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UW-Stout research looks to improve trucks for women drivers

Erik Lorenzsonn, Wisconsin Public Radio

A research project at the University of Wisconsin-Stout aims to make trucking more comfortable and safer for women drivers.

Associate Professor Dr. Jeannette Kersten and a group of graduate students at Stout had a question: How comfortable is trucking for women driving cross country? 

The group reached out to Wisconsin-based association Women in Trucking and crafted a series of survey questions while inspecting and measuring truck cab spaces of leading brands. They found that semis aren't well suited for drivers under 5 feet, 6 inches, whether male or female. Seats aren't very adjustable, pedals and steering wheels aren't adjustable at all and steps up to the truck cab are too far apart.

“Step spacing and width, guess what? Most trucks only have one or two steps to get in and out of the truck and they really need three: there's just too much distance,“ Kersten said. ”I tried to crawl into a truck on Sunday and I had the same issue.”

Kersten says many of these options are available on consumer vehicles, but not commercial trucks.

“Women would like to see these features offered without having to pay additional costs, and I would assume other drivers would like the same,“ she said. ”So, it can transfer across all demographic lines.”

Kersten says the Women in Trucking group plans to take the study's results to the truck-making industry and lobby for the changes.

“We're opening the door here and trying to create change,“ Kersten said. ”Change happens in steps and one must be persistent in the change, and this is the first step in that direction.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women make up less than 7 percent of the total truck driving population in the U.S.

More Wisconsin Public Radio news can be found online at www.wpr.org.

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