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Global CV Update – There is a Massive Shortage of Truck Drivers in America – Number of Sikh Drivers is on the rise

Published On Nov 22, 2019By Trucksdekho Editorial Team

Among the biggest freight markets in the world and by far the largest economy, the United States of America is looking at a massive shortage of experienced truck drivers. According to a recently released report by the American Trucking Association (ATA), there was a driver deficit of 60,800 in 2018 in the US trucking market. This number was more than 10,000 drivers up from the 2017 figures (total of 50,700) or 20%. ATA says that the driver deficit has remained on a more or less upward trend in the past 15 years. They also announced that they are expecting a massive shortfall of over 1,60,000 truck drivers by 2028.

This is a rather alarming situation for the local carriers, shippers, and policymakers. And the industry representatives have upped their demand for positive efforts that would change the present scenario drastically. ATA has said that the industry will need to hire 1.1 million new truck drivers over the next decade. This translates into bringing as many as 1,10,000 new drivers into the trucking industry to meet the US freight demand. These new drivers would not only be required to cater to additional capacity in the market but majorly for replacing the aging or retiring drivers as well. At present, the average age of truck drivers in the USA is 46 years, while the average age for the drivers that are under training is also at a higher 35 years of age. This means that there is a need to reduce the average age of American drivers by bringing in a lot more of young drivers into the industry umbrella.

The most significant shortfall in the number of driver availability is also in the most notable of the trucking industry, the over-the-road for-hire truckload market, a hugely important segment for a country as massive in size as the US. This is a category where the truck drivers are required to spend days or weeks away from their families on a single trip. Including this, the earning hasn’t kept pace either. This is keeping a large number of younger candidates away from the industry as other blue-collar jobs prove to be better options.

In order to tempt newer and younger drivers into the industry a lot of effort has already  started from the freight services. These companies are well aware that lack of drivers is surging the freight costs that are not going to be sustainable in the longer run; add to it there is an increasing shortage of qualified drivers that are also going to disrupt the supply chain across the board severely. For the same, there have been efforts in increasing driving pays in the industry, with many prominent freight carriers offering 15% or higher driver pay. America currently is said to have a total of 3.5 million truck drivers. However, this numbers cover the entire gamut of all types of truck equipment. In the massive and tractor-trailer long haul driver market, there are a total of 1.8 million drivers. And the hurting above area of the week plus long trip drivers is even a smaller subset of truck drivers than that and is proving to be the most painful owing to its criticality.

There is also a demand to decrease the age for commercial drivers who can cross state lines by to 18years, three less than the current 21 years bar. On the one hand this proposal, should it get clear, would increase training and supervision, but reducing the age limit will end up increasing the recruiting pool. It will enable young people to drive straight out of high school, taking them away from other industries like construction and straight into freight. The industry is also trying to bring in more and more women drivers into the fold as well, the current number of female truck US roads stood at around 6.6% in 2018. This number has traditionally been in a similar range for a long, long time, and the industry wants to change it. There is also a call to hire more and more of former military personnel into the industry as well. There is also a huge concentration about newer technologies that make these massive freight haulers much easier and more comfortable to drive and live with for more extended periods at a stretch.

Another significant effort in the area of getting more drivers into the fold has been carried out by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. It has proposed a rule that would let commercial driver license applicants take the legally required general and specialized knowledge tests in a state other than their official residence. This would be an improvement over the current system in which applicants could only take the exams in the state of their official residence.

The Rise of Sikh Truck Drivers in the US

In India, we have had revered stories of our great Sikh community of truck drivers that have become the backbone of countries on-road freight world. For years now, a large percentage of truck drivers in India have been coming from the Sikh community. Known for their hard-working nature, humble character, and absolute dedication for the work at hand, the Sikh drivers, have always commanded extreme respect in the industry. Now, it seems, the USA is about to witness a similar revolution in the coming years. As the shortfall above of able, well trained, and hardworking drivers continues, a majority of it is fulfilled by immigrants, of which the Sikh community is at the forefront. With more and more Sikh driers and their families getting into the US fright driving industry, the country set for our desi style.

The state of California and the US is home to over half of the entire Sikh population in the US. Thus, there is no wonder that currently, there are tens of thousands of truck drivers that have their origins in India who are currently working in the state. The growth of the Sikh community (along with other Indian origin immigrants) in the driving industry of the US has been on a constant rise. In fact, over the years, many Indian Americans have started their own trucking companies, trucking schools, truck washes, and temples for truck driver in route. Our beloved desi roadside ‘Dhabha’s’ have also started sprouting up along the famous highways of the region. Especially the interstate highways that connect Los Angeles, Reno and Phoenix. Among these Desi American Dhabha’s, the most popular ones are on Interstate 40, which connects Barstow to North Carolina. This route can  considered as the thick centre of the Sikh trucking world in the US.

The growing significance of the Sikh truck drivers in the US can understood by the fact that now there is a fully functional North American Punjabi Trucking Association, which also publishes a magazine called – Punjabi Trucking. This association helps drivers regarding laws and regulations, also offers insurance, tire discounts and other likewise services. Currently, the average earnings of a truck driver as per government details are around $43000 per year. However, many are earning more than twice this amount currently. This also means that there is a massive opportunity for our truck drivers with experience and a zeal to capture this chance of global experience.

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