John Hitch | Fleet Maintenance
Hdawomen Reception 63c9786f53cd0

HDAW focuses on trucking's women at first-ever event

Jan. 19, 2023
Female aftermarket leaders joined forces to host a women’s networking event at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week, which highlighted FedEx technician Bonnie Greenwood’s rise to shop superstar.

GRAPEVINE, Texas—The heavy-duty trucking industry has a history of not welcoming women, but that was not the case at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) 2023. The aftermarket-centric event, which started in 2006, for the first time included the HDAWomen Reception. This networking opportunity held at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, put the focus squarely on promoting and supporting women in the sector.

The idea was hatched by Robyn Spitzke, president of Fort Garry Industries, a Canadian supplier of aftermarket parts, trailers, equipment, and service. She also sat on the VIPAR Heavy Duty’s buying group's board of directors. Spitzke worked with Tina Hubbard, president of HDA Truck Pride, competitor of VIPAR, to get the event off the ground.

Spitzke, who noted she is still “often the only woman in the room,” did not have that issue here. Unlike typical heavy-duty trucking events, women outnumbered men at about a 4:1 ratio. The official count from MEMA, one of HDAW’s organizers and sponsors, counted more than 200 total in attendance.

And having more women is great for the industry, Spitzke noted.

“It's just good business to build diversity,” she remarked to the crowd. “You build a stronger business, you build a stronger industry.

“We need to hire from different backgrounds,” she continued. “We need to then provide opportunities, professional development, and training, and growth. It's not just enough to have women in the room; we have to have inclusion. And we have to make sure that they get the proper training and exposure. In doing so, we create a resilient industry and resilient companies.”

Hubbard’s opening remarks indicated that she herself had to remain resilient to ascend to a leadership position. As a managing salesperson at a now defunct fleet, she requested her boss to put her on the heavy-duty beat.

His words stuck with her, which she shared to a gasping crowd: Hey, kiddo, I have two girls of my own, and ain’t no way in hell I'm putting a woman in heavy duty.”

Hubbard then spent two years learning and enhancing her “technical knowledge and selling skills,” she said, at which point, that same boss approached Hubbard for a new role and said, “You know, kiddo, you're ready and I got your back.”

Hubbard said support like that is what helped her become president of a major parts distributor that is crucial to maintaining fleet uptime.

The headliner of the event was Bonnie Greenwood, a technician for FedEx Freight who has risen to prominence since 2017 when she became the first woman to win TMCFutureTech, a skills competition for diesel tech students organized by the American Trucking Associations’ Maintenance & Technology Council. In 2022, the former WyoTech student placed second at the professional version, TMCSuperTech.

Greenwood has become a staunch advocate for women entering the trade. Currently, females comprise around 2% of vehicle technicians. This topic was discussed in more detail during one of HDAW's SOLD! educational sessions.

Like Hubbard, she noted support from colleagues helped her get to where she is today, specifically, an instructor at WyoTech and co-workers at FedEx who helped her prepare for TMCSuperTech.

For Greenwood, who now lives in the Salt Lake City area with her wife, life as a technician working with her hands was more appealing than her previous jobs managing natural resources and as an educator. Fixing a truck’s engine problems allowed her to “physically see the fruits of my labor,” she said.

“I never get bored at work—every day is different,” she explained to the crowd. “You never know what you're walking into or what problem you need to solve.”

And solving problems is something the industry always needs and what Greenwood says she excels at—even more so than her male counterparts.

“This industry is complex, and a greater variety of experiences, opinions, ideas, and even just ways of thinking can only help create solutions and increase efficiency,” she said. “I find in my work that sometimes I think about problems differently for my coworkers, and diagnose issues or develop solutions that they hadn't even previously considered.”

The biggest challenge for Greenwood, which the women at the event appeared to empathize with, is having to manage her reaction when a man expresses surprise that a woman is working in the shop.

“At first, I felt insulted, or even frustrated, because I don't see myself as working in the shop as anything unique,” Greenwood shared. “I am just a technician trying to do my best every day.”

She decided to “ignore their surprise” and keep on proving she belonged by excelling at her craft.

Now, with all her successes troubleshooting in the bay and at the industry’s top skills events, she has nothing left to prove, and men aren’t surprised to see her in the shop anymore.

The next challenge is to find more young women—and young men—who can similarly help shops and fleets around North America.

“We need more young women to join this industry, so that we can help with their continual evolution of this industry, by working their way up through the ranks and helping lead the way,” she said. “Please encourage your sons and your daughters, your nieces and your nephews, to pursue careers in this industry. Because we need them badly.”
About the Author

John Hitch | Editor-in-chief, Fleet Maintenance

John Hitch is the editor-in-chief of Fleet Maintenance, where his mission is to provide maintenance management and technicians with the the latest information on the tools and strategies to keep their fleets' commercial vehicles moving.

He is based out of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in the B2B journalism space for more than a decade.

Hitch was previously senior editor for FleetOwner, and covers everything related to trucking and commercial vehicle equipment, including breaking news, the latest trends and best practices. He previously wrote about manufacturing and advanced technology for IndustryWeek and New Equipment Digest.

Prior to that he was editor for Kent State University's student magazine, The Burr, and a freelancer for Cleveland Magazine. He is an award-winning journalist and former sonar technician, where he served honorably aboard the fast-attack submarine USS Oklahoma City (SSN-723).

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