Truck Driving Trailblazers: Women in Shipping

March 8, 2019 at 7:30 PMJen Deming
Women In TruckingMany of us are familiar with the impact truck shipping has on our day-to-day lives, but few of us are familiar with the women truck drivers who contribute so significantly to the transportation industry. March is Women's History Month and PartnerShip would like to take the opportunity to look at how women have played a part in trucking's past and are currently shaping the future. From the first women who sat behind the wheel, to the movers and shakers changing the shipping industry today, we take a look at the women who help get our stuff where it needs to go.

Riding West with Annie Neal

Stagecoach and horse-drawn freight wagons, often hauling bullion and other high-value supplies heading west from the east, were a very early predecessor to the modern trucking industry. A notable husband-wife team, Annie Neal and her husband William often ran routes together, taking turns driving the teams of horses or acting as load security. Annie is often credited with being one of the earliest female "freight haulers" and helped pave the way for women drivers of the future.

A Shift in Responsibility

Horse-drawn modes of transportation were being retired through the beginning of the 20th century, and engine-powered trucks evolved as a reliable, efficient mode preferred by most freight carriers. As World War I broke, the first utility trucks were being used to haul medical equipment as well as injured soldiers to and from the battlefront, oftentimes being driven and loaded by women medical attendants and nurses. The onset of the first World War set the tone for a female-dominated industry while men were otherwise occupied and away fighting.

Luella Bates - Mechanic, Operator, Spokesperson

The early 1900's also saw the need for women to fill long-haul freight positions left by men who reported for duty. Luella Bates was one of about 150 women hired as test drivers for new truck prototypes by Four Wheel Drive Auto Company. These women tested safety, security, and overall mechanical soundness of these vehicles, logging many hours under various weather conditions and road types. When the men returned, Luella stayed on, acting as a demonstrator, mechanic, and driver, often touring across the United States for truck model launches and safety demos. She was often used in advertisements and as a consultant for dealerships throughout the remainder of her career, and used her public platform to generate excitement and interest among fellow female truck drivers.

Lillie Drennan - the First Licensed Truck Driver

Lillie Elizabeth McGee Drennan was another huge force in the history of women truck drivers. After starting a trucking company with her husband William Drennan in 1917, Lillie played a huge part in the training and recruiting of additional drivers. After divorcing in 1929, Lillie took control as sole owner of the trucking company, and also began driving trucks in order to expand and grow the business herself. After an initial denial to receive her own commercial driver's license (CDL), presumably due to a hearing impairment she'd had since she was a child, she successfully won a lawsuit and received the license in 1929. Following that, she continued expanding her successful truck business as a well-known regional owner-operator in East Texas. Lillie became a strong advocate for women's rights and a hero to those living with disabilities. She continued to push for equal opportunities for women in the workplace and helped successfully recruit female drivers during World War II.

Driving the War Effort

During World War II, Rusty Dow was a truck driver for the U.S. Army Engineers/Alaska Defense Command. In 1944, she became the first woman to drive a fully loaded truck the entire length of the Alaska Highway, completing the 1,560-mile trip in 11 days. During the same period, Mazie Lanham became the first woman driver for UPS in 1943 due to a workforce shortage during the war. Many other women came to follow in her footsteps, earning the nickname "Brown Betties."

Starting a Revolution

In the 1970's, Adriesue "Bitzy" Gomez was a truck driver and a champion of women in the trucking industry. During this formative period in the Women's Movement, she founded the Coalition of Women Truckers, an organization that worked to level the playing field in such a male-dominated industry. Through her efforts, and those of the other 150 members she recruited, Bitzy pushed forward a campaign to hire more female drivers and machinists, fighting for equal opportunity and safety from harassment within the workplace. 

Where are we now?

The truck shipping industry has changed a lot over time, and women are entering the field of transportation more readily than before. But, there's still a lot of catch up to do to even out female representation within this male-dominated industry. The Women in Trucking Association is an organization created with the intention to increase the number of women working in trucking transportation. The WIT has partnered with the National Transportation Institute in order to accurately report the number of women in trucking. While women represent the minority group within the industry, and women only comprise 7% of the available pool of drivers, women are working in over 24% of the management and training roles. 

Where are we headed?

Women drivers are more in demand than ever, especially with the ongoing driver shortage that continues to affect the available pool of carriers. To recruit and entice qualified truckers, male or female, carriers are optimizing current work conditions by upgrading tech, creating new dedicated rest areas, updating equipment to include more comfortable living accommodations for long hauls, and an increase in base pay. Drivers earn pay based on experience and miles, offering a more level compensation playing field than in many other industries and available career opportunities. While women continue to encounter many of the challenges presented since first breaking into the trucking industry, carriers are making it clear that they're wanted - and needed, not only as drivers, but as trainers, recruiters, brand advocates, mechanics, and business owners.

Women have been involved in the transportation industry since wheels first hit the road. As time has passed, the role of these women has evolved, and that role continues to change as needs of the industry adjust to meet the needs of consumers. Throughout the transformation, one thing is for certain - women in trucking continue to play an indispensable and revolutionary part in the future of transportation. If you're a driver, we want you to play that part with us - join our network of partner carriers!

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Did You Know These Everyday Phrases Originated from Trucker Slang?

April 4, 2017 at 12:42 PMPartnerShip
Did you know these everyday phrases orginated from trucker slang

We depend on truckers to keep our freight and economy moving. Over time, they have developed a language all their own. Did you know that many words and phrases you use every day originated as trucker slang? Transportation is so important and vital to the US economy that we thought we’d put together a blog post about trucker slang and lingo.

First, a short history lesson. In 1958, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) allocated a new block of frequencies for a citizens band (CB) service. During the 1960s, it became popular among small businesses that were frequently on the road, like electricians, plumbers, carpenters and truck drivers. As CB radios became smaller and less expensive, CB radio usage exploded and a CB slang language evolved.

Some common, everyday phrases that started as trucker slang include calling your spouse your “better half.” Or watching the “idiot box.” If you still have a home phone, you probably call it a “landline.” So did truckers, decades ago! Ever meet someone for a “barley pop?” Or shop at “Wally World?” Yes, these slang words for beer and Walmart owe their creation to truckers.

Truckers have also created some great nicknames for American cities. Los Angeles is commonly known as “Shaky Town.” In fact, most city slang names refer to what the city is known for. Like “Beer Town” (Milwaukee), “Guitar” (Nashville), “Derby” (Louisville), and “Gateway” (St. Louis). Others are just fun to say, like “Choo-choo” (Chattanooga), “The Big D” (Dallas) and “The Nickel” (Buffalo).

During the 1970s oil crisis, the U.S. government imposed a 55 mph speed limit, and fuel shortages and rationing were common. CB radios were crucial for truckers to locate service stations with fuel and to warn of speed traps. Truckers paid by the mile were negatively impacted by driving slow so lots of slang was created to alert other truckers of law enforcement. If you’ve seen Smokey and the Bandit, you know an officer of the law is a “bear.” But did you know that a rookie cop is a “baby bear,” a police helicopter is a “bear in the air,” or that a speed trap is known as a “bear trap?” A sheriff is known as a “county mounty” and “city kitties” are the local police.

Finally, you’ve probably used “10-4” to acknowledge that you heard or understood something that someone said. Same with “what’s your 20?” which is short for 10-20, meaning location. These everyday terms originated from CB radio slang.

Next time you have a load you need to keep between the ditches, whether it is "Badger Bound" or headed to "Mile High," contact PartnerShip. You can reach us at 800-599-2902 or get a quote now! Until then, keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down.

The Early History of Semi-Trucks

June 15, 2016 at 8:16 AMPartnerShip
The Early History of Semi TrucksWe see hundreds of trucks on the road every single day. They not only help us live our modern life, but have contributed to the economic prosperity of the country, so we wanted to take a short look back at the very important history of trucks. 

People have used truck-like vehicles to transport goods and move materials for centuries, but before the invention of the mechanical engine, they were often drawn by pack animals. In fact, the definition of the word “truck” has evolved from “a cart for carrying heavy loads” to the more modern “motor vehicle for carrying heavy loads.”

Before motor trucks, most goods were transported by railroads, with local transportation needs met by “trucks” drawn by pack animals, which had no rival until self-propelled steam-powered vehicles began emerging in the late eighteenth century. The motor truck concept languished until the invention of the internal combustion engine in the middle of the nineteenth century boosted its potential.

Cleveland horseless carriage maker Alexander Winton is widely credited with inventing the semi-truck in 1898, and sold his first manufactured semi-truck in 1899. When Winton sold its first cars in 1898, it created the need for the cars to be delivered to their buyers, which led to the concept of the semi-truck to deliver his manufactured vehicles.

In 1904, only about 700 large trucks rumbled on the roads in the United States but that number skyrocketed to nearly 25,000 in 1914. Motor trucks at the time were not built for comfort but for utility. They rode on solid rubber wheels with mechanical brake systems, and could only travel short distances at low speeds, often over rough and bumpy unpaved roads. The invention of pneumatic tires and hydraulic brakes helped make early trucks a more useful vehicle.

The semi-truck population exploded in 1917 thanks to improved roads and the Federal Highway Act, which created a 3.2-million-mile national road system. In 1924, the number of trucks on the road would be 416,569; a 1,560% increase from just ten years earlier.

The 1940s and 1950s saw the rise of the automobile and America’s population shift from the city to the suburb. The “Federal-Aid Highway Act” of 1956 authorized the construction of a 41,000-mile network of interstate highways. These two changes cemented the semi-truck as a part of daily life because more goods had to be shipped longer distances, which was made easy by the new system of interstate highways.

Some key dates in the evolution of the semi-truck:

1898 - Alexander Winton invents the semi-truck

1914 - A semi-trailer used to transport boats created; used for other cargo as well

1916 – Mack introduces the AC, signaling the end of open cab trucks

1934 - Navistar builds the first tandem axle, six-wheel truck

1942 - Freightliner introduces the first all-aluminum cab

1953 - Freightliner creates the first overhead sleeper cab

1959 – The first cab-over-engine truck is introduced

As the truck has evolved, so has its engine. The first trucks (carts, really) were powered by horses or human. Then came steam-powered trucks. Electric trucks were popular in the late-19th and early 20th century, until the internal combustion engine and cheap gasoline led to a decline in their use. Direct-injection turbo-charged diesel engines became standard during the 1950s as trucks began the conversion from standard gasoline engines.

What will the semi-truck of the future be like? Check out this post!

PartnerShip is proud to be based in the birthplace of the semi-truck, Cleveland, OH! Next time you need a semi-truck to move your finished goods or inbound raw materials, give us a call at 800-599-2902 or request a quote. The freight shipping experts at PartnerShip are here to lend a helping hand!

A Brief History of the Interstate Highway System

April 21, 2016 at 7:38 AMPartnerShip
Brief History of the Interstate Highway Blog PostDid you know that the interstate highway system our trucking industry depends on began its life as the “Interstate and Defense Highway System?” We’ll explain the “defense” aspect soon, but first, a bit of history. 

In the 1920s, automobiles became more affordable, more families were traveling and moving, and motor truck traffic was increasing as the economy grew and the country expanded. Before the federal government passed “The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1925,” many of the country’s 250 or so highways carried names such as “The Lincoln Highway” or “The Dixie Highway.” The new system would use the now-familiar shield and uniform numbers for interstate highways.

But more drivers needed more roads. Who would pay for them? Other transportation systems (streetcars, subways, elevated trains) were usually built and operated by private companies that made infrastructural investments in exchange for long-term profits. Transportation interests, such as car manufacturers, tire makers, gasoline refiners and service station owners, suburban developers, and trucking companies, began to convince state and local governments that roads were an important public concern.

Now, back to the “defense” part of the highway system. The man who would become president in 1953, former Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower, was stationed in Germany during World War II and had been impressed by its network of high-speed roads known as the Reichsautobahnen. After he became president, Eisenhower made it a priority to build a highway system that would help connect the nation and provide key ground transport routes for military supplies and troop deployments in case of an emergency or foreign invasion. When the highway system was introduced, it was simply known as "the National Defense Highway System."

The “Federal-Aid Highway Act” passed in June 1956 authorized the construction of a 41,000-mile network of interstate highways and allocated $26 billion to pay for them. The federal government would pay 90 percent of the cost of construction with the states picking up the remaining 10 percent.

A promotional piece from 1961 claims the new highway system will: “Build up depressed areas. Strengthen our National Defense. Bring in industry. Provide jobs. Improve land values.”

So next time you’re on I-10 on the west coast, I-95 on the east coast, or traveling through the heartland on I-80, remember that the Interstate Highway System we depend on for commerce and travel was created with national defense in mind.

The History of Semi Trucks

July 21, 2015 at 9:28 AMMatt Nagel
Semi trucks didn't take over our highways overnight. Like everything else, semis have a long and detailed history all starting with their invention in 1898 (more on that later in the post). We recently came across a video that goes through the entire history of semi trucks step-by-step to show you how we got to where we're at today. The video, put together by, also goes into some interesting stats as well as top selling brands in the trucking industry. All-in-all the video does a great job of walking you through the history and pointing out the innovations and inventions that make freight shipping by truck one of the most popular and efficient ways to transport your goods from point A to point B.

Now that you've seen the history of the semi, it's our duty, as Clevelanders, to provide you with Cleveland's contribution to trucking. As you saw in the video above, Alexander Winton is credited with the invention of the semi truck in 1898, and Winton Motor Company was located guessed it - Cleveland, Ohio! Which means that PartnerShip calls the oldest, and most experienced, trucking city in the world it's home. We came across a slightly older video than the one above that highlights the Winton Motor Company's innovations in yet another trucking staple - the diesel engine.