As far as occupations go, few seem as American as CDL trucking jobs. Reflecting America’s melting pot status all the more, as the industry strives to think of creative ways to solve the driver shortage. They see success with immigrants filling CDL trucking jobs.
Fifty miles west of Los Angeles stands the busiest long-haul truck stop in America. Saul Gonzalez of the Global Post wrote a story on immigrant drivers like Harsharan Singh of Punjab, India, and others. Many of them hadn’t had trucking jobs in their homelands. However, thanks to opportunity here in America, they’re truck drivers now.
“I got my license back in 2009, when I came from India,” Singh tells Gonzalez in the story. “Now, a lot of people from Romania, Yugoslavia, China, Japanese, Russians are coming into this business.”
Part of the reason behind the shift is that the trucking industry is facing a labor shortage of up to 48,000 drivers, according to the American Trucking Associations.
That could balloon to more than 170,000 drivers in the next 10 years.
Nearly 30% of foreign-born drivers are now from Asia, the Middle East, the former Soviet republics and Europe. Most of the rest are from Latin America, according to the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey. That survey also found that the proportion of immigrant drivers varies from state to state, with California at 46 percent, the highest concentration of foreign-born drivers, followed by New Jersey at 40 percent.
Gonzalez talks with other immigrants about their experiences.
The next CDL truck driver he quotes is Steven Abramovich from the Ukraine.
“When I first got to this country, I never thought I would do this kind of a job. It was sort of a dream to do it,” says Ukraine-born Steven Abramovich over an outdoor meal of cold cuts, hard-boiled eggs and some wine with fellow Ukrainian and Russian drivers in a corner of a vast truck stop in Ontario, California.
Abramovich adds that a “trucker is a trucker” but feels foreign-born drivers, because of language and culture, create tighter communities than American drivers.
“We are raised differently,” he says. “I don’t want to be disrespectful to the American community, but the Russian community, the Ukrainian community, the Turkish community, the Europeans … we are sitting together, we are having a nice meal.”
But Ismael Abassov, who grew up in Russia and Turkey, is quick to add that when he started driving an 18-wheeler three years ago, American drivers always offered a helping hand when he needed it. “When I started, I didn’t know this job, I had never done it, but I was asking and they helped me a lot.”
But despite the hardships, for many new immigrant drivers, they’ll take the trucking life — one route to the American dream.
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