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This story also appeared in Newsy

Update: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration provided the following statement: “There is no acceptable number of incidents of harassment and violence against women, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is committed to dedicating its time and resources to working with the trucking industry, unions, stakeholders, agencies, and Congress to improve the safety for women in trucking”

Christina drove a white Freightliner semi truck for three hours until she arrived at a Love’s truck stop in Cunningham, Kansas. She was shaking — terrified that the man she says raped her earlier that day at an Arizona rest stop would kill her.

The attacker was her co-driver Arthur Martyn, she said. They both worked for CRST, the Iowa-based trucking company that trained Christina that summer and later hired her as a driver. Martyn had sexually assaulted her twice during the cross-country delivery trip that began in California, she later told police.

After the second attack, Christina said Martyn got out of the semi truck at a remote truck stop in Kansas to make a call. She saw her chance to escape. Christina stepped on the pedal slowly and the truck crept forward. “Bitch! I’ll kill you,” she recalled Martyn yelling. She kept driving. 

“I thought: I just have to live,” Christina said in a phone interview. She asked Public Integrity not to use her real name or mention where she lives to protect her safety. 

Christina’s dream of traveling the country as a commercial truck driver ended that fall afternoon in 2019. Christina said CRST’s human resources staff discouraged her from reporting the rape to police. “They were scolding me. Like it wasn’t real,” Christina said. Instead, she says she was instructed to continue driving to a terminal nearly 50 miles away in Hutchinson, Kansas, so the shipment would not be delayed. A company employee told her to go to a hospital there, she said. She eventually reported the rape to police in Hutchinson despite fear of retaliation from Martyn and CRST.

Two law enforcement agencies involved in the case — in Kansas and California — never arrested Martyn, a convicted felon with a history of violence against women. And it’s unclear whether police analyzed the rape exam completed at the hospital.

Christina’s account of how CRST failed to protect her and how law enforcement let her case languish echoes the stories of so many women trying to break into the trucking industry. More than 30 women learning to drive commercial trucks say they were sexually abused by their trainers or co-drivers in the past 18 years at companies that run apprenticeships with the U.S. Department of Labor, an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and Newsy has found. About a third of the incidents were reported when the apprenticeships were in operation. One of those companies is CRST, which delivers cargo for major retailers such as Target, Walmart and Wayfair, according to former employees and court records. 

Those deliveries turned into violent nightmares for several women who worked for CRST.

A student in one of CRST’s programs said her trainer tied her to the bunk bed in their truck in 2017 and raped her at a truck stop in rural New York. That same year, another female student reported that a CRST trainer climbed on her as she was sleeping and raped her. In 2019, a woman said her co-driver choked and raped her during a cross-country delivery. The women described these attacks in lawsuits filed against CRST. The first one was dismissed, the second was settled for $5 million and the third is scheduled for trial in February.

The brutal attacks female drivers described were just the beginning. The women said their complaints were downplayed or dismissed when they tried to seek help from a company that seemed to place profits before employee safety. Multiple students said they were punished after reporting sexual assault to CRST managers or human resources staff. They were told to leave their trucks, they said, while their alleged abusers continued to earn money by finishing the deliveries. Some women said they were eventually fired, and that CRST billed them thousands of dollars for not driving long enough to pay back the cost of their training. 

CRST has denied accusations that it punishes women for reporting sexual assault and said it thoroughly investigates each complaint.

Public Integrity and Newsy reviewed hundreds of court documents, depositions and U.S. Department of Labor records and conducted interviews with former CRST employees and women who said they were assaulted. Details about Christina’s sexual assaults were gathered from an interview with her, police documents, court records and results of a forensic rape exam.

The Center for Public Integrity partnered with Newsy on this investigation into workplace violence against women in the trucking industry.

The three-month investigation by Public Integrity and Newsy found a disturbing pattern of workplace violence in an industry that has tried to recruit more women but has failed to protect them from sexual assault. Other findings include:

●      At least seven women said they were raped by their trainer or co-driver while working for CRST between 2005 and 2019. Three of them said the company fired them or barred them from driving after they reported the assaults, according to court records. Meanwhile, at least four of the men accused of rape continued to work during the company’s internal investigation, the women claim. 

●      CRST launched a truck driving apprenticeship program with the U.S. Department of Labor in 2016. The federal agency subsidizes part of the training program through a contractor that helps onboard students for CRST. It’s unclear if the four women who said they were raped after 2016 were apprentices in that program or if they completed a different company training course.

●      At least four of the seven women who said they were raped reported the assaults to police in three states. Only one of the accused rapists has been arrested.

●      Two other major U.S. trucking companies — C.R. England and Werner Enterprises — have received multiple sexual assault complaints from women attending one of their training programs, according to court records. Both companies now run apprenticeships partially subsidized by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Ann McGinley, an employment law professor at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, described the findings as “outrageous” and urged the U.S. Department of Labor to act.

“I think these behaviors are shocking,” said McGinley, who is co-director of the university’s Workplace Law Program. Yet she is not surprised, she said. “This happens regularly, but I thought there would have been some progress.”

CRST did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment on the allegations. Christina’s former co-driver, Martyn, 59, did not respond to multiple requests for comment either. 

In a written response to the lawsuit Christina filed last year against CRST, a lawyer for the company denied that she was sexually assaulted, claiming that she “welcomed and consented to the alleged physical contact.” The lawsuit is ongoing.

Four former CRST employees told Public Integrity and Newsy that the company did not take sexual harassment complaints by female drivers seriously. 

“The safety of the drivers was typically pretty low on the level of importance to the operations team,” said a former human resources employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive company information. “Keeping the truck running was absolutely the most important thing.”

“The safety of the drivers was typically pretty low on the level of importance to the operations team. Keeping the truck running was absolutely the most important thing.”

a former CRST human resources employee

Three companies that do business with CRST —Target, Walmart and Wayfair — did not respond to requests for comment about the accusations.

At least a dozen members of Congress and the Biden administration are aware of the violence women face in the trucking industry. In November, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration discussed it during a virtual meeting with women who work in the trucking industry. Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor launched a campaign to prevent sexual assault in the industry. About a dozen trucking companies, including Werner Enterprises, responded to the campaign and committed to do their part. The allegations of widespread abuse and retaliation raise questions about the companies’ compliance with federal apprenticeship rules, but it’s unclear whether the U.S. departments of Labor and Transportation have investigated any of these cases. Instead, the federal agencies have expanded truck driver apprenticeship programs, citing a nationwide shortage of commercial truck drivers.

Graphic that reads "Women are more likely to file sexual harassment charges in male-dominated industries like transportation."
Screenshot of part of the U.S. Department of Labor campaign to prevent sexual assault in the transportation industry. (U.S. Department of Labor website)

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Labor said the agency is committed to promoting the safety of apprentices and takes allegations of sexual harassment and violence toward apprentices and workers seriously.

“As your reporting indicates, these incidents have occurred over a long period of time and the depth and urgency of institutional responses from the industry will take time to correct,” wrote Arjun Singh, a spokesperson for the Office of Apprenticeship, in a statement. “However, we believe that working with leaders in the industry who are committed to change and improving their safety and training practices, particularly through the use of Registered Apprenticeship, offers a path towards strengthening protections for individuals entering the trucking workforce.” 

Singh declined to say whether the agency has ever investigated allegations of sexual abuse or harassment in trucking apprenticeships.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is part of the Transportation Department, did not respond to questions from Public Integrity and Newsy.

Violence on the road

After Christina arrived at the hospital, she met a nurse and two victim’s advocates in a room at the Hutchinson Regional Medical Center in Kansas. The nurse, Shana Eaves, explained the process of taking a forensic rape exam and asked Christina if she wanted one. Three days had passed since Christina was raped at an Arizona rest stop, according to what she told police. Martyn was long gone, driving another truck for CRST in Pennsylvania, according to company records obtained by Newsy and Public Integrity. 

Christina, then in her mid-50s, agreed to the exam, telling the nurse everything she remembered of the attacks. Her genitals still felt raw and tender, she said, and it hurt to pee. Eaves asked if she had showered or changed clothes since the attack. Christina said she took off her leggings and changed into jeans to make it harder for Martyn to pull off her pants. She hadn’t showered.

Eaves began the forensic exam. She drew Christina’s blood and swabbed her genitals, mouth and fingernails. She took pictures of the bruises on her arms, her right inner thigh and the back of her left knee. Eaves noted the lesions on her genitals and the bruising, swelling and sores inside her cervix. She finished the exam about an hour later, then gave Christina clean clothes and asked her to shower.

How to file a complaint

The U.S. Department of Labor requires registered apprenticeship program sponsors to keep programs free from harassment, intimidation and retaliation based on an apprentice’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, gender identity, age, disability or genetic information. To read more about the regulations and how to file a complaint, go here

Christina was ready to talk to the police when she returned. Eaves called the Hutchinson Police Department and gave Christina three types of antibiotics and anti-nausea pills. She also handed her Sprite, crackers and cheese.

When a police officer arrived, Eaves told him she finished the rape exam and noticed “obvious trauma” to Christina’s genitals. Christina was visibly shaken.

“She appeared to have been crying and was still acting reserved in nature,” he later wrote in his report.

Christina told the story again. How Martyn began harassing her after they met at the company’s truck terminal in Riverside County, California. How she told him to leave her alone. That he later assaulted her in the truck cabin before departing on their trip. A day later he raped her in the truck around 3 a.m. She wasn’t sure where they were, but said Martyn had stopped the truck at a rest area somewhere in Arizona.

The police officer told Christina they were assisting another law enforcement agency in the case and collecting evidence. Later, police officers gathered items from the semi truck that Christina left parked at a Love’s truck stop in Hutchinson. They collected bed sheets, black leggings, men’s boots, a black trash bag and what appeared to be vape cartridges. Christina told police that Martyn may have drugged her with those liquids.

Christina was hopeful the police would look into it. But the police investigation appears to have ended there. Police in Hutchinson, Kansas, and the sheriff’s department in Riverside County, California, provided scarce details. 

A spokesperson for the Hutchinson Police Department said their agency didn’t have jurisdiction over the case because the incidents she reported happened elsewhere. So they sent the evidence and case file to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, where Christina said the first attack happened.

The sheriff’s department, through a spokesperson, would not say whether it ever opened a case to investigate Christina’s claims. Sgt. Brandi Swan, a public information officer, said the department has no active arrest warrant for Martyn and that he’s not the subject of any active criminal case. 

“Our agency has been in touch with the agency in Kansas and if further investigation is needed, we will ensure it is completed,” Swan wrote in an email.

In a sudden shift, the sheriff’s department said Tuesday that it had opened an investigation into Christina’s reported sexual assault in Riverside County. “No further information about that investigation is available based on the sensitive nature of the case,” Swan added.

Three years after she reported the attacks, Christina is still afraid of Martyn and worried that he might find her. She filed a lawsuit in 2021 against Martyn and CRST, seeking damages for the alleged assaults and for the company’s purported failure to keep her safe. Christina’s lawyer has been unable to locate Martyn to serve him the lawsuit. In court records, a human resources employee for CRST said Martyn lived in Connecticut when he worked for them, but that they eventually fired him based on their investigation of Christina’s claims.

Martyn already had a violent history when CRST assigned him to drive with Christina, documents show. In 2014, Martyn was released from prison after serving nearly three years for strangling his girlfriend.

His then-girlfriend described the attack to a sheriff’s deputy in 2010 outside their home in St. Augustine, Florida, according to the arrest report. She said Martyn came home drunk and angry days earlier and began punching her in the head. Then he spit in her face and began choking her. She talked to the deputy in whispers, as Martyn lay asleep inside.

“I started having trouble breathing and he threw me down on the floor and went and got some kitchen knives,” she wrote in an official statement to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. “He told me over and over he would kill me. I know he would/will kill me and kill my son.”

CRST did not respond when asked if the company conducted a criminal background check on Martyn. Several CRST drivers said the company has long tolerated violence against women.

In 2019, Karla Simpson, who completed CRST’s training program, said she was trapped in a truck with an abusive co-driver. Simpson said he repeatedly raped and choked her during a three-month period. He was also verbally abusive, she said, often calling her “imbecile,” “bitch” and “piece of shit,” according to a lawsuit she filed against CRST and her co-driver in 2020 in San Diego.

Her co-driver, Charles Flint, allegedly threatened to kill her and her family if she ever called police or told her manager about his behavior. After one attack in Connecticut, Simpson said she was able to escape to a truck stop and contacted her manager, who called the police. Flint was arrested on the spot. But the manager also told Simpson to drive the truck back to the Riverside County terminal, which took several days, according to the lawsuit. 

In her complaint, Simpson said CRST fired her while she was recovering from the attack and the company billed her more than $6,000 for not working long enough to repay the cost of her training at the company’s North American Driver Training Academy.

Responding in court to Simpson’s lawsuit, a lawyer for CRST denied that the company was negligent and failed to protect her from violence or that it discriminated and retaliated against her for reporting it. The company said Flint and Simpson were engaged, and that they had a consensual sexual relationship. Simpson denied she was his fiancee or that she consented to having sex with him. 

Flint was convicted of strangling and assaulting Simpson and was sentenced in January 2020 to one year in jail for each of the two charges, which could be suspended after three months, according to Connecticut criminal court records.

In an email to Public Integrity, Flint challenged Simpson’s version of events and claimed that she had made accusations about him “that were never proven.” 

Simpson’s lawsuit is scheduled for trial in February.

A view from the cabin of a tractor-railer driven by a female trucker. On the dashboard is a cell phone.
A screenshot from our documentary showing a female trucker behind the wheel. (Claire Molloy / Newsy)

An unsafe workplace

On an average day, CRST deploys more than 3,500 drivers across the country, delivering goods destined for some of America’s best-known stores: Target, Wayfair and Walmart. They get the keys to their semi trucks at one of the company’s four main terminals in Riverside County, California; Oklahoma City; Carlisle, Pennsylvania; and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

CRST was founded in 1955 and has grown into one of the largest trucking companies in the country. One of its signature services is expedited shipping: running a truck up to 22 hours a day to speed up deliveries for customers. To do that, the company pairs long-haul drivers for weeks at a time. While one driver sleeps in the truck cabin’s bunk bed, the other one drives. Then they switch. This co-driving model has helped CRST grow into a billion-dollar company.

But this model endangers female drivers. Women made up about 10% of the company’s drivers in recent years, so they usually share a small space with male co-workers — sleeping and changing clothes within a few feet of each other. Student drivers are even more vulnerable because they drive with their trainers, who help determine their future at the company. 

CRST runs several programs to teach people to drive commercial trucks. The best known is the North American Driver Training Academy in Cedar Rapids. Students spend about a month on the road with a CRST trainer, known as the lead driver, who helps decide whether a student graduates. The company trains about 4,000 drivers each year, according to a court filing. Most sexual abuse complaints against CRST reviewed by Public Integrity involved students who said they were assaulted by their trainers. 

Claudia Lopez was 34 when she complained to the company’s human resources department about multiple incidents of sexual harassment and assault, she said. She says she told Karen Carlson, an employee in the department, that one of her classmates in the training program was harassing her and threatened to rape her. 

We want to hear from you: Tell us your story about sexual assault in the trucking industry.

After graduating, she complained to a manager that her co-driver was touching and harassing her during a delivery in the Miami area, she said. The manager reportedly ordered her to leave the truck even though she begged him to remove her co-driver, she said. The manager refused, according to Lopez. 

On a different route in Arkansas with a different driver, Lopez said she woke up to someone massaging her buttocks while she was asleep on the bunk bed. It was her co-driver, who was naked and had an erection, she said. She ran out of the truck and talked to a CRST employee, asking where to drop off the load. She drove another 45 minutes with the man who assaulted her to deliver the cargo, she said, holding a screwdriver for her protection. There she had to advance her own money for a hotel and rental car. 

“I was crying. I was devastated,” she said during an interview at her home in Lakeland, Florida. “And then I decided that I’m going home. … I’m not going to put myself in that position anymore.” 

Lopez said Carlson told her she would investigate each incident she reported. But she says she never heard back. When she returned to the terminal in California after reporting the last assault, Lopez said she saw the man she accused of attacking her listed on the driving rotation. 

She quit two weeks before completing the eight-month contract she had signed to cover the cost of her training. 

“It caused me a lot of pain,” said Lopez, now an independent truck driver. “It took me a while to learn to have confidence in myself again.”

Lopez sued CRST in federal court in 2015 for gender discrimination and retaliation, along with several other women who worked as truck drivers for the company during that time. A federal judge in Iowa sided with the company and dismissed their claims, saying the group did not have enough evidence to prove that CRST had retaliated against them or created a hostile work environment. Appellate court judges later affirmed that decision, but allowed certain retaliation claims to move forward. CRST is currently trying to persuade the same trial judge to dismiss them.

One former human resources employee, who asked Public Integrity not to disclose their identity to discuss sensitive company information, said the department investigated about 20 discrimination complaints a month from drivers. With sexual abuse and harassment complaints, CRST staff instructed female drivers to leave their trucks and stay at a hotel during the internal investigation, the former employee said, while the men were allowed to drive. 

“[The women] were absolutely financially penalized for making a complaint,” they said, pointing out that drivers can’t earn money unless they’re behind the wheel. 

“It caused me a lot of pain,” said Lopez, now an independent truck driver. “It took me a while to learn to have confidence in myself again.”

Claudia Lopez, reported several incidents of assault while working at crst

The former employee eventually left CRST because it was “very distressing” to work at a company that cared more about delivering cargo on time than it did about keeping drivers safe.

In a 2020 deposition, Carlson, of human resources, said CRST recorded a steady increase in sexual harassment and assault complaints from women between 2014 to 2018, from two to three a week on average.

Carlson described several safety measures CRST had launched, including placing “no means no” stickers on all their trucks’ passenger windows with a hotline number to report sexual assault, a one-hour safety orientation for female drivers and a panic button application for their phones to alert supervisors in an emergency.

CRST later settled the related lawsuit, which involved allegations of a trainer raping a student, for $5 million. Carlson no longer works at CRST. She did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Public Integrity.

In a 2018 company video, female employees boasted about how CRST had four women in leadership roles and a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual harassment.

“It’s very important that we create an environment where our employees feel safe and secure, whether they’re in a truck, whether they’re in a workspace office setting,” Brooke Willey, vice president of human resources, said in the video.

But shortly after the video was released, at least two more women at CRST said they were raped by their co-drivers: Christina and Karla Simpson. 

In November, A CRST executive told a local Iowa newspaper that the company will close the North American Driver Training Academy this month, saying that they plan to focus more on retaining drivers than recruiting them. However, the company’s website still advertises its training programs.

Meanwhile, continued reports of violence toward women in trucking has led one advocacy group to urge members of Congress and President Joe Biden’s administration to punish companies like CRST.

“The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration without further delay must … place the trucking industry on notice that they must take immediate action internally to correct their training, reporting and investigative procedures and acknowledge that these incidents are Workplace Violence,” wrote Desiree Wood, president of Real Women in Trucking, in emails to Sen. Tammy Baldwin and Rep. Lois Frankel’s offices in March 2021.

So far, those efforts have failed.

President Biden stands behind a podium as he speaks in front of the White House. Behind him is a tractor-trailer.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his ‘Trucking Action Plan’ with apprentice truck driver Maria Rodriguez and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on the South Lawn of the White House on April 4, 2022, in Washington, D.C. Biden talked about his administration’s plan ‘to strengthen our nation’s supply chains, including by bringing more veterans and women into the industry,’ according to the White House. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Biden Administration fails to act

Last spring, Biden held a press conference in the White House rose garden to tout the success of his Trucking Action Plan, which focused on getting more truck drivers on the road to ease supply chain problems. A shortage of truck drivers and a spike in fuel prices had created a huge political headache for the administration: rampant inflation.

Biden talked about how “it’s getting harder and harder to recruit new drivers, particularly women and people of color, to an industry that this nation and our economy desperately needs.” 

Then he praised all the new trucking apprenticeships launched by the U.S. Department of Labor. The federal agency helps companies create these paid training programs for high-demand jobs and partially subsidizes them. Trucking companies must meet certain standards and agree to follow the Labor Department’s anti-discrimination and anti-harassment rules to create one.

President Biden holds a press conference in April in the White House rose garden to tout the success of his Trucking Action Plan.

One of the companies that took part in the White House effort was CRST.

The Labor Department, through one of its contractors, helped the company expand its apprenticeship program in December 2021. Fastport, the contractor, onboarded 18 trainees to CRST’s program, according to Arjun Singh, a spokesperson for the Labor Department. 

The agency expanded CRST’s apprenticeship while the company was fighting at least four lawsuits from former students who said they were sexually assaulted by their co-drivers. It’s unclear whether the women who sued were trained through CRST’s federal apprenticeship or another company program. 

Dave Harrison, the executive director for workplace development and government programs at Fastport, contradicted the Labor Department’s information, saying that it didn’t actually onboard apprentices for CRST. The company’s program did not meet Labor Department standards so the 18 enrolled apprentices must be removed from the national apprenticeship program and registered under a state program, he said.

“Our role does not position us to influence any aspects of apprenticeships other than establishing a program in the first place,” Harrison wrote in an email. “However, we would always be open to expanding our role to make the transportation industry a safer place for women.”

The Labor Department knows that CRST and other trucking companies that run apprenticeships are problematic, said Wood, of Real Women in Trucking.

Desiree Wood is wearing a dark colored shirt. She supports female drivers in the trucking industry.
Desiree Wood, president of Real Women in Trucking (Claire Molloy / Newsy)

“They just think that they can just keep their head in the sand and it’s going to go away,” said Wood, who shared copies of her email correspondence with Labor Department staff.

Arjun, the Labor Department spokesperson, said the agency’s apprenticeship office has not received any sexual harassment or gender discrimination complaints about CRST, Werner Enterprises or C.R. England — major trucking companies where multiple women said they were sexually assaulted.

Three women said they were attacked by their trainers as student drivers for C.R. England, a company based in West Valley City, Utah, according to lawsuits filed in federal court. One woman said she was raped in 2012 and another student said she was raped and sodomized in her truck cabin in 2017. A third woman said she woke up to find her trainer naked and fondling her. The second case was dismissed in arbitration, though the woman’s lawyers say they plan to challenge the decision in state court. The other two were dismissed through mutual agreement.

The company has denied wrongdoing. A lawyer for C.R. England, Jared Parrish, said the company takes harassment, discrimination and retaliation very seriously. All new hires are required to take a two-hour training course to prevent, identify and report unlawful discrimination, he said, and they provide a confidential hotline number for employees to file complaints. 

“[C.R. England] has done its best to eliminate the problem before it begins, and to respond to allegations in a timely and appropriate manner,” Parrish wrote in a statement to Public Integrity. He noted that only a few student drivers have sued the company.

The company launched a federal apprenticeship in 2017 and a second one five years later, according to Labor Department records. C.R. England had 90 student drivers in its apprenticeships as of May.

Federal apprenticeship rules require companies to enroll students and trainers in anti-harassment training and to provide information about how to file complaints with the Labor Department, among other measures, Arjun wrote in an email to Public Integrity.

When the agency receives complaints, he said, staff opens an investigation and gives the company a chance to fix the problem. If they don’t, they could be kicked out of the apprenticeship program or be referred to law enforcement agencies. Arjun declined to say whether this has ever happened.

At least four female students filed lawsuits claiming they were sexually assaulted while driving for Werner Enterprises, a trucking company based in Omaha, Nebraska. Two said they were raped by their trainers. Another student said her trainer, who was a woman, forced her to perform oral sex on her in 2007. Another said one of her managers attacked her and fondled her in 2014. One lawsuit alleging rape was dismissed after the plaintiff failed to appear in court and the others were dismissed by mutual agreement. In court records, Werner denied that it acted improperly. 

Jill Samuelson, a spokesperson for Werner, said that the company conducts thorough background checks on trainers and has a “robust” anti-harassment training program for employees.

“Werner continually strives to provide a safe, inclusive work environment for all associates with the highest degree of integrity, so we take this very seriously,” wrote Samuelson in an email. She pointed out that most of the allegations happened more than 15 years ago, and that in one case, the woman’s lawyer said his client wasn’t forthcoming with all of the facts.

Werner Enterprises launched a federal apprenticeship in 2006, according to labor department records. As of May, the company had 1,980 active apprentices in its training program. 

Labor Department rules require agency representatives to conduct regular compliance reviews of apprenticeship programs. As part of these checks, companies must show proof that they provided anti-harassment training and handled complaints appropriately, for example. The reviews must also mention any outside allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the company and describe how the company is addressing them. Labor Department records updated in May show that the last compliance review of Werner’s apprenticeship was in 2013. No date is listed for the programs at CRST or C.R. England, suggesting they haven’t been reviewed. Singh, the agency spokesperson, declined to answer questions about compliance checks at those companies.

A preview of the investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and Newsy about sexual assaults on female drivers in the trucking industry. (Newsy)

Failure of justice

Women truck drivers have filed over two dozen lawsuits against major trucking companies in state and federal courts in the past 20 years. They’ve accused the companies of negligence, discrimination and retaliation in connection to the sexual assaults. That includes at least four lawsuits against Werner Enterprises, three against C.R. England and 15 against CRST. 

But women who have sought accountability through the court system have found mixed success. CRST has settled five of the lawsuits reviewed by Public Integrity and Newsy. Six were dismissed and one went to trial in 2011, with the jury awarding $1.5 million in damages to a student driver who said she was raped by her trainer. Three other lawsuits are ongoing.

Project team

Reporters: Alexia Fernández Campbell (Center for Public Integrity) and Claire Molloy (Newsy)
Editors: Mc Nelly Torres and Jennifer LaFleur
Partner and audience engagement: Lisa Yanick Litwiller, Janeen Jones, Ashley Clarke and Vanessa Lee
Fact-checking: Peter Newbatt Smith
Contributors: Natasha Del Toro and Matt Picht (Newsy)

McGinley, at the University of Nevada, said the court often fails women like Christina. Federal judges are too quick to dismiss sexual harassment lawsuits, often treating them like a waste of time. And many truck drivers are hired as independent contractors, not employees, so they aren’t covered by the federal law that bars workplace discrimination. 

Their best chance for accountability is to file a lawsuit for company negligence, where women have had more success in the past, she said. That is what Christina did. She hopes to get her case before a jury in federal court in California.

Before working at CRST, Christina said she was an adventurous person who loved dancing, writing and being outdoors. She dreamed of starting a career as a massage therapist and writing on the side.

Those aspirations are on hold now, she said, as she tries to heal from the physical and psychological abuse.

“I will never be the same as I was before this all happened. And I have to put myself back together,” she said. “It’s like a tornado goes through your town and ruins your home. And what’s left of your life is in pieces. You have to start over.”

That hasn’t stopped her from imagining a much different future for herself. Maybe she’ll fulfill her desire to hike the Scottish Highlands one day. Or take a cruise to Alaska. Or publishing her writing.

Natasha Del Toro and Matt Picht contributed to this project.

Correction: Dec. 12, 2:30 p.m.: An earlier version of this story misstated Dave Harrison’s title at Fastport. Harrison is the executive director for workforce development and government programs.


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Alexia Fernández Campbell 

Alexia Fernández Campbell writes about workers’ rights. Before joining the...