As the founder of the Women in Trucking Association, Ellen Voie has trailblazed a path in the trucking industry, advocating for more diversity, creating benchmarking studies, and growing the association to include women in all aspects of profession nationwide.
Talk about your background and career. How did you get involved in focusing on promoting women in trucking professions?
My passion has always been focused on the human side of the trucking industry. However, my career in trucking was unintended. I was working at a steel fabricating plant in central Wisconsin, and they asked if I would be interested in transferring to the shipping department. I became the assistant traffic manager and after earning my diploma in Traffic & Transportation Management, was promoted to the traffic manager position. I was responsible for all raw steel products incoming and all outbound material handling equipment. After starting my family, I used my education to freelance as a consultant for 18 years—licensing and permitting carriers and keeping their trucks and drivers legal. During that time, I co-owned a small fleet with my former husband. I also earned my bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in communication from the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point. I completed my master’s thesis on the “Complex Identities of Women Married to Professional Drivers.” This started my recognition as an authority on family dynamics in transportation careers. I wrote for several magazines and authored a book called, Marriage in the Long Run. In 2000, I was serving on the board of directors of Trucker Buddy International, a pen pal program for professional drivers. I was hired as the executive director and held that position for six years. I was then recruited by a large midwestern carrier as Manager of Recruiting and Retention Programs. My role was to explore corporate level initiatives to attract and retain nontraditional groups as drivers. This included women. I started my research and discovered that the industry wasn’t really gender inclusive and there wasn’t a level playing field. I was in the process of obtaining my private pilot’s license and belonged to a women’s aviation association, so I decided the trucking industry needed something similar! In 2007, I put together a board of directors and completed the paperwork to form the Women In Trucking Association, Inc. (WIT).
What was your motivation in creating the Women in Trucking Association and how did it develop?
For as long as I can remember, there has always been a need for more drivers and women were an untapped resource. The problem was there wasn’t a level playing field. Women had to fit into the dominant norm of a male populated workforce. From trucks that weren’t ergonomically designed for women, truck stops that contained locker room type showers, and uniforms designed for men, women were expected to adapt. Most companies weren’t even aware of their gender diversity numbers for drivers, safety directors, dispatchers, and women in management. I wanted to industry to be more inclusive. At the time, I didn’t have any data to justify why we needed more women as drivers, executives, and more. I consistently asked carriers, vendors, and the government for gender-related data. There was none.
Finally, around 2015, we started seeing safety and retention as well as recruiting data involving women from technology companies such as DriverIQ, Omnitracs and StayMetrics. The American Transportation Research Institute found that male commercial drivers are 20 percent more likely to be involved in a crash in every statistically significant area. This gave us the impetus to start benchmarking and we created the WIT Index to annually track gender data starting in 2016. Now, we have white papers, surveys, and so much more to be able to identify why we need to hire more women in trucking. While much of our research and programs focus on professional drivers, we represent all women involved in the trucking industry—from the cab to the C-Suite.
How has your role within the association grown? What are you most proud of so far?
In 2007, I hired my friend, Char Pingel, who was the only paid employee at the time. (I was still working for a carrier.) As we grew and expanded our team, I was able to delegate activities and programs to others and focus on growing the organization by speaking and presenting at industry events. I spread the word and recruited members by attending trade shows and spoke at events as well as reached out to people in the industry I knew from my prior position at Trucker Buddy. We currently have 8,000 members in 10 countries. We also have 13 team members (in nine states) who all work remotely and independently and 17 board members (see Women in Trucking Board of Directors sidebar).
In 2012, I was honored by the White House as one of President Obama’s Transportation Innovators Champion of Change. This was an amazing recognition and my greatest achievement—and I was able to take my board of directors with me to the White House.
Another huge achievement is our annual conference, Accelerate! that we started in 2015. Last November, the event attracted 1,750 registered attendees. We expect this to continue to grow as we provide educational opportunities along with networking events and a lot of fun.
Do you see the trucking industry even more inclusive, diverse in the last five to 10 years?
The trucking industry is truly working to be more inclusive by creating employee resource groups (ERGs) and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. There is a very deliberate effort to attract and retain women as well as a more racially and age diverse workforce, including the LGBTQIA+ community. In fact, we have seen an increase in the number of women working for waste and recycling companies, as they are home daily and have a better work-life balance.
What other organizations or groups are you involved in to help move women forward in the trucking industry? How have you promoted this mission within communities?
I have served on numerous boards including the St. Christopher’s Fund, TFC Global, and Blue Wire. I have been on the WI Motor Carrier Association’s board of directors for more than 30 years. We also work closely with Truckers Against Trafficking and provide booth space as well as speaking opportunities for them to share their message. I am also on the Women In Motion board with the American Trucking Association. In 2022, I helped pass legislation Administration. I am always looking for ways to share my expertise to make the industry more gender diverse. | WA
Women in Trucking Board of Directors
Chair: Kary Schaefer
Vice Chair: Karen Schwartz
Treasurer: Jim Taber
Secretary: Lori Taylor
• Sarita Benjamin
• Domenica Farmer
• LaTres Jarrett
• Lesley Kerr
• Debra LaBree
• Jennifer Macalaguin
• Ryan McDaniel
• Trina Norman
• Jennifer Plumlee
• Laura Roan Hays
• Michele Rodgers
• Sarah Smith
• Bonnie Voldeng
Awards and Recognition
• In 2022, named one of the 10 Most Visionary Business Leaders of 2022 by Fortunes Crown; one of the 10 Most Inspiring Women Leaders to Follow in 2022 by Insights Success Magazine; Most Influential Business Women to Watch in 2022 by Business Berg Magazine; Leading Light: Most Inspiring Women Leaders 2022 and Awe-inspiring: Extremely Impressive Personalities to Watch for 2022 by The CIO Today; named one of the 10 Most Influential CEOs Reforming Business by Insights Success Magazine; and was featured on the Mid-America Trucking Show Wall of Fame.
• In 2021, was appointed to a two-year term on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, was recognized in CIO Look’s “Empowering Women into Most Powerful Positions”, profiled in Insights Success: ‘A True Inspiration for Emerging Woman Entrepreneurs’ and ‘Inspiring Women Leaders Making a Difference’, named to Aspioneer’s 2021 Elite Women in Business list, named Most Diligent Businesswomen to watch in 2021 by The Enterprise World, named one of the Inspiring Business Women to Watch in 2021 by Business Foster Magazine, and World’s 10 Most Successful Entrepreneurs Making a Difference in 2021 by World’s Leaders Magazine.
• In 2020, named by Business Brainiac magazine as one of, “The 10 Most Trailblazing Business Leaders to Watch in 2020,” one of the “Top five coolest women making waves in the supply chain sector” by Supply Chain Digital, 2020’s Most Influential Women to Watch by Insights Success Magazine, one of the Ten Inspiring CEOs to watch out for in 2020, CIO Look’s “10 Most Innovative CEOs Revamping the Future”, and CEO Monthly’s Gender Diversity Director of the Year and Most Influential Woman in Road Transport. Additionally, Voie was featured in North America Outlook magazine and the first inductee into the Howes Hall of Fame.
• In 2019, named the Cinderella to CEO of the Year to recognize women who have overcome obstacles to change businesses, communities, and industries for the better; The Leader’s Globe “One of the Ten Most Successful Business Women Leaders”; CIO Magazine’s “Women Leaders Making a Difference”; one of Insight Success Magazine’s “Companies with Most Disruptive Innovation,” The Business Berg’s “Business Achievers Making a Difference 2019,” Enterprise World’s, “Influential Women In Business 2019,” CIO Views Magazine included Ellen in the December 2019 distinction, “The Path-braking Journey of 10 Influential Businesswomen”; Exeleon Magazine named the Women In Trucking Association as, “15 Best Companies to Work for in 2019,” and her blog “Ellen’s Blog” was named Fronetics’ Top Three Logistics and Supply Chain Blogs.
• In 2018, named by “Beyond Exclamation Magazine” as one of the “Top 10 Shepreneurs through the Glass Ceiling and Beyond,” Aspioneer Magazine’s “2018 Flying High Women Leaders,” and Insight Success Magazine’s “20 Successful Businesswoman to Watch,” as well as was named the National Association of Small Trucking Companies (NASTC) “Transportation Person of the Year.”
• In 2017, named to Insight Success Magazine’s “The 50 Most Empowering Women in Business” and “The 30 Most Innovative CEOs To Watch.”
• In May 2016, chosen as one of Fleet Owner’s Dozen Outstanding Women In Trucking. She also was named one of Supply & Demand Chain Executives magazine’s “2016 Pros to Know,” which honors select supply chain executives who are leading initiatives to help their clients, companies, or the supply chain community at large to prepare for the significant challenges in the year ahead.
• Received the 2015 “Distinguished Alumna of the Year” award from her alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Division of Communication.
• In 2014, awarded the Frank W. Babbitt award from the Wisconsin Motor Carriers Association. This annual recognition is given to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding service to the trucking industry and association as a whole. Ellen is also the recipient of the Skinner Humanitarian award, presented annually to a trucking advocate in her state.
• In July 2012, honored by the White House as a Transportation Innovators Champion of Change.
For more information, visit www.WomenInTrucking.org.