Gender, Freight and Automation image

The movement of goods, particularly by way of long-haul trucking, has long been framed as 'masculine work' characterised by along traditional lines of individualised cultures, complex machinery, and anti-social work conditions. Trucks (heavy-goods-vehicles) can be understood as gendered artefacts, and by linking the truck with culturally accepted gendered symbols, gender is constructed, and the performance of gender is enabled. In this way, truck driving fits within a traditional masculine ideology, where trucks are a sign of 'male identity'. There have been efforts to increase gender diversity (e.g. She's RHA, Horsepower), yet less than 1% of UK 'truckers' are female, with most drivers "over 45, white and male", presenting very stark gender inequalities.

The transport sector is undergoing what seem to be a series of fundamental changes in response to environmental imperatives and technological advances, including the development of various automated freight vehicles for use along the supply chain (e.g. first/last mile and trunk routes). The implications of these developments go beyond moving people and goods around in novel ways, and include the possibility of reconfiguring prevailing discourses and practices around gender, mobility, and labour.

Funded by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), this research will examine the intersection of freight work, gender and automated technologies. It will provide understanding of how automation may (re)produce gendered subjectivities, and examine the ways through which gender is performed. The project will use a qualitative approach involving ethnographic research coupled with in-depth interviews and discursive analysis with freight workers across the UK. This will provide new understandings of gendered work, geographies of labour, and the implications of smart and automated technologies. This pilot study will provide findings to aid the development of a larger research programme.

Outputs

  • An industry report/ infographic detailing key findings on gender, automation and freight
  • A knowledge exchange workshop to be held in Autumn 2018
  • Development of larger funding bid
  • Once data collection is completed findings will be presented in internationally peer review publications and at a series of conference and seminars.

Further Information

For more information on this research project please contact Dr Debbie Hopkins.