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How Sikhs are living the great Indian trucking dream in the U.S


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A little out of the box, but if we could get some of the truck drivers to be well articulated in English, and maybe wear a kind of ‘uniform’ (like colour codes etc) and says something like ‘proud to be Sikh’; it could gradually make certain populations in America better informed about Sikhs and no longer confuse us with Muslims 

How Sikhs are living the great Indian trucking dream in the U.S.

Ajay Kamalakaran Ajay Kamalakaran
4 months ago

https://thevertical.la/immigration/indian-trucking-in-the-us/amp/

Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

in the 1990s, a turbaned Indian man would have attracted stares in many parts of America, but a lot has changed since then. The Sikhtrucking
community is now a force to be reckoned with. In a relatively short time, they have managed to launch truck companies, trucking schools, dhabas (Indian-style pit stops for truckers), truck washes, and small religious shrines for truckers. 

The community also founded The North American Punjabi Trucking Association(NAPTA). The organization’s members include both Hindus and Muslims from the state of Punjab, which was divided between India and Pakistan when the subcontinent gained independence from Britain.

“Historically, the Sikhs have been the dominant players in Indian trucking,” says writer Rajat Ubhaykar, whose book Truck De India looks at the lives of truck drivers. “This traditional competence has led many migrants to take up trucking, which in the USA is often a more comfortable, respectable, and well-paid job than it is in India.”

From humble origins to big businesses 

During the first wave of Sikh immigration to the U.S., young men generally took up jobs at convenience stores or found work as cab drivers. However, a few entrepreneurial people, such as Phoenix-based Sunny Samra, entered the trucking business. Starting out with a single truck, he established Legend Transportation.  

Since its launch in 2008, the company has built up to a fleet of over 700 trucks and 1200 dry vans. Legend Transportation has operations in 11 states, located in the southwestern and western regions of the country.

Rashpal Dhindsa, co-founder of a California-based Dhindsa Group, migrated to the U.S. in the late 1980s, and purchased a truck a few years later. Along with his partner Varinder Sangha, Dhindsa bought three more trucks and went on to become a multimillion-dollar enterprise after their incorporation. 

Business expansion in India

The entrepreneurial spirit has led many Sikh-Americans to invest in the ever-growing trucking and logistics industry in India. While taking notes for his book in a truck-assembling plant, Ubhaykar came across North American Sikhs supervising work on trucks that would operate in India. 

“There are America-returned Sikh truck owners-patriarchs with paunches protruding out of colorful kurtas and their progeny sporting trendy faded jeans and branded J-Crew t-shirts,” Ubhaykar wrote in his book. 

Challenges remain

Sikhs’ turbaned appearance and brown skin sometimes confuse Americans, who mistake them for religious Muslims. In the wake of 9/11, several Sikhs were victims of ethnically-motivated violence across the United States. Racial discrimination continues to be a problem for both Sikh entrepreneurs and truck drivers. 

An entrepreneur in his mid-40s said he had to deal with the words “Osama Bin Laden,” “terrorists” and “ISIS” spray-painted on his trucks. Requesting anonymity, he added that his drivers faced borderline violence in many parts of the country.

The entrepreneur was keen to brush this off, however, saying the kind of success he achieved in the U.S. is unthinkable in a country like India, where red tape and corrupt bureaucracy often prove insurmountable barriers for small and medium-scale businesses. 

Investing in the community

Unlike in the 90s, when Samra and Dhindsa had very little financial support or backing for their business idea, these days the Sikh community is often ready to help their members with loans, jobs, and immigration. 

Ubhaykar adds that continued development of Sikh networks in the U.S. has made it easier for newcomers to find a foothold in the industry through access to credit and training.

Given the growing shortage of truckers, estimated at 150,000, and a growing demand for truck delivery during the pandemic, many Sikh immigrants see a world of opportunity in the U.S.

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8 hours ago, Premi5 said:


A little out of the box, but if we could get some of the truck drivers to be well articulated in English, and maybe wear a kind of ‘uniform’ (like colour codes etc) and says something like ‘proud to be Sikh’; it could gradually make certain populations in America better informed about Sikhs and no longer confuse us with Muslims 

How Sikhs are living the great Indian trucking dream in the U.S.

Ajay Kamalakaran Ajay Kamalakaran
4 months ago

https://thevertical.la/immigration/indian-trucking-in-the-us/amp/

Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston

in the 1990s, a turbaned Indian man would have attracted stares in many parts of America, but a lot has changed since then. The Sikhtrucking
community is now a force to be reckoned with. In a relatively short time, they have managed to launch truck companies, trucking schools, dhabas (Indian-style pit stops for truckers), truck washes, and small religious shrines for truckers. 

The community also founded The North American Punjabi Trucking Association(NAPTA). The organization’s members include both Hindus and Muslims from the state of Punjab, which was divided between India and Pakistan when the subcontinent gained independence from Britain.

“Historically, the Sikhs have been the dominant players in Indian trucking,” says writer Rajat Ubhaykar, whose book Truck De India looks at the lives of truck drivers. “This traditional competence has led many migrants to take up trucking, which in the USA is often a more comfortable, respectable, and well-paid job than it is in India.”

From humble origins to big businesses 

During the first wave of Sikh immigration to the U.S., young men generally took up jobs at convenience stores or found work as cab drivers. However, a few entrepreneurial people, such as Phoenix-based Sunny Samra, entered the trucking business. Starting out with a single truck, he established Legend Transportation.  

Since its launch in 2008, the company has built up to a fleet of over 700 trucks and 1200 dry vans. Legend Transportation has operations in 11 states, located in the southwestern and western regions of the country.

Rashpal Dhindsa, co-founder of a California-based Dhindsa Group, migrated to the U.S. in the late 1980s, and purchased a truck a few years later. Along with his partner Varinder Sangha, Dhindsa bought three more trucks and went on to become a multimillion-dollar enterprise after their incorporation. 

Business expansion in India

The entrepreneurial spirit has led many Sikh-Americans to invest in the ever-growing trucking and logistics industry in India. While taking notes for his book in a truck-assembling plant, Ubhaykar came across North American Sikhs supervising work on trucks that would operate in India. 

“There are America-returned Sikh truck owners-patriarchs with paunches protruding out of colorful kurtas and their progeny sporting trendy faded jeans and branded J-Crew t-shirts,” Ubhaykar wrote in his book. 

Challenges remain

Sikhs’ turbaned appearance and brown skin sometimes confuse Americans, who mistake them for religious Muslims. In the wake of 9/11, several Sikhs were victims of ethnically-motivated violence across the United States. Racial discrimination continues to be a problem for both Sikh entrepreneurs and truck drivers. 

An entrepreneur in his mid-40s said he had to deal with the words “Osama Bin Laden,” “terrorists” and “ISIS” spray-painted on his trucks. Requesting anonymity, he added that his drivers faced borderline violence in many parts of the country.

The entrepreneur was keen to brush this off, however, saying the kind of success he achieved in the U.S. is unthinkable in a country like India, where red tape and corrupt bureaucracy often prove insurmountable barriers for small and medium-scale businesses. 

Investing in the community

Unlike in the 90s, when Samra and Dhindsa had very little financial support or backing for their business idea, these days the Sikh community is often ready to help their members with loans, jobs, and immigration. 

Ubhaykar adds that continued development of Sikh networks in the U.S. has made it easier for newcomers to find a foothold in the industry through access to credit and training.

Given the growing shortage of truckers, estimated at 150,000, and a growing demand for truck delivery during the pandemic, many Sikh immigrants see a world of opportunity in the U.S.

Sikhs in trucking?  Is water wet?

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28 minutes ago, Ranjeet01 said:

Sikhs in trucking?  Is water wet?

We're drawn to honest physical labour despite being devious and calculating in our own social groups, yet if we were truly intelligent we would bypass the blue collar grafting, and want to head the various trucking unions and dependent organisations in white collar environments. In our case, every successive generation of immigrants start at the bottom instead of building on the efforts and sacrifices of the previous generations. There's a mentality of, "I suffered when I first came here, so why shouldn't they?" This creates a culture and ethic that remains firmly rooted in the same social dynamic with every generation. An intelligent community uplifts its own by creating opportunities for advancement. We seem to relish seeing our own facing adversity and having to struggle. Fundamentally, that's why we'll never achieve anything of note.

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OFF TOPIC - Apologies in advance. 

From my opinions solely, Indians move to Canada for one purpose... MONEY. End of the day we all revolve around cash. Not sure what one dollar equals in rupees, maybe 50 or 55 rupees? But one pound is worth 100 rs. 

Nobody believes me?? Ok, let's just say that one a dollar is worth 2 or 3 rupees. No Indian will go Canada! "Why would I wanna be a truck driver there when I can be a factory worker in UK?" This whole "Better life, better living" BS is an excuse. 

Ok! STILL NO ONE BELIEVES ME!?? Okay... Let's come to born n bred citizens in UK. Let's just say the Government one day decided "All primary school teachers will be paid 18,000 P.A. from tomorrow." Now imagine a UK Punjabi family, sat around a round table, laughing, joking, when the uncle asks "So beta, what u wanna be when you're older?" Answer: Primary school Maths teacher... LOL that kid is going to get the frowns! He/ she mite as well say factory worker! 

 

BACK TO TOPIC!!! 

A uniform for Sikhs will be cool 😄

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5 hours ago, Singh1989 said:

OFF TOPIC - Apologies in advance. 

From my opinions solely, Indians move to Canada for one purpose... MONEY. End of the day we all revolve around cash. Not sure what one dollar equals in rupees, maybe 50 or 55 rupees? But one pound is worth 100 rs. 

Nobody believes me?? Ok, let's just say that one a dollar is worth 2 or 3 rupees. No Indian will go Canada! "Why would I wanna be a truck driver there when I can be a factory worker in UK?" This whole "Better life, better living" BS is an excuse. 

Ok! STILL NO ONE BELIEVES ME!?? Okay... Let's come to born n bred citizens in UK. Let's just say the Government one day decided "All primary school teachers will be paid 18,000 P.A. from tomorrow." Now imagine a UK Punjabi family, sat around a round table, laughing, joking, when the uncle asks "So beta, what u wanna be when you're older?" Answer: Primary school Maths teacher... LOL that kid is going to get the frowns! He/ she mite as well say factory worker! 

 

BACK TO TOPIC!!! 

A uniform for Sikhs will be cool 😄

No, you are not completely right.

status is just as important to Indians, hence so many are pushed into doing professions like Medicine, dentistry and law

but the main reason for emigrating is financial, hence Punjabis go to whichever country they can , including middle of nowhere in Europe, North Africa and south  America 

I understand that for many Punjabis now, it’s about their kids’ Future.

i know of well connected and wealthy families who have no reason to leave Punjab who are going to Canada or Australia because they think their children will have better educational and career opportunities there. The quota thing in favour of ‘low’ castes has pushed them to an extent as well as being aware that Western countries are more meritocratic.

my understanding is that Uk is very much seen as a last resort these days compared to Canada, Aus and maybe NZ. USA would be first choice but it’s a lot more difficult . coming to Uk might be a first choice for those who have relatives there, but it’s understood that the golden days here are gone. There’s also better awareness that the other countries are bigger and can offer better quality of life 

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9 hours ago, Premi5 said:

There’s also better awareness that the other countries are bigger and can offer better quality of life 

What would you say the contemporary Punjabi immigrant's definition of "better quality of life" is? 

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1 hour ago, Suchi said:

Furthermore, those who are not reserved candidates find that they miss out on educational and other opportunities and then are forced to look abroad to fulfill their career ambitions, resulting in a Brain Drain. 

I've met a lot of these types on building jobs over the years - there is no brain drain like you are suggesting.  

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11 hours ago, Premi5 said:

The quota thing in favour of ‘low’ castes has pushed them to an extent as well as being aware that Western countries are more meritocratic.

That's naughty. It was a reaction to long term and deeply embedded casteist based opportunity giving and nepotism that forced reservations. The people who may now benefit from reservations were exactly the people who were suffering from being locked out of opportunities for millennia. 

If the people who are now complaining were more meritocratic, there wouldn't have been such a strong need for reservations. But people rarely ever give up power and resources willingly for egalitarian purposes. That's the truth. 

And I think it says a lot that just a relatively short period of not having a system that entirely resolves around your own needs and advantages, is enough to bring certain people to their knees. 

 

 

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30 minutes ago, Suchi said:

But reservations were only proposed for 10 years not 10 generations as has happened. 

Well, the other deeply embedded structured nonsense has been going on for millennia.  It takes a long time to reverse backwards thinking. 

 

34 minutes ago, Suchi said:

Where do you think our doctors, nurses, IT staff have been coming from if not from those who have to look abroad for opportunities.

Well, in england, I can certainly say that in general not from Panjab! A concrete worker sure. A labourer sure. Mor0ns from wealthy families who can afford to pay £9000 a year for some no questions asked 'university' course in B'ham, but live in a squat in London working as a labourer, often getting exploited by his own people (i.e. not being paid for work). 

That's the kind of people we are sending out. 

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6 minutes ago, Suchi said:

Well, that's because of foreign rule that treated the locals as filth to be converted and enslaved.  Millions of Indians were sold into slavery into the ME, Europe and Africa by Islamic invaders.  The Brits treated everything as stock including people, who were also packed off abroad to run their colonies at slave wages.  But the reservation system only continues this slavery by forcing the best talents to emigrate, then reneges on the promise riches by putting them at the bottom of the heap though they may be well educated.  The time has come to try and keep the talent at home to run the country, rather than sending them off to be brain-washed at Western Universities to become brown sahibs as they did during British rule.  It is these brown sahibs that have kept India backward since Independence through the Western controlled media and infrastructure ensuring Indians never rise.  Only those who are economically disadvantaged should be availed extra help as happens in most Western countries as caste-based reservations only serves to perpetuate the system of caste.  Only when you stop asking for someone's caste can you hope to remove it.  Further, if some families insist on having 4-5 children, then the burden should not be on the taxpayer to sustain their chosen lifestyle by denying others opportunities they would be entitled to.

I think you've simplified a long standing and deeply rooted issue to infantile proportions. 

Amongst Sikhs, we only have ourselves to blame for what goes on inbetween us. Certain people (amongst our quom no less!) would happily keep the ugly  discriminatory, apartheid feudal system that is doing the rounds amongst us, for perpetuity if they had the chance. 

All that appears to have happened is for a relatively short period, people who have been traditionally suppressed and ostracised have been given a leg up. And the people mainly responsible for creating and perpetuating this ugly social system that they need protection from are crying about it.  

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1 minute ago, Suchi said:

That's not strictly true.  I'm aware of a few people that are highly qualified but have ended up in construction, taxi business, retail and these are people with Master's degrees in Engineering from the Punjab.  Relatives from the Punjab paid to do Masters degrees in IT in Canada and secured good jobs but now are in 'Real Estate'.  Others moved based on the promise of 'points' they had, but were then forced into factories on arrival, despite having UK Degrees.  That is the experience of most immigrants from most of India.  Only those being sponsored within India via their Company  have maintained their status/job after arriving in the USA/Canada/UK. These are mostly South Indians who put career over everything else, including family. 

It might not be invariably true, but the vast majority of the migrants from Panjab are of the type I'm describing - not the type you are. I'm aware that there are exceptions I have some in my family from back home - but those guys are genuine geniuses. Hence big firms are willing to pay for all their accommodation and fees. 

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16 hours ago, Premi5 said:

No, you are not completely right.

status is just as important to Indians, hence so many are pushed into doing professions like Medicine, dentistry and law

but the main reason for emigrating is financial, hence Punjabis go to whichever country they can , including middle of nowhere in Europe, North Africa and south  America 

I understand that for many Punjabis now, it’s about their kids’ Future.

i know of well connected and wealthy families who have no reason to leave Punjab who are going to Canada or Australia because they think their children will have better educational and career opportunities there. The quota thing in favour of ‘low’ castes has pushed them to an extent as well as being aware that Western countries are more meritocratic.

my understanding is that Uk is very much seen as a last resort these days compared to Canada, Aus and maybe NZ. USA would be first choice but it’s a lot more difficult . coming to Uk might be a first choice for those who have relatives there, but it’s understood that the golden days here are gone. There’s also better awareness that the other countries are bigger and can offer better quality of life 

Basically, gal nu ghuma firake revolves back around to money... WE ALL LOVE MONEY! High jobs = high cash meaning more prestige. 

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9 minutes ago, Singh1989 said:

Basically, gal nu ghuma firake revolves back around to money... WE ALL LOVE MONEY! High jobs = high cash meaning more prestige. 

Not exactly.

most people would still prefer better status/prestige even if it means less pay than an income/job with little prestige 

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6 hours ago, Suchi said:

Those people for the past 1000 years are the invaders (Chrislamists) and their minions including those Indians that allowed themselves to be used and exploited by them for whatever reason.  

And hordes of our people (Panjabis) were complicit as hell in the past - how many turned into sullay! How many jumped on the Christian protestant bangwagon after being colonised, and actually militarily helped the global anglo-supremacist system - to the extent that they let these outsiders define some made up version of the dharam called Sikhism. How many apnay to this day would sell their own Sikh brothers and sisters out for a small pay packet! What did the 'Sikh' dominated Punjab Police get up to in the 80s and early 90s against their own brothers and sisters?

If we don't shake off this victim mentality and start holding our own community accountable to our own - then we have no future, and are basically petty, backstabbing mental slaves.   

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13 hours ago, Suchi said:

Not really.  People feel that Western countries are less corrupt, have better facilities and are more organised.  You don't have to bribe every official to get your telephone/gas/electricity switched on.  Furthermore, those who are not reserved candidates find that they miss out on educational and other opportunities and then are forced to look abroad to fulfill their career ambitions, resulting in a Brain Drain.  But all this is undergoing a huge change due to 'Covid19' and things are moving swiftly due to development within India.  Once these reservations are removed, India will provide more equal access to jobs/education based on merit. 

What do you mean 'covid19' will somehow result in more equal access?

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