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Tricks and Tracks as an Indian driving Trucks in the USA
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Tricks and Tracks as an Indian driving Trucks in the USA

Tricks and Tracks as an Indian driving Trucks in the USA

Across the world, businessmen say that logistics is the tail of commerce and trucking is the tip of the tail. A lifeline of commerce and economic development, trucking operations provides inter-connectivity across one country. Whether these truck drivers are owner-operators or company drivers, they provide an important service to industrialized societies by transporting finished goods and raw materials to and from manufacturing plants, retail outlets, and distribution centers.

However, despite their importance in the supply chain in the business realm, truck drivers are one of the least respected professions. Prominent in India for their glamorous, colorfully decorated trucks, truck drivers from this country are also known for their intense work schedules. In their home country, Sikh truck drivers often drive for 20 straight days with only 2 hours of sleep per night, earning 25000 rupees per month. Equivalent to 275-300 dollars, truck drivers in India struggle with physical and mental stress, negative perception from the general public, lack of respect and dignity from the labor community, poor traffic enforcement, and many more.

Luckily, some of these Indians have had a taste of the green pastures in the United States. With a labor shortage of 48000 truck drivers way back in 2016, immigrants were willing to fill this labor gap. The American Trucking Association reports that the shortage of drivers in the trucking industry can reach more than 170,000 workers in the next ten years. Indians and other immigrants made use of this shortage in the workforce, acquiring a median annual wage for most tractor-trailer truck drivers across the US of around $44,500, and private fleets like Amazon and Walmart offer as big as $73000. Trucker compensation can even increase up to 8 to 12 percent a year in recent years, even bigger than other wages.

Data from the Sikhs Political Action Committee estimates that 150,000 Sikhs are engaged in the trucking sector, with 18,000 added in 2017 alone. Over the last decade, Indian Americans have launched truck companies, trucking schools, truck washes, trucker temples, no-frills Indian restaurants, truck stops, and several trucking and allied businesses. In 2012 alone, the Census Bureau survey even identified $2.3 billion in sales among 12,136 Asian Indian trucking businesses.

Indian truck drivers in the US are working productively. In one account, the Indian Institute of Fleet Management (IIFM) even provided job portals not only for truck drivers but also mechanics, technicians, and supporting staff. With a product they made called Fleet Professional Smart Card (FPSC), they can get social benefits and security through the insurance company, like insurances on accidental death, permanent total disablement, partial disablement, hospital cash for accidents and injuries, and even dependent child education benefits. Nevertheless, the FPSC can also grant professional benefits, such as job assistance, career lifecycle management, centralized representation, and even overseas employment. Some of thee truck drivers even accept additional wages and benefits, like free phone calls, better home time, flexible working schedule, and bonuses for safe driving.

Indians also experience happiness as truck drivers in the areas where they do deliveries and exchange. Truckstop facilities with TV rooms and spaces, as well as nearby gas stations and convenience stores often depict conversations around local Americans and Indians, up to the point of eating meals together like cold cuts, hard-boiled  eggs, wine, and even Indian cuisines like curry, chicken tikka masala, sambar, roti, kanji, and others.

Truckers usually are above 21 years old, have commercial trucking licenses, and pass background checks and drug tests. Now that the industry is having the toughest time to retain young workers, the median age of truckers has climbed to 49 years old. Nevertheless, Indians take the truck driving as a job, even if some of them reach the age of 52 and are willing to work longer hours.

The American community has since been friendly to Indians from the moment they immigrate to the States. Most notable are the I-5, I-80, and I-10, three interstates that showcase Indian American businesses catering to truckers. From Los Angeles, Reno, and Phoenix, storefronts have Indian, Punjabi, or Bombay in their storefront signs. Interstate 40 is the best-known, stretching from Barstow to North Caroline. This road which is alongside the Historic Route 66 forms the backbone of the Sikh trucking world.

As one of the most financially successful groups in the United States, the attributed success comes in large part on the strong educational and professional background of the community. However, the vast majority of Indian truck drivers had limited educational and financial backgrounds when they first migrated, with majority of them coming from the economically weaker sections of Indian society. However, the dwindling trucking industry in America in the 1990s were picked up by the Indians, granting them success and even control in the trucking business.

However, the penetration towards this industry had to go back in the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. A combination of political, social, religious, financial, and educational factors contributed to the growth of the truck driving business, supported by their prior transportation background in India. During those times, jobs in supermarkets or offices are difficult to get and will often lead to hate, anger, and discrimination, which is why early Indians who settled in America opted to truck driving, as they are on the road most of the time and need not report in a workplace. With their newfound love in truck driving, many of these Indians who had prior enterprising background branched out to owning and operating trucks, in addition to their truck driving services.

Now, the demographics of Sikh drivers in USA has grown significantly, making them as the face of the American truck driving community. As they become increasingly ingrained in the American landscape, the demarcations that were set apart between them and the Americans have slowly faded. Nevertheless, corrective measures by the government have been done to mitigate the truck driving shortage, including infrastructure, roads, and highways development, increased earnings, better medical facilities, rest houses for drivers, insurance covers, and a lot more.

The truck driver shortage in America has been overcome by allowing foreign drivers on work permits, like the Indians. With the collective exchange of ideas and best practices, the near crisis of truck driver shortage globally can be eased. The Indians have grinded their way to the top, becoming even the face of the American truck driving sector, and will continue to open doors of employment opportunities.


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