Men leave a trucking company mostly because of a lack of home time. Women leave because they don't feel comfortable in their rigs or believe their equipment may break down. And anyone wanting to successfully manage a fleet, large or small, needs to understand these differences.

In a recently-released annual survey study about driver turnover, men and women drivers showed many diverse reasons for leaving their companies although they shared some of the same predictors. The survey consisted of 150 questions asked of 12,502 drivers at 78 carriers.

"I was surprised that the lack of home time was not an issue for women drivers," says Tim Hindes, CEO of Stay Metrics, a company that helps carriers retain drivers through analysis of driver data. "What women are most concerned about is the quality of the equipment." This takes two forms, he says. First, the ergonomics of the cab; how well it fits an average female physique compared to a male. Second, the maintenance of the truck. "Am I going to break down on the side of the road?" says Hindes. "Women drivers say they want a piece of equipment that they can count on."

These findings do not shock Ellen Voie, President and CEO of Women in Trucking.  "The fact that equipment is an irritant for female drivers doesn't surprise me, because we've been working with the OEMs on ergonomics and truck cab design to make sure that women are as comfortable in the cab of a truck as men, especially when it comes to teams. A lot of women run in a team configuration, so the truck needs to be comfortable for both of them. In the past, trucks were designed for men." She adds: "If women don't feel safe in their equipment, if they feel that the truck is going to break down or something isn't working right, that would also be a factor to would make them leave [the carrier] much faster."

Another difference between genders is their relationship with dispatchers. Women, it appears, seem to do a better job than men in this area. "The 'desire to switch my dispatcher' is on women's list but I expected it to be much higher than with men. It isn't, and women seem to do a better job managing these relationships," says Hindes.

Another area in which women do better than men is the matter of unmet expectations, Hindes adds. "This is where somebody's going in the job blind, and the recruiter is going to let them come into the job blind, then… you know the story. It doesn't show up as prevalent for women turnover predictors." Hindes says that it appears women do a better job at doing their homework before they choose a carrier. "They seem to be more deliberate."

Again, Voie isn't taken aback by this finding. "Women do their homework and know that home time, for instance, will be compromised. Also, the average age of woman driver is 52. Their children are grown; they may not have a family. I'm generalizing of course. Even younger women drivers may be single without children - typically."

The takeaways for carriers are crucial, both Hindes and Voie say, if they want to recruit and retain more women drivers. "The recruiting side is not our deal," says Hindes, "but the next step after you have recruited a driver is how do you keep them? There is a tremendous opportunity for carriers to recruit women drivers because only about seven percent of drivers are women. What I believe is going to happen is that a carrier is going to create a brand that is not only women-friendly, but building  a community. I feel like there's a tremendous opportunity with that demographic – that and also first-generation Americans. These two demographics. I believe that if carriers can modify their cultures, modify their messaging to embrace these two groups, it's will be a phenomenal strategy."

Voice concludes: "Carriers used to think that there was no difference between men and women drivers. Now they're beginning to understand the differences and that each has diverse needs. Carriers should care more about the differences and what each gender wants if they want to attract more women."