Ever wonder what it would be like to drive a big truck or to sit in a Formula One racing car? I hope to do both one day but for now, I’ll live vicariously through the experiences of Shelley Uvanile-Hesch. She is the founder of the Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada and an 18-year veteran driver of big rigs.
Uvanile-Hesch comes from a family of long-haul truckers. She shared what it’s like to drive a big wheeler and addressed some of the deeper, more pressing challenges that women face as drivers of change in the industry. It was more than 30 years ago that Uvanile-Hesch earned her BZ license for driving oversized vehicles. She was hired by McArthur Express in Cambridge, Ontario, and worked for J&R Hall before spending the next 16 years in her current job with Sharp Transportation Systems, Inc.
Until recently, Uvanile-Hesch had stopped driving a large rig but climbed back into the driver’s seat when the pandemic hit. She wanted to return to the front lines and to help deliver critical supplies to hospitals and organizations in need. In a way, her dedication to the trucking industry provides an interesting barometer for measuring the progress of women when it comes to achieving equality.
Uvanile-Hesch has logged thousands of miles behind the wheel of a big truck. She decided to create the Canadian Women’s Trucking Federation (CWTF) in 2016 to help further the progress of women. What she hoped was for women to share their experiences and the techniques for creating a success career in the trucking industry.
Currently, there are over 600 members in the CWTF, 25% of which are men. The number of women working under the hood (in administrative jobs) versus those behind the wheel continues to be much greater despite the untapped opportunities for women in this field. Women make up the less than 3% of the drivers who hit the road, and the larger majority of them work in administrative and industry-related jobs.