Equality isn’t just a word to members of the LGBT community, but something that is continuously strived for and the inspiration behind the group, LGBT Truckers.
For years, Shelle Lichti, a 25-year veteran driver and founder of LGBT Truckers, and Bobby Coffey-Loy, media and public relations specialist, have been working to provide support and encouragement to LGBT individuals across the transportation industry. The first-of-its-kind online community is a safe place dedicated to representing and celebrating all members of the LGBT community without concern.
“We’re trying to pave the road in an area that’s never been touched when it comes to trucking,” said Coffey-Loy.
While being a truck driver offers countless benefits, including competitive pay and flexible hours, it should come as no surprise that LGBT individuals have a hard time seeing themselves in the industry.
We recently sat down with Coffey-Loy to get his take on how more carriers can home in on this seemingly untapped market and effectively appeal to the LGBT community. Here are a few of his suggestions:
Be open, educated, and prepared
“Trucking is changing so much,” said Coffey-Loy. “I see so many people who you would never think driving trucks like women and people of all races.”
Drivers — LGBT or not — want and need a positive work environment. In fact, 57 percent of employees who said they were very stressed at work felt less productive and disengaged.
Everyone, from fleet managers to dispatchers, needs to be aware of the challenges and dangers those in the LGBT community face daily. Having this knowledge enables carriers to prepare for any situations that may arise and help LGBT drivers feel safe and satisfied.
Additionally, being aware of LGBT concerns may give other existing drivers in your fleet the strength to come out to your company. As Coffey-Loy said, “We’re already [in the industry], and we’ve been here for a long time.”
Get ahead of it
Unfortunately, having LGBT truck drivers as part of your fleet may come with certain challenges that carriers need to recognize and, more importantly, proactively address.
Coffey-Loy recalled his impressive experience in driving school where the directors outlined a strict policy stating that if any person was demonstrating discriminatory behavior, they would be immediately terminated.
“I thought really highly of [the school] for that reason,” said Coffey-Loy. “They took care of the situation fast and appropriately.”
However, other companies need to improve how they respond to these types of situations. Coffey-Loy shared an example of a time that he and his partner were driving for a fleet that, to promote themselves as LGBT friendly, encouraged them to share photos of themselves at LGBT events wearing company-branded clothing. After a time, other drivers in the fleet received backlash from the public for working alongside LGBT drivers.
Rather than addressing the issue head-on and standing behind their decision, the company simply apologized to the drivers in an open session and did not seek any further action. This created a very awkward situation for Coffey-Loy and his partner, leading them to leave the company eventually.
Carriers need to decide on a plan for how to best handle situations that will likely arise, provide a united front, and be prepared to defend their decisions to make integrating LGBT individuals into their fleet as seamless as possible.
Put your drivers first
Throughout our talk, Coffey-Loy stressed the importance of safety for the LGBT community in the industry. While the overall culture has improved over the years, LGBT individuals still feel the need to be looking over their shoulder.
Get to know your drivers. Find out what their needs and wants are or if they have any fears of being on the road. This will make drivers feel validated and appreciated while allowing you to increase satisfaction and retention.
“If the only thing you know about me personally is that I’m a gay trucker, then you really don’t know much about me at all,” said Coffey-Loy.
No matter what, you must prioritize the safety and happiness of your drivers — they are the backbone of the trucking industry, LGBT or not.
For more information or to get involved with LGBT Truckers, visit their website, message Shelle or Bobby on their Facebook group or the Rainbow Rider fan page — they are always looking for help with blog content, people to work events, and great ideas! Be sure to follow them on Instagram and Twitter and use #RainbowRider in your posts.
“We’re just trying to help others feel comfortable with who they are,” said Coffey-Loy. “I really want people to start accepting people for who they are and realize that we’re all truckers.”