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A growing number of Sikh immigrants in the US are choosing to work as commercial drivers, with the latest estimates showing that there are at least 30,000 Sikh truck drivers in the country.  While Sikh drivers have made an impact on the US trucking Industry there are also many who have chosen to work as couriers and taxi drivers. As well as facing cultural challenges, they must also be responsible for keeping up to date with strict federal and state regulations that affect all commercial drivers.

Help for Taxi Drivers 

While Sikh taxi drivers can access resources provided by the Sikh Coalition that will help them to stay safe in the face of discrimination, ride-hail companies in California are also asking the government for financial aid for all lower and middle-income drivers in California to help them with the costs of transitioning to electric vehicles. Individual drivers, fleet owners and businesses will all need to adapt as the state is planning to ban new cars with conventional combustion engines by 2035. Rules introduced by California’s clean air regulator also state that 90% of Uber and Lyft trips must be in an electric vehicle by 2030 and although the companies are hoping to achieve this goal sooner, they would like to see subsidies for EVs and installation of the new infrastructure and the vehicle equipment and supplies that are required to run them.

Support for Truckers

Truck driving is a popular choice of career for many Sikhs across the US and, in California, Punjabis control 40% of the trucking industry. Despite having a major influence in logistics , Sikh truckers still face challenges in their day to day work. One of these is the language barrier which was highlighted during the pandemic when essential Covid information in the Punjabi language was found to be lacking.  To support Sikh truck drivers with this and other issues, The North American Punjabi Trucking Association (NAPTA), a non-profit organization based in California, promotes education and training opportunities together with highway and driver safety, thus helping to develop the professional growth of Sikhs in the commercial driving sector.

Safety for Bike Couriers

While 31 states in the USA have no mandatory helmet laws, wearing protective headgear on a motorbike protects riders against serious and life threatening head injuries. As Sikh men are forbidden from wearing any head covering other than a turban, for those who regularly ride a motorbike as a courier, safety can be an issue. Although Canada has now introduced a helmet law exemption for Sikhs, an agency based in Toronto worked for Harley Davidson on a design for safety headgear to protect Sikh riders without violating any religious edict. The result is the 'Tough Turban' made from impact-resistant fabric that can be wrapped like a traditional turban and worn as protective headgear. 

Although growing numbers of Sikhs are becoming truckers, taxi drivers and couriers, they still  face a number of challenges at work. By adapting to new regulations, taking advantage of targeted resources and staying safe on the roads, they can enjoy successful careers as commercial drivers.

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