Diversity in Driving
The shortage of truck drivers in the industry is a topic that isn’t going away anytime soon. The American Trucking Association estimates a shortage of 48,000 drivers – a number that’s expected to climb to 170,000 in the next ten years. Today, many of these positions are being filled by immigrants, who are bringing their unique cultures and cuisines to the highways of America.
Perhaps the best way to see this sharing of culture is off the I-80 on exit 248 in Overton, Nebraska. Here you’ll find Jay Bros., the very image of a Midwestern truck stop: gas pumps beneath a yellow awning, a mini-mart selling candy bars and beef jerky, and a tiny family restaurant tacked onto the side of the building. Inside that family restaurant isn’t the typical truck stop fare – instead, Taste of India serves up authentic Punjabi cuisine from Northern India. “I have good Indian customers driving trucks from California, New York, and Chicago,” owner Harry Chaudhary explains with a smile. “Some of the customers, even though they are from New York, they like this more than the New York restaurants.”
Today 224,722 truckers, or 18.6 percent of the 1.2 million truck drivers on the road today, are immigrants and restaurants like the Chaudhary’s provide a welcome taste of home to many of them. For American-born truck drivers, Taste of India is an opportunity to engage in a cultural exchange over a plate of freshly made butter chicken and vegetable samosas. In addition to India, Immigrant drivers come from around the globe, including Mexico, Poland, Ukraine, the Ivory Coast, Romania and Russia.
As new faces and new cultures join the truck driving industry, restaurants and truck stops like Taste of India will continue to appear along the side of the road, ready and eager to share their version of America with the truckers they serve.