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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.Three interstates — the I-5, I-80 and I-10 — are dotted with Indian-American-owned businesses catering to truckers.Inside the rig, he heats — spiced potatoes and cauliflower — that his wife prepared back home.He checks the thermostat to make sure his trailer isn’t too warm.Today, it’s 103 containers of mixed produce, with mangoes, bell peppers, watermelons, yellow onions and peeled garlic among them. 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.
Talk to any group of Sikh drivers and you’ll find former cabbies, liquor store workers or convenience store cashiers who made the switch.“Thirty years ago, it was hard to get into trucking because there were so few people like us in the business who could help you,” says Rashpal Dhindsa, a former trucker who runs Fontana-based Dhindsa Group of Companies, one of the oldest Sikh-owned U. Pal flips on the headlights of his truck, a silver ’16 Volvo with a 500-horsepower engine.
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.
But many, with names like Jay Bros (in Overton, Neb.) and Antelope Truck Stop Pronghorn (in Burns, Wyo.) are anonymous dots on a map unless you’re one of the many Sikhs who have memorized them as a road map to America.
Right, Singh comforts his 4-year-old son, Devjot Kamboj, who was saddened to learn his dad had another cross-country delivery to make.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times) Three years later, he started driving a rig he didn’t own while getting paid per mile.