Episode 3: Changing the Trucking Industry for Women with Ellen Voie, Founder of the Women In Trucking Association

Brent – 00:00:01:

Welcome to Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast, where we explore the fascinating world of trucking and freight management. We dive deep into the freight industry and uncover why the trucking industry is more crucial to our country now than ever before. Stay tuned to uncover the driving forces behind successful trucking businesses and hear from the hard-working truckers and leaders who keep the world moving. Let’s hit the road. Well, welcome into Freight Nation Episode#3. This is A Trucking Podcast put out by your load board truckstop.com or Truckstop, whichever one I’ve got today is throwback Thursday when we’re recording. So I’ve got my old internet Truckstop shirt on, where uh- but at Truckstop, we’re all about the movement of freight and making that great for all that do it in the United States of America, including all those great carriers and brokers out there. We got a great show for you today. This is one reason why I wore this shirt because of the longstanding friendship that I have with this incredible leader in the marketplace. Joining me today is Ellen Voie. The founder and the great leader of the Women In Trucking Association. It’s easy for me to say I’ve got not only am I married to a woman, I’ve got three of them that my sweet daughters that I always talk about whenever I get to talk about Women In Trucking, why I’m so invested in what goes on and Truckstop so invested in what goes on in the industry. She launched the Women In Trucking Association in 2007. And I didn’t even know this. It’s grown to 5,400 members. That’s just astronomical! The amount of time, effort, energy and heart that Ellen has put in this Association is just unparalleled. And that’s why she’s so admired. That’s why she’s so desired for people to have them on their podcast, speak at the White House and all kinds of things like that. So we are super lucky today. She began her career, earning her diploma in traffic and transportation management 1980, which basically dates her, but she’s not near that old while employed as a traffic manager for a steel fabricating plant. Since then, she’s gone on to work for multiple companies, including Trucker Buddy International. She was a consultant for Truckstop, which is super awesome. We were lucky to have her. We’re still very close friends and has been recognized as the most influential woman in road transport by CEO Monthly, which by the way, I’m not surprised everybody recognizes Ellen, one of the most influential, if not the most influential woman inside this industry. But I’m happy to have her on today because of our friendship. I have been watching and been lucky to be friends with her since she started in this industry and I started in this industry and I count her as one of my very few super close friends that helped me whenever I need something done in the industry and I’m confused. I call Ellen, “hey, help me understand this”. She knows everybody. Everybody loves her from top to bottom. Ellen, thank you for joining us on the podcast. I’m super glad you’re here today.

Ellen – 00:03:00:

Well, thanks for having me on.

Brent – 00:03:02:

By the way, for those on the podcast that have not been on this before, it’s our third episode. So there’s probably a lot that haven’t been on the show before or haven’t watched the show before. I started the industry in 1998. I got the incredible opportunity to work for one of the leading communication magazines in the marketplace, Overdrive Magazine. We called it-Well, the industry used to call it the Bible for owner operators. That’s a little bit of a large thing, but it was the voice of the American trucker. And Overdrive’s responsibility or their goal was just to communicate business education and and what’s going on within freight transportation in the United States. And did it and still does it super well. Super happy about my heritage there. And that’s where I met you. I met you at a trade show. I was like, okay, who is this person? And I- So I just remember watching you work and watching you talk to people and watching your just, it’s like, “I didn’t think you slept”. I was like, “how does she do it all?” She’s from one place to another and another and another. And it’s been how many years? 16 years?

Ellen – 00:04:03:

16 with Women In Trucking, yeah.

Brent – 00:04:07:

Like you haven’t aged a day, you’re running a thousand miles an hour and all for one reason. You want equal opportunity for everybody, especially women, inside of transportation- this great industry that you found your career, your passion, your future in. You want the same for as many that want it as possible. We do too. That’s why we’re a part of Women In Trucking and all part of the Women in Trucking Foundation. So tell me about that day that you decided after working for, you know, you’ve worked for a really large player in the marketplace, you made a decision. I’m going to do something more. Tell me about that day. And I know that the watchers are going to love to hear this story. Tell me about that day.

Ellen – 00:04:47:

So I was working for a large Midwest carrier, and my title was manager of recruiting and retention programs. That doesn’t mean that I’m out there recruiting drivers. It meant that I was initiating programs at the corporate level, like, for example, getting a pet policy passed, which they still don’t have that. But anyway, one of the things they said was to figure out how to attract and retain non-traditional groups. And that was returning military, Hispanics, seniors and women. So I started doing my research on what do women, especially in the driver category, why would they come to a company? Why would they leave? What are their issues? And we had our own operating centers, so they were safe. They were you know, enclosed, security of our own laundry and things like that. Anyways, But yet the industry kept saying, “oh, Ellen, we don’t care about gender or ethnicity or age. We just hire the best person”. You know, And I’m like, “well, you have half of the population you’re not even thinking about”. And at the time, and I know people have heard me say this, but at the time I was getting my pilot’s license and I belonged to a Women’s aviation Association. And I thought, why isn’t there anything for Women in the trucking industry? And so I literally copied, I copied their due structure. I went in their website and I’m like, “oh, this, how does this work? How does that work?” Put together a Board of directors I knew some pretty powerful women, Lana Batts, who I’d worked with a Trucker Buddy.

Brent – 00:06:28:

I remember!

Brent – 00:06:30:

I remember. I was like, “there’s Ellen and there’s one, okay, there’s not a rest, there’s not around”. You’re right, you’re 51% of the population, but not in trucking, you’re not, so that’s all good.

Ellen – 00:06:40:

Right, so anyway, I put together this amazing Board and Rob Rotstein, our attorney who has been with us from the start, helped me do all the paperwork. And we wrote the mission and the mission has never changed. And I’m going to say it, it’s to encourage the employment of women in the industry to address obstacles that might keep them from either entering or succeeding. And the third is to celebrate success, which I know we’re going to talk more about. But-So that mission has never changed. And so the first year the goal was let’s hit 500 people. So this was in 2007, guess what happened in 2007?

Brent – 00:07:21:

There’s a banking thing going on where we’ve been into something called the Great Recession. Is am I right about that?

Ellen – 00:07:28:

Absolutely. And so this is where Truckstop comes in because I was working for this large carrier and I’d been there and guess what was in my title was retention. Well, guess what? In a recession, you don’t need retention. And so I took my severance package and I thought, well, I’ve got X number of weeks to get Women In Trucking off the ground. I’d already started Women In Trucking with their blessing, of course. And so I did consulting with Truckstop. I was writing articles for Truckstop and doing things to open doors, Scott Moscrip and Joel introduced them to people that I knew. And so it was a good, but yet I could focus on really growing Women In Trucking. And the first year our goal was to hit 500 members and we did. So that was it. And I think part of the credibility that I had established was because of my role at Trucker Buddy, so people know me. But yet, starting a nonprofit with the mission to bring more women in the industry, people were like, “yeah, how are you going to do that? You know? And why are you going to do that?” And so establishing credibility and then people would say, “well, Ellen I’m going to join the first year because I know you, but I’m not going to renew unless you prove that you’re doing what you say you do”.

Brent – 00:08:46:

Yeah, so when people would challenge you to hit a goal. And so you would respond to them with it. I know you, I know how confident you are, I know how determined you are. Well, I know as much as I can as a friend, but I can tell you, she’s determined, man. She’s like a pitbull when it comes. I’m going to hit that goal because your heart, your heart was to provide that opportunity. Here you were. And I don’t really like this phrase. I don’t really like male- dominated industry because for the most part, most all industries are male dominated because for the longest time it was mostly men that work. But either way, it’s okay to point that out because the whole goal was you wanted to make women aware that there’s great opportunity if you want it. Everything’s voluntary if you want it. And so what were some of the things in which you would say back in the day, like you’d say when you were talking to people, when you were like going after them to join you as a member, what are some of the things you’d say about joining the Association?

Ellen – 00:09:46:

So I would ask them to think about things and I’d stand up in front of trucking executives and I’d say, “how many of you still give out big belt buckles for safe driving awards?” And they’d go, “yeah, we do”. And I’m like, “stop, just stop”. I mean, if we want to accommodate women and bring our women in, we have to find out what do women want? What do women need? Why do women lead the industry? The best part about especially for drivers is you make the same amount of money, nobody pays female drivers less than male drivers. That’s you know, you’re paid by the call or the load or whatever. So that was the big benefit. But uniforms, I’d say, “well, how many of you have women’s cut uniforms? And they’re like “uhhh” And how about restrooms?” The Truckstop stops used to have a shower that was like a locker room. And you know, there was no place for women to shower at a Truckstop .

Ellen – 00:10:37:

No, No. And so even though that they were trying to be gender blind, they tried to say that there was a level playing field, there really wasn’t a level playing field. But Lana Batts said to me, “if you want to be a leader as a non-profit association, a trader professional organization, you have to be a resource. That’s what you have to do”. And everything goes on your communication. So we had a Magazine, we have a weekly newsletter, you know, but you have to communicate with your members and you have to give your members information that they can use to make their own companies better. And if you don’t deliver on that, then you don’t need to be there.

Brent – 00:11:17:

Yeah, Yeah, Absolutely. Great advice. Speaking of tough, Lana Batts, she’s tough and great advice always. I love her directness.

Brent – 00:11:30:

Yeah, alright no doubt. So I can imagine that when you’re standing there talking to executives that they immediately agreed with you. And they said, “yes, we’re going to get this changed right away”. So, and I’m going to guess that maybe that wasn’t the case. So tell me, how did you, other than persistence, which I know is part of the DNA of Ellen Voie. So what were some of the ways in which you, because you got to be convincing, people have to be convinced. So what were some of the conversations that you had with fleets in the marketplace? And I don’t want you to name anybody unless you want to, but I mean, so that were some of the conversations that you had on, are you looking at it this way? And this is why it’s a benefit.

Ellen – 00:12:12:

First of all, I’m going to step back because to be a resource, you have to have information. Well, in 2007, there was no data. A lot of companies didn’t even know what percentage of their driving fleet was female. There was no data. So I would stand up and I’d extrapolate maybe from the automotive industry and say, “well, female drivers are safer in the automotive industry according to AAA or according to this data or whatever”. And everywhere I go, Brent, everywhere I go, I don’t care where I went. It was an insurance form, a conference, it was NTSB. Everywhere I go, I’d raise my hand and I’d go, “do you know they’re broken down by gender?” And people knew, they knew I was going to ask that question. I mean, everywhere I went, I’d say, “do you have that broken down by gender? I don’t care who they were”. And they’d always go, “no”. And I go, “so how can we get that data?” And people started thinking about it. I mean, even you see now that the ATRI, American Transportation Research Institute, started breaking things down by gender and giving me lots of data. In fact, they’re even doing a new initiative to understand barriers for female drivers. You went to see that 15 years ago. So I had to stand in front of companies and give them as much data as I could. So guess where I got the data from our members. That’s where you have to get it. So asking our members, ask them on Facebook, ask them on social media, ask them, do surveys, go to conferences, I’d stay in a Trade Shows and I’d ask, especially female drivers. So what are your challenges? What can the industry do to be, you know, it’s like, “oh, restroom access. Wow, imagine that”. Or the trucks. You know when I started talking to the truck manufacturers and say, you know “what about the Truck Cab Designs and ergonomics? Women have typically shorter arms and legs. So how can they see over the dash, reach things, get it out of the open the hydraulic or open the hood? And you know, how do we make this piece of equipment more adaptive so that Women can feel as comfortable?” And then go to Truckstop and say, “so women aren’t feeling safe here. How can we make it a safer environment? And how can we have more amenities for women and how can we make restroom access for women at the Truckstop and things like that?” So I’d started going to them saying, “this is what our members want. And it was. So that was the data I had”. Now, I spoke at a conference just two weeks ago, and it was kind of interesting because I asked for feedback. And the people who had brought me in, it was insurance type organization, but it was carriers at the event. And I said, “what was the feedback?” And she said, “for the most part, people are like, hadn’t thought about that, hadn’t thought about that. But some people say, “are we already doing that?” Like, “no. You’re not doing that”. So, the best response is when somebody says to me, “I hadn’t thought about that”. That’s what I want to do, because I want to make them think.

Brent – 00:15:09:

Yeah, that keeps opportunity than thinking, because that’s- I mean, people have to be convinced that it’s a benefit for them in their business. So one of the cool things about working at Overdrive when I was there, and now that I work for Truckstop, we get really, really great data, but we did a lot of research back then. I remember doing tremendous research on the owner-operators . And uh I remember back in the day, this is when I started in 1998, so a couple of days ago, more like 25. So I just remember that the percentage of female drivers in the market was really low. I mean, if you compare the market, I think at that time it was about 96% male, 4% female, but at least they were measuring what the gender was, which I was excited about to know. So tell me a little bit about 16 years later, where have been some of the wins and where are still some of the challenges? With women entered, now granted, part of his choice right, you got to have opportunity, just to have to have choice on the other end, there is choice on the other end by the woman who might want to enter into this part of the marketplace. So tell me a little bit about some of the wins and where maybe some of the challenges are.

Ellen – 00:16:20:

So the biggest win, and I have to remind your listeners that Women In Trucking actually represents all women in the industry, not just drivers. But a lot of the challenges are for the driver population because there’s a physical component that isn’t an office environment. So some of the biggest win is that the industry has realized what women bring to the industry. Women are female commercial drivers are overall safer drivers and American Transfusion Research Institute found that typically better with customers, better with equipment, better with paperwork. I say typically, cause it’s not you know, over across the Board. So when I can stand up in front of companies now and say, “you need more female drivers and this is why, I mean, wouldn’t you want a more risk averse person in front of maneuvering 80,000 pounds down the road?” And they’re like, “oh yeah, that makes sense”. So now they’re actively recruiting women where they didn’t do that 15 years ago. They didn’t. And so the ads are reflecting the you know difference in the recruiting opportunities and they’re showing women, they’re showing women as diesel tax and things like that. So the biggest win has been convincing this industry that women are a great asset. And I think you know, there’s a reason why women can’t make up 50% of the driver population, 50% of our leadership, 50% in the industry. So that’s the biggest win that they’re realizing what women bring. Well, the challenge is that this industry doesn’t have a very good, and I want to go beyond image. So when I talk to people and I say, “have you ever thought about driving a truck?” Women still think that you have to be big and burly. Guess what? You don’t. They still think that you’re loading and unloading. They still think that you’re shifting a 13 speed with a double clutch.We do not- And then to add onto that, now I have women saying to me, “well, you don’t need drivers, you have driverless trucks”. And I’m like, “ah”. This is the image that we are portraying in this industry is like, first of all, they’re all smokestacks and Diesel Engines, which is not the technology in there. We are not showing how much awesome technology that makes the job less physically demanding and safer. We’re not doing that. But the other thing is we’re shooting ourselves in the foot by saying, “Oh, we don’t need drivers because they’re going to be autonomous vehicles, which not in my lifetime”.

Brent – 00:18:47:

I’m not far behind you, so keep going, but what are any other challenges?

Ellen – 00:18:51:

There are still a few holdouts, uh especially the older population, that there’s still that women don’t belong in the industry. And when I stand at a trade show and I have men who walk in my booth and say, “you know, women really shouldn’t be driving trucks or women can’t drive trucks or women don’t belong in trucks”. All I do is say, “can you please leave my booth?” Because I can’t argue with. I will. I’ll say, please step out of my room.

Brent – 00:19:19:

I can understand why you’d be so passionate about that. So, so I think about me, I worked with a lot of the truck manufacturers as well, and to see them make some of those changes that can accommodate different people sizes. Not just gender sizes, people sizes. You think about the truck driving public and they’re not all six foot four and as you described them big burly men. So they’re all different kinds of sizes. So I certainly appreciate that. So there’s the one of the wonderful things about the transportation industry and about driving a truck or working at a fleet or working at a brokerage. You said you cover all the trucking industry. So that’s awesome. You know, And um so there’s lots of opportunity for the work that fit the need of their lifestyle at or desires at that time. So let’s talk a little bit about that where women have great opportunity. Cause first I’d like to start with trucking like moving a freight, driving a truck and then kind of move into like the other roles whether it be inside an office or inside of a freight transportation company or something like that. But are there segments of the market? Cause you know, you’ve got full truck load and then you’ve got LTL, then you got intermodal and inside of that you’ve got all kinds of local, regional, long-haul, all sorts of stuff. So are there any segments that fit more that maybe if you’re just looking at it from broad swath. That a segment’s going to be more attractive to women than others. What do you see in that?

Ellen – 00:20:32:

Well, first of all, 83% of Women who come into the industry do so at the urging of a family member or friend. So that’s typically coming in because of a husband or a boyfriend. And the average age is about 50. So picture who’s coming into the industry. So over and over and over here, I hear women saying, “yep, kids were grown, you know, went out, got my CDL, went out with the husband”. I hear that over and over and over.

Ellen – 00:19:43:

Yeah. Starting as team doesn’t mean they stay. That’s how they’re introduced to the industry though. That’s typically how they’re introduced to the industry by a family member, friends. We need to change that. We need to get millennials. So we need to accommodate, again, go back to the technology. But the other thing is they don’t want to be away from their families and their houses for weeks at a time. So what I’ve seen, how this industry has changed, which isn’t very positive, like you said, a lot more local and regional, but I’ll stand up. I speak at a lot of waste management type events, conferences, and what a great opportunity. You get up, you put your kids on the bus, you go hold trash or recycling, and then you come home and go to their ball game. I mean, you know, what a great job. And I don’t know about where you live, but where I live, you know, it’s this thing and they’re sitting in the vehicle and the will arms come out. Right. Or you could deliver vehicles. You could do Milk Hauling. There’s so many local jobs. And again, people just assume that you’re going to be gone for weeks at a time. That’s not always the case. So again, we don’t do a very good job selling this industry.

Brent – 00:22:25:

Right. That’s the misperception. I’m so glad you brought that up, that there’s, if being at home every night is a requirement, there’s a job in trucking for you. And I’m talking about driving a truck there’s segments in that, especially with local, or intermodal, or Drayage, or some regional hauling where you may be driving from, I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from Tuscaloosa, Atlanta and back in the same day, but you’re home. You’re leaving the morning and you’re back late afternoon. So there’s lots of applications there because it’s a trillion dollar industry. Trillion dollar- That’s just in freight cost movement. Trillion dollars. Last time I checked, that’s a big number. So that’s a big number, that means it’s great opportunity. So tell me a little about-okay, So you got trucking, got driving a truck. That’s one aspect. There’s so many others because you can do anything you want. So tell me a little bit about where you’ve seen advances in women inside the office, inside of freight transportation, and then talk to me a little bit about, because I want to hear this as a good with, where they’re at the highest level. Like what we’re going to talk about our Distinguished Women in Logistics Award winner, Ms. Erin Van Zeeland and Schnieder. Talk to me a little bit how you’ve seen women progress along.

Ellen – 00:23:30:

So I’m glad you asked me that because every single time I do an event, I speak and I give a presentation or speak at a conference, I always ask the women in the room, how many of you in high school or college said, “I want to work in trucking?” And nobody ever used to raise their hand. Yeah and nobody ever raised their hand. And I didn’t. I mean, I went to school for broadcast journalism.

Brent – 00:23:31:

And now all you do is talk for a living.

Ellen – 00:23:37:

So I spoke at a conference this week, and when I asked that question, two women raised their hands and went to school for supply chain. So that’s the biggest difference. You’re seeing schools that actually have supply chain programs, and you’re seeing a lot more women in the program. So that’s the biggest win for women in leadership because they have opportunities now and they’re actually being introduced to it. And I mean, who heard of supply chain 10 years ago, you didn’t. And this is where our foundation comes in because we’ll help give them tuition. Now, we’ll help be that tuition for them to go to school. So to me, that’s the positive thing. The other thing is at our conference, you see a lot more women entering the industry, working their way up. And you didn’t see that as much in the past. I didn’t see young women in their 20s and 30s excited about trucking. And when you have a conference and someone like Amazon sends 74 people to a conference. Why would they do that? They’re doing that because they know they’re learning. They know they’re getting peer mentoring, networking opportunities. I mean, nobody goes-nobody sends 74 people to an ATA Conference.

Brent – 00:25:06:

Well, it’s also the encouragement. You know, I’ve been to the show last five years and we uh- the amazing-we all need encouragement. It doesn’t matter what your situation is. We all need it to watch the smiles, the encouragement, the laughter, the people getting along, just the encouragement all along the way, the lineup there. We’ll talk about Accelerate!! In a minute, but it’s hard not to talk about accelerate. You’ve done such a great job there with that. But um, jobs in trucking. So you’ve got inside the office of a transportation company. Now, there’s also brokerage. Let’s talk about one of the if the goals of someone wants us to be the leader, the CEO of a company.

Ellen – 00:25:47:

I see so many more women in transportation, the TIA, the brokerage area, the 3PLs. I see more and more Women in 3PLs, which we didn’t even talk about 3PLs 10 years ago. You know, I mean, that is one area that has really grown. Final mile, middle mile. You know, There’s so many more opportunities in understanding how something gets from point A to point B and where you fit in that. So I’m so excited about that. Uh but also I can’t remember what you just asked me.

Brent – 00:26:19:

Well, about opportunities at different levels, but then there’s all you look. It’s not for everybody. Look, like Chief level leadership or President’s leadership, it’s not for everybody. Because guess what? It’s not easy to do it. People always go, “I want to be the leader, I want to be the man, I want to be the woman, I want to be the leader”. You get in there and you go. “This is not-Isn’t exactly what it was correct. I thought it was supposed to be. And so it’s hard, but there are people that are driven to do that”. And so tell me a little bit about how women have advanced in leadership.

Ellen – 00:26:31:

In the past, it was Smith & Sons Trucking right? And now you’re seeing daughters taking over. And we have a lot of companies. Sherri Brunbeil Garner took over Garner Trucking. Karen Smerchek took over Veriha Trucking. I mean, her dad started it and she and her brother has a controlling share. I mean, so I see more women taking over the trucking companies where, again, 10, 15 years ago, it was assumed that the son was going to be doing that. And look at our very first Distinguished Woman in Logistics, you know she took over, Christine Nicholl took over from her dad. And she still has family members working with her. So it’s not unusual now for daughters to be taking over the companies. You know, and it’s not unacceptable, which means people are starting to say, “don’t just assume that the son is going to take over because the daughter is just as capable, if not more”.

Brent – 00:27:42:

Well, I’ve got three hard charging daughters that are now 26, 23 and 21 and they’re just as capable as any person on the planet and I’m always encouraging them. Don’t ever let anybody persuade you anything differently now but and so fight for the things that you want. But I think about like, for instance, I think about like Ramona Hood at FedEx. She started out in this as an old school term, a secretary. She’s the basically she’s the CEO of FedEx Freight. She’s the president of the freight side. So incredible accomplishment and boy does it with grace. She is one the best smoothest, strongest leaders. I know I think about another. Distinguished Women in Logistics Award, whether it’s Shelley Simpson of JB Hunt. I think about the job that Erin Beane now has at Schneider. I think about Judy McReynolds. By the way, hint, hint, hint, they’re all speaking at Accelerate this year. Not, well, I’m noticing Judy, Erin and Shelley are all speaking in there. So we’ll talk about Accelerate! In just a second. But the thing that I appreciate about all that is that Brent Hutto and Truckstop are very dedicated to equal opportunity. 50% of our chief level leadership are female now. 49.85% or 49.9% of all the employees at Truckstop are female. And that’s Director levels and VP levels and everything else. And so, and we didn’t do it because we were looking to hire women. We just wouldn’t try to find, as the people at Schneiderberg tried to find the right person. But the point of this and doing this research was our mind was already open to it. So this is where Ellen Voie has been such a lightning rod, which is all you said to them was look, telling me I have to do it, I’m just asking you to be open to it. Just be open to hiring the qualified person. Give it a shot and see what happens. So anything else on leadership? Now, wait a minute. Now, there’s another leader I know. Oh, yeah, she’s on the podcast today. Okay, so you’ve led this organization for 16 years, recently retired from it, but you’ve led it. You’ve been the brand of the brand. All right, so tell me what it’s been like because I want to hear this because I don’t get to talk to you much about this. What’s it like being the leader of the brand?

Ellen – 00:29:55:

That’s an interesting question. Um, Someone introduced me recently as the Ellen of the transportation industry.You know, so like when you don’t even need a last name, no one knows how to pronounce my last name. It’s just the “Ellen of trucking”, which is great. And I have to say that this industry has been so receptive and so welcoming. And so when I stand up in front of people and I’ll say, “why are you doing that that way? And have you thought about this? And if you’re doing this, then stop doing that”. And they’re like, “oh yeah, okay, but she knows her stuff”. And that’s the biggest, establishing your credibility. When, if I can sit here and you know, speak at a conference and just spout the numbers and go, we did this research, we did these surveys, we asked the questions. And when I do a presentation, I have the source of every piece of data, and it’s not Ellen. I am not the source. I am going on and actively getting that data so that I can stand up there and say, “this is the research, you can look it up”.

Brent – 00:31:01:

So tell me what’s been the hardest part about being the leader of the brand?

Ellen – 00:31:07:

Well, extricating myself from the organization is very difficult. It’s my baby. No, I mean.

Ellen – 00:29:12:

“Women in Trucking” But also. I’m the person, I’m the entrepreneur. I chase shiny objects. So I’m the one who goes, “oh, I had this idea”. Or the other thing is, is like, “oh, this is the way I think the world should be. And this is how or what I want the vision to be for this industry”. And the people who are around me um say, “well, how do you want to get there?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, you figure that out”. But I describe the end result. And you know, wonderful, Lana Nichols, who used to work for Truckstop She is wonderful. It took a while for her, she would say to me, she goes, “you know, Ellen, the one thing that you always say to us is, well, you know”. Because I’d say, “hey, Lana, I want to come up with a Girl Scout activity book”. And she goes, “okay, what do you want it to look like?” And I go, “You know”. And it took her a while to get used to my style of leadership because I’d say, this is the end result. But, I don’t know how you’re going to get there, but this is what I see in the future”. And Lana caught on real quick because she’s like, “Oh, watch out. Ellen always goes, you know”.

Brent – 00:32:27:

Well, a good leader trusts the team that they work with and to figure it out. If you’ve got to figure it out for them, you don’t need the team, but you trust the team to get it done and then you bring it back and you put your touches on it. So that’s exciting. So yeah it has gotten to a point where the Women In Trucking Association, in order to really fundamentally grow to its next stage, has taken its next step. And so you’ve retired, I am sure you will find more things and more things to do that help change people’s lives. But in order for any brand to grow, it goes through transitions. And so it’s hard, it’s hard. I know it can be sad at times because that’s your baby. By the way, Scott Moscrip still calls Truckstop his baby. Okay, so he still refers to it that way. When we sold out to a private equity company, he said, “basically it was a wedding”. He said, “my baby just got married and he gave every employee a wedding gift”. It was super cool. And so my point is that any scaled organization, you’ve got a scaled organization now has got to evolve into what’s going to be next. And the hardest part is transitioning to that because there’s always emotions tied to it. If not, what did you build, right? Sorry let’s transition, go ahead. Make a point, I’d like to transition.

Ellen – 00:33:44:

I love to comment on that. So I had told my Board at least six years ago that I wanted to retire in 2023. And so we knew, and that’s one of the things I give myself credit for because a lot of founders don’t want to leave. They don’t want to give up. But I knew, and it’s kind of like having an 18 year old. And at some point you got to send them off to college or send them off to work or send them whatever and say, “I need to let you go because I’ve done what I can for you”. So the Board hired Jennifer Hedrick and she is, her background is in Association management, not in trucking, it’s Association management. And I still have 44 years of trucking up here. And so even though they hired her and she’s the new president and CEO, I will always be the founder. And so I still get the opportunity to go out and speak at events and share my passion.

Brent – 00:34:40:

Yeah, well. And I’m so glad you do because you are inspirational too. Not just women alright, you’re inspirational to everybody, especially to this guy and to Scluces. So you’re very inspirational to me. So you’ve inspired me to do many things. So thank you for that. Let’s swap to it because we talked about leadership. So I want to talk about how you came up with an idea and I’m sure you went, “you know, figure it out”. When you came up with this award called the Distinguished Woman in Logistics Award. Now it’s a big-it covers not just trucking, not just logistics, it covers all of it. So I want to just make sure the audience knows how I got Truckstop.com involved in it because I think it’s cool. So in 2013, I went to the TIA show and I saw Christy on stage give the heartwarming description about her taking over the parent’s business, her dad’s business and the conversation between her and her dad and how hard it was, but how she was determined to do it. And so she was the first winner I went going, given an award for that? I go, “that’s so cool. Truckstop has to be involved in that”. If you remember, I immediately called you and I said, “Ellen, we got to be involved. How can we be involved? You can’t say no, we have to be involved”. You said, “well, I have another sponsor in it, but maybe they’d say yes”. And I said, “they’ve got to say yes. Who is it? And they use it as this company. Let me call them because we got to be involved because it has to be bigger than some sponsorship”. It has to be bigger than that, because this is something where females get to see somebody on the stage in front of thousands of people accepting an award being recognized for excellent leadership.

Ellen – 00:36:25:

I wanted people to know that even though we’re called Women In Trucking, we’re not women in trucks. Right, brokers and 3PLs and you know, everyone who the TIA Transpatient and Meteorities Association represents, they’re all part of Trucking. I don’t care if you’re a warehouse, I don’t care if you don’t own a single truck, you’re still a woman in trucking. And so that was the reason for the Distinguished Woman in Logistics Award, because logistics is a part of trucking. So we didn’t want to just limit recognition programs to someone who worked in just trucking. We wanted it to be beyond that. And Christy was the perfect one. And she has blossomed and she has grown her organization unbelievably. So I’m so glad she was our very first Distinguished Woman in Logistics. And this year, Erin Van Zeeland. Again, you know, what a great person works in logistics. Even though Schneider is a trucking company, they do have a logistics arm of it as well. So, and we need people to know that Women In Trucking is reaches much more beyond the women who are driving the trucks.

Brent – 00:37:33:

Yeah, again, it’s a trillion dollar industry. There’s a lot that goes on in it. So I remember one of the things you were talking about how recognizing females for their accomplishment. I remember Erin being on stage this year and she recognized her dad for motivating her to go accomplish this. And so it was the sweetest thing. I’m sitting in the audience and I’m good friends with Erin and she is as good as it gets. And I just remember her saying, “how many girl dads are there in the audience?” And she goes, “I want to thank you for being encouraging to your daughters”. And the room just went, just went wild. I’m one of them. And so I used to get to give away the award up there, but I’m so glad now our CEO, Kendra Tucker, gets to be up there and give it away too, because she’s a great example of leadership inside of the trucking industry. Now we call it the freight transportation industry because that’s beneficially what goes on for everybody. She’s a great leader inside of trucking now and she’s just as balanced and equal as anybody else. And by the way, she has the coolest story. She was born in the Bahamas. She wasn’t even a citizen. She became a citizen in her mid-twenties. And so she’s as competitive and hard nosed as anybody else out there. And so we enjoy her leading us at Truckstops. So all right, so look, we got a few minutes left. I want to talk about this unbelievable success that you’ve had at your annual conference called Accelerate! So I had never been and about five years ago, you gave me a hard time. Like, “why aren’t you at the conference, Brent? You need to be at the conference, Brent”. I’m like, well, “Ellen, I got time. We got all this stuff going on”. You went, “no excuses. You’re coming this year”. And I said, “yes, ma’am”. So I came to one and still in Dallas. And I just remember walking in, I didn’t really have a big like, okay, well, what’s this going to be like? And then I have a big expectation. And I walked in and I’m like, “oh my, there’s a lot of people here”. This is what, yes. Right. By the way, I know what it feels like to be a minority now. But it was great. So I just remember kind of soaking it in and going, wow, Ellen and the team have done such an incredible work here in being dedicated to the communication, having a resource for the industry. So tell me a little bit about. How you got to coming up with the idea, what you’re most proud of about it, and then where it’s going, and then we’ll close it out.

Ellen – 00:40:10:

So we worked with an Association management firm called Mindshare, and they had approached me and said, “have you ever thought about doing a conference?” And like, that would cost a lot of work, a lot of money. And so we actually hired them to do the conference, and we have stayed with them ever since. The first year we had 300 people, which is pretty impressive for the first year. But we grew considerably from 300 to 500 to 800 and I think 1200, and then COVID hit. And so we pivoted to a virtual conference, and we retain the virtual component of it to this day. But, so it was two years ago, uh 800 attendees. And I told my team, I want to hit, I think I told them 1200. And every I go in, kept seeing how many registration we have, 1200, 13, 14, 15, 16. We ended up with 1,750 registered attendees. That’s probably. One of the largest, I think I told Anne at TIA that we were going to beat her and I think we’re pretty close, so. But the reason is because 83 to 85% are women, and how many trucking industry events do you see that percentage of women? There’s still men there, but everything that is spoken about, I mean, the keynotes, they’re all inspirational, and they apply to women or men. And so, but a lot of the topics will be things like branding yourself or communication styles or negotiation skills. Well, guess what? They apply to both men and women, but there’s something that you’re not going to see at another trucking event. And we even had an LGBTQIA panel led by Dr. Jennifer Hurley of Trans New York , and that room was packed. And I walked out of there and I said, you’re not going to see an LGBTQIA panel at ATA. Probably not. So there’s something for everyone. There’s breakout sessions. We- They actually have tracks. So if you’re a driver, there’s a track. If you’re in sales, there’s a track. HR, there’s a track. Leadership, there’s a track. So you can pick them. And then if you miss a session, like a breakout, you can watch the virtual one two weeks later because anyone who goes to the actual conference gets access to the replay.

Brent – 00:42:31:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look, you’ve got to be able to continue to multiply it out there because not everybody can make it to Dallas in November. So that’s fantastic. Let’s close with this. First off, it’s been such a joy to have you on. I mean, every time I get to speak to you, it’s a joy. But it’s a joy knowing that there’s going to be others that get to hear your story and be inspired by it to do great things, just like you’ve done. Look, I’m sure because I’ve heard you say before, you don’t have any magic powers. You just have to go out there, determine yourself to do it and just not give up until it happens. Putting yourself in place to create success. So tell me, she’s 21 years old, she’s trying to figure out what to do, what’s the biggest advice you’d give to a 21-year-old that might want to get into this industry?

Ellen – 00:43:17:

Well, first of all, I’d say ask a lot of questions, attend a conference like Women In Trucking, read the publications, find a mentor, even job shadow if you can, but really find an organization like Women In Trucking so that you can get the information that you need and maybe find someone that you can talk to and find leaders who you look up to and read their stories or listen to their stories because you’ll get a lot of insight on what motivates them and what challenges they faced. And I think basically it’s doing your own work, right?

Brent – 00:43:46:

Well, yeah, absolutely. Great advice to end on. Ellen, as always, you know, it’s like the best to talk to you. And I’m so thankful that the Freight Nation watchers will be able to benefit from your wisdom and your leadership and your passion and your super great smile. And so uh-

Ellen – 00:44:05:

One more thing I have to mention, that you and I have this very unique connection and we both have daughters named Virginia.

Brent – 00:44:13:

That’s a very, very true. My third daughter, she’s a very- sweet, sweet person. She’s studying environmental science in college right now and doing really well. So yes, that’s right. I forgot that for a second. Well, thank you for reminding me of that. So again, thanks for being on Freight Nation and uh really appreciate it. I know that the audience is going to benefit from hearing your wisdom. And as with everything out there, Truckstop Freight Nation, we appreciate you listening along and watching along here with us. We’re going to keep producing these. We’re going to keep bringing great content to you. Certainly hope we can eclipse Ellen Voie, although that may be very difficult to do, but we’ll continue to bring you great information. Thank you so much for watching today and keep on trucking. On behalf of the Truckstop team, thanks for listening to this episode of Freight Nation. To find out more about the show, head to truckstop.com/podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. Until then, keep on trucking and exploring the open roads with Freight Nation: A Trucking Podcast.

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