3.5 million professional drivers in the United States are women.
- Driving large tractor-trailers or delivery trucks is one of the largest occupations in the United States.
- Among younger truckers under age 35, more of them are women, Hispanic and more educated than their older counterparts age 55 and older.
- Truckers are older on average than other workers. Their median age is 46 compared with 41 for all workers.
Ameigh said that with a driver shortage in the industry and freight demand increasing, women are an obvious solution. Because it is a "driver's market," many fleets are making the business more attractive to all drivers — offering positions with more local travel so they are home more often, and newer trucks that are equipped with features that make driving easier for females, who tend to be smaller and shorter.
Ameigh pointed out there isn't just a shortage of women behind the wheel. There is also a shortage of women in management roles in the trucking industry. She believes women make great leaders in the business and have a lot to offer, if given the opportunity.
"I find it perplexing that only 14 percent of managers in this industry are female," Ameigh said. "More and more fleets and manufacturers are finding that diversity adds to their bottom line and are more open than ever to hiring and finding ways to retain women in this business. As managers, I think women have a lot to offer in bringing a unique perspective to the business. Without stereotyping too much, I think overall women can be more empathetic, detail oriented, good listeners and take a different approach to problem solving."
Ameigh believes that success is based on one's ability to be flexible, adapt to surroundings and wear a lot of different hats. She has not met one dealer principal or fleet manager who hasn't had to answer the phone at the front desk one day and take out the trash the next.
"A reputation for flexibility and adaptability makes you a better manager and overall more of an asset in this business," Ameigh said.
Volvo Dynamic Steering
Volvo Dynamic Steering reduces steering force up to 85 percent, which can reduce driver fatigue and improve road safety. The system features an electric motor mounted atop a truck's hydraulic steering gear. Sensors on the vehicle measure input at more than 2,000 times per second to determine steering wheel response, and continuously monitor drivers' actions, environmental factors and road conditions to make adjustments.
With more controlled steering, VDS helps reduce operational fatigue by filtering road vibration and noise through the steering wheel. Repetitive motions due to varying roadway conditions and maneuvering actions could cause physical discomfort, which can be lessened when using this system. Testing has shown that VDS has the potential to cut muscular strain by up to 30 percent and for some specific motions, strain can be reduced up to 70 percent.
"To me, this new feature enables our trucks to drive almost like your car at home. It is a game-changer," Ameigh said. "This is just one more feature of our trucks that makes the driving profession easier for any driver, especially women."
Ameigh pointed out that the reputation of a Class 8 is that it is hard to drive and a tough working environment.
"The features that we have added to our trucks over the last decade, including our I-Shift automated-manual transmission, Position Perfect steering, best-in-class visibility, easy accessibility both inside and out, and improved interior creature comforts make driving a truck enjoyable and easy for all drivers," she said. CEG