7/28/2010Transportation Department Announces Federal Program Encouraging Female Truckers
Federal gas tax dollars fund programs to encourage young girls to work in trucking, railroad and other transportation fields.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood wants to put more women behind the wheels of big-rigs. On Monday, the federal highway chief announced the expansion of an internship program designed to goad young girls into transportation careers that include truck driving, road construction crews, subway or rail work and related jobs.
"Women are an essential part of today's labor force, yet women are underrepresented in the transportation industry," LaHood said in a statement. "We're saying to all the college women out there -- no matter where you're enrolled, there's a Department of Transportation Small Business Transportation Resource Center close by to help you plug into your dream job, whether it's an airport, an engineering or aerospace firm, a railroad, a transit agency or perhaps one of our DOT offices."
In May, LaHood signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Women's Transportation Seminar International in an effort to appeal to girls aged 13 to 18 and "transform transportation through the advancement of women." The move is also part of a broader goal of using federal transportation funding, which comes primarily from the federal excise tax on fuel, for use on high-value projects unrelated to building and maintaining roads. A total of $510,000 in grants are currently being offered to non-profits willing to conduct outreach at the department's resource centers. Another $383,000 in grants closed in June. In 2008, $2.3 million in grants were set aside for schools with "internships that offer students experience in the transportation field," particularly for women and minorities.
The new internship program will be coordinated through the Transportation Department's eleven regional Small Business Transportation Resource Centers. Staff at the centers will arrange transportation-related placement within the appropriate region.
"We are excited about expanding a great program that will introduce young women to transportation careers nationwide," Office of Small and Disadvantage Business Utilization Director Brandon Neal said in a statement.
Female involvement in the industry has been growing. The Women in Trucking Association boasts 1500 members, including corporate sponsors like Walmart and Frito-Lay. The group last year celebrated the confirmation of Anne Ferro as the first female administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the trucking industry's top regulator.
"I am pleased to join Women In Trucking to celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of professional female truck drivers," Ferro said in a December statement. "As more women pursue careers behind the wheel, they continue to break barriers and reinforce the fundamental standards of motor carrier safety -- professionalism, safe driving skills and work-life balance."