The first Women In Trucking Accelerate! Conference and Expo was a huge success.

Question: What does a Mars engineer, a dating doctor, a satellite radio host, a NASCAR driver and a safety administrator have in common?

They were all speakers at the recent Women In Trucking Association’s Accelerate! Conference and Expo.

The 350 attendees learned about self defense and self esteem, how success depends on relationship building, being a female racer in a male dominated environment and much more.  Although the topics were diverse, they were all focused on creating a positive environment for women employed in the transportation industry.

The conference wasn’t for women only, as both women and men appreciated the insight shared by the diverse speakers.  The goal of the event was to learn best practices to increase the employment and advancement of women who work in transportation careers.  Currently, while strides are being made, women employed in management positions in transportation, storage, and distribution is slightly over fourteen percent with only eleven percent of transportation degrees earned by women.

The conference started with a Sunday night welcoming reception and ended two days later. The Monday night event was a line dancing party hosted by the Women In Trucking Scholarship Foundation, where attendees wore red to support the charitable organization. Over $2,000 was raised at the conference to support scholarships for students pursuing transportation related careers.

The conference kicked off with an inspirational message by Jennifer Jo Cobb, (compliments of Arrow Truck Sales) who is a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racer and the only female to both own and drive her vehicle.

A panel discussion hosted by TA/Petro included Robert Rothstein, a transportation attorney who holds a commercial driver’s license, Dr. Jeanette Kersten, a professor at the University of Wisconsin in Stout who has conducted extensive research for Women In Trucking Association regarding recruiting strategies for drivers, and Michael Colonnese, President and Co-Founder of Work America (, a social impact business focusing on helping unemployed and under-qualified Americans start a new technical career.  The topic was driver recruiting issues from three very diverse perspectives sharing a common goal to attract and retain professional drivers.

The break out sessions Monday afternoon included a presentation by Nagin Cox, and space operations engineer who shared her experiences working on the Mars Curiosity Mission at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab.  Cox showed examples of the technology used by the Mars rover and how some of the advanced engineering can be used on earth.

Debbie Gardner, a former deputy Sheriff and founder of the Survive Institute, taught attendees how to avoid and deflect an assault through a combination of self esteem and self defense.

Lee Klaskow, a Senior Analyst at Bloomberg Research, shared his insight regarding the economy and how transportation has and will be affected by fuel prices, capacity issues and other external and internal factors.

Meredith Ochs, talk show host on Sirius/XM’s Freewheelin’ show started the day off Tuesday morning with her insights on what drivers share with her on the air.  She offered insight into what her listeners are thinking about their carriers, their industry and their fellow drivers.

The morning continued with a panel discussion featuring four of the five “Influential Women In Trucking” candidates talking about “How to Influence Your Company to Become a Market Leader.”  The panel discussion, led by Women In Trucking President/CEO Ellen Voie, included Rochelle Bartholomew, President and CEO of CalArk Incorporated, Joyce Brenny, founder and CEO of Brenny Transportation, Rebecca Brewster, President and COO of the American Transportation Research Institute and Kari Rihm, owner of Rihm Kenworth headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota.  These four accomplished women talked about the challenges they faced in their careers, as well as the reasons for their accomplishments and successes.

Tuesday afternoon’s session began with David Coleman, also known as “The Dating Doctor.”  He received a standing ovation after his presentation about why relationships, both in business and in interpersonal situations, is important for success.  He spoke about challenges and opportunities in creating a network for support and encouragement at work and at home.

Tuesday afternoon’s break out sessions included a presentation called “Performance on Steroids: How to Maximize your Organization’s Performance,” by Joel McGinley of TranStrategy Partners and “Driver Compensation: Solving the Puzzle of Attracting and Retaining Female Drivers,” by Beth Carroll, Prosperio Group.

The conference ended with final keynote speaker, Daphne Jefferson, who currently serves as the Deputy Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.  Jefferson talked about her experience riding with female drivers in a two-day ride-along arranged by the Women In Trucking Association.  She responded to questions from the audience on current regulatory compliance initiatives of the department.

Throughout the conference, the energy level was consistently high and the attendees remarked about the positive focus on the future for the transportation industry.  Next year’s event is already in the planning stages and feedback from attendees will determine the time and location for the 2016 Accelerate! Conference and Expo.

If you missed it this year, be ready to learn, network and be energized at next year’s event. We look forward to seeing you there.


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