Sikh drivers are transforming U.S. trucking. Take a ride along the Punjabi American highway
Author: Jaweed Kaleem
Source: LA Times (https://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-col1-sikh-truckers-20190627-htmlstory.html)
In contrast to the preceding piece from the New York Times, the LA Times brings you a story about Indian immigrants to America who have created a more niche, and arguably more sustainable type of restaurant business focusing on Sikh truckers who haul heavy loads across America’s interstate highways.
“There are 3.5 million truckers in the United States. California has 138,000, the second-most after Texas. Nearly half of those in California are immigrants, most from Mexico or Central America. But as drivers age toward retirement — the average American trucker is 55 — and a shortage grows, Sikh immigrants and their kids are increasingly taking up the job.
Estimates of the number of Sikh truckers vary. In California alone, tens of thousands of truckers trace their heritage to India. The state is home to half of the Sikhs in the U.S….At Sikh temples in Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside, the majority of worshipers are truck drivers and their families.
Over the last decade, Indian Americans have launched trucking schools, truck companies, truck washes, trucker temples and no-frills Indian restaurants modeled after truck stops back home, where Sikhs from the state of Punjab dominate the industry.”
Sikh owned restaurants catering to Sikh truck drivers is creating a neat, self-sustaining ecosystem in Trump’s America: “Three interstates — the I-5, I-80 and I-10 — are dotted with Indian-American-owned businesses catering to truckers. They start to appear as you drive east from Los Angeles, Reno and Phoenix, and often have the words “Bombay,” “Indian” or “Punjabi” on their storefront signs….The best-known are along Interstate 40, which stretches from Barstow to North Carolina. The road, much of it alongside Historic Route 66, forms the backbone of the Sikh trucking world.”
Sikh truck drivers themselves are evidence of economic agents responding to supply-demand mismatches: “In recent years, corporations have pleaded for new truckers. Walmart kicked up salaries to attract drivers. Last year, the government announced a pilot program to lower the age for driving trucks from 21 to 18 for those with truck-driving training in the military. According to the American Trucking Assn., the trucker shortage could reach 100,000 within years.
“Punjabis are filling the gap,” says Raman Dhillon, a former driver who last year founded the North American Punjabi Trucking Assn. The Fresno-based group advises drivers on regulations, offers insurance and tire discounts, and runs a magazine: Punjabi Trucking.”
The LA Times’ Jaweed Kaleem has done a superb job of describing the world of industrious blue collar immigrants to America who get on with their lives instead of worrying about politics, trade wars, interest rates, etc.