NTSB chair to WIT: 'Flex your muscle'

By Sandi Soendker, managing editor

Women in Trucking did their second annual Salute to Women Behind the Wheel Saturday, April 2, at MATS. The group kept its reputation of featuring a high-profile woman keynote speaker. Last year, women heard remarks from FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. This year, it was Deborah Hersman, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.

Chairman Hersman got the attention of the audience right off when they gave her a red T-shirt and the collective call was “put it on!” She smiled and obliged, beginning to unbutton her dark blue suit top. She then hesitated and stepped behind the stage curtain, calling over her shoulder “this is like my sleeper berth!”

A minute later, she stepped back out wearing the red T-shirt. The crowd loved it.

Hersman explained that she wanted to travel to Louisville via truck. She has her CDL and long wanted the experience. WIT President Ellen Voie made that happen, and Hersman spent 632 miles with five different drivers – four women and one male driver.

“I will take everything I learned back to Washington, DC, with me,” she promised the crowd – and then quipped, “And the most important thing I can do for the trucking industry is never to drive a truck!”

She drew a roar of approval from the audience when she said the foggy conditions were so bad and she “couldn’t believe how rude car drivers could be.”

The other comment that provoked big applause and even some whooping was that the trip made her see how bad the safe parking situation was for truckers, and how that complicates a trucker’s job.

She commended the women and told them to “make themselves noticed” and to “flex their muscle” like Rosie the Riveter.

The event honored 1 million, 2 million, 3 million and two 4 million-mile female drivers. Last year drew an impressive 290 women. Although this year failed to exceed that, the event still came in with a respectable 201 – all wearing red T-shirts. LL