The trucking industry holds a key role in transforming the economy. Food supply in most groceries would run out when operation of long-haul trucks will stop, according to Business Insider.
At least 3.5 million people were employed as truck drivers based from a data released by ATA (American Trucking Associations). Amidst the challenges faced by truck drivers, more people are still interested in this job. In fact, between the years 2017 and 2018 more than 30, 000 people from the Indian-American Sikh community alone were employed in the trucking industry.
Below are five reasons explaining why most truck drivers are Sikh.
Sikh truck drivers can freely practice their faith
Sikhism originated in India. With more than 25, 000 followers, it is considered as one of the 10 largest religions in the world. Although most of its believers are in India, more Sikhs are settling in other countries such as the United States and Australia.
While most companies would require their employees to always wear proper haircuts and shaven beard and mustache, the trucking industry is more lenient on this. Sikh truck drivers get to practice their beliefs like having to wear the five articles of faith:
- Sikh undergarment for health and modesty
- Steel wristlet as a symbol of faith
- Wooden comb in the turban for keeping hair untangled and clean
- Small sword as a sign of shielding the religious rights of all faiths
- Uncut hair as a sign to honor the intention of the creator
Due to their physical appearance and how they dress, the Sikh are exposed to many forms of discrimination from the public eye. This may be one of the reasons why Sikh truck drivers find more solace in driving trucks than in any other job.
Apart from wearing their articles of faith, Sikhism requires its followers to always meditate and pray, make an honest living and share income and serve others. In trucking, the Sikh drivers get to work while living by these three primary principles.
Truck driving companies do not require a college diploma
CNBC lists heavy and tractors-trailer truck driving as one of the occupations that do not require a college degree. Apart from a good driving record, minimum requirements for truck drivers include a high school diploma and a CDL (Commercial Driver’s license).
Following the 1984 anti-Sikh brutality in India, several Sikhs started emigrating to other countries. Among these countries is the United States.
Back then, most of them do not speak English very well and could only get jobs with minimum wage due to limited formal education. Though challenging, many settled in truck driving since the wage is far better as compared to other blue-collared jobs.
There is a growing concern about some trucking companies who seek to employ immigrant drivers based on their ability to communicate in English rather than their driving skills. To address this matter, the Punjabi Trucking Association plans to train its members on English language proficiency.
Nowadays, more Sikh are in schools and finishing degrees. Some have become doctors and engineers. However, there are still a few of them who venture into the trucking industry.
Sikh are independent minded
Jaswinder Singh, an Arizona-base truck driver and fleet owner, explained to Overdrive Magazine that one of the reasons why Sikhs prefer truck driving over other jobs is their being independent mindedness. Sikh stand up for what they believe in. Singh added that Sikhs do not like to work for a boss who would breathe down his neck all the time.
In 2016, 4 Los Angeles-based Sikh truck drivers reached a settlement with American trucking giant J.B. Hunt. This followed after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s federal investigation found evidence of discrimination against the Sikh. The Sikh truck drivers were discriminated due to their religious articles of faith. The company arranged to pay $260,000 in damages. J.B. Hunt also agreed to amend company policies and practices conforming with federal anti-discrimination laws.
In 2017, Sikhs were among the numerous groups of people who protested against the use of Electronic Logging Device (ELD). The group urged the Trump administration to delay its installation in trucks since this will require an added expenditure on the trucking industry.
Another example is Mintu Pandher, a Wyoming-based trucking owner and operator of a trucking company and 3 truck stops. He strongly supports the implementation of a more solid driver training standards and safety for safer highways. Last year, he escalated his fight directly to some of the high-ranking officials of FMCSA in Washington, D.C.
Truck-driving is a family tradition
The earliest Sikh immigrants in California were mostly involved in agriculture-related works. However, they moved gradually to truck-driving. Some even started their own trucking companies.
Singh Dhillon, California-based Sikh truck driver and owner of North American Punjabi trucking Associations, said that truck-driving runs in the blood of Punjabis and Sikhs. Although, no one in his family was involved in truck driving Singh insisted on continuing tradition. His father was a farmer, and Singh would ride tractors with his dad during his childhood.
Pandher also traces his roots to agriculture. Back in India, his family farmed sugar cane, wheat and rice.
There is a growing number of Asian Indian trucking companies
There are at least 12,136 trucking businesses owned by Asian Indian nationals, according to the 2012 Census Bureau report. Indians dominate almost half of these numbers.
With the increasing number of Sikh truck drivers and trucking company owners, more Sikh-owned truck stops are being built. As estimated by the SikhsPAC, there is at least one Sikh-owned truck stop in every 8-hour run on all interstates from the west and east coasts in the US. These stops operate 24-hours and offer food, roadside assistance, restroom facilities among others.
With the increasing population in the US, consumer spending will also increase. This will result to increase in the number of freights to be delivered as well as increase in the number of trucks on the road.
Trucking may not be the best job in the world. However, it may be for a Sikh who wants to practice his religious beliefs while living his American dream.