Without truck drivers, deliveries are delayed and stock shelves remain bare since they are the foundation of the supply chain.
However, the American Trucking Associations claim that the US is severely lacking qualified truck drivers, with the driver deficit expected to hit a record high of over 80,000 drivers in 2021. Truck drivers are in high demand, thus many motor carriers are currently trying to hire foreign workers to fill the gap.
This resource aids immigrants who are interested in the trucking sector, whether they are currently residents of the United States or are just relocating here. You may get tips on how to get started in the trucking industry, where to look for work, and how to ace the interview here.
Shortage of Truck Drivers in America
A manpower shortage has always plagued the trucking business, but the coronavirus pandemic has made matters worse. Due to the early retirement of many drivers, the virus-related closure of truck driving schools, and the surge in consumer demand for transported goods, the gap increased by 30% from pre-pandemic levels. By 2030, the number of drivers needed for trucks could reach 160,000, according to current trends.
In addition to the pandemic, many trucking professions demand long hours and a lot of travel, which deters potential employees from the industry. A profession in truck driving, which doesn’t require a college degree, is frequently seen as unviable by younger Americans. This has made the shortage worse, along with the slower population increase in the United States.
To address the nation’s truck driver shortage, the Biden administration has suggested a three-pronged approach. The strategy includes for expanding paid apprenticeships, hiring veterans, and hastening the commercial driver licensing procedure.
While the trucking sector will undoubtedly profit from these initiatives, it is equally important to incorporate marginalized groups like immigrants and women, who now make up only 7% of truckers. The driver shortage can be reduced by hiring immigrants, which is advantageous for both parties. Companies gain a skilled workforce, while immigrants gain a steady income and the chance to start over in a new nation.
Careers in Truck Driving for Immigrants
To fill the shortage of truck drivers, several motor carriers across the nation are turning to immigrants. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data from 2020, immigrants made up 17% of the American labor force and 18.6% of employed truck drivers, making them somewhat overrepresented among truck driving. Truck drivers from other countries are most prevalent in the Pacific and mid-Atlantic states. According to a 2014 research from the Institute for Immigration Research at George Mason University, the highest percentages were reported in California (46.7%) and New Jersey (40.4%).
Recently, recruiting of immigrants for those positions has increased, along with services to aid in placing immigrants in U.S.-based truck driver jobs, due to the shortage of American-born individuals to fill those roles. About 30 trucking businesses partner with Visa Solutions, a Texas-based immigration and relocation company, to hire drivers from all over the world. Their objective is to strengthen the American economy while assisting immigrants in realizing the American dream.
Immigrants can assist improve working conditions and pay in the trucking business in addition to boosting the economy and filling a critical truck driver shortage. Immigrants may begin their careers with lower pay, but as they advance in their chosen fields, they can leverage the combined strength of other immigrants and the local labor market to help raise pay rates.
Why Immigrants to the United States Should Consider a Career in Trucking
Both current immigrants living in the United States and potential immigrants can find truck driving to be a lucrative career. Truck driving may be a dependable source of income for immigrants already living in the United States. For people desiring to immigrate to the United States, a driving job may also be an appropriate route to citizenship and permanent residency.
Are you prepared to begin? Here are a few explanations for why truck driving may be the ideal profession for immigrants.
High Demand for Jobs
As local talent dwindles and the demand for exported freight rises, immigrants can benefit from the vast pool of trucking opportunities that are open to them. Additionally, fleet carriers are aggressively looking for international individuals to fill these positions.
Optimistic Job Outlook
Tractor-trailer truck driving is expected to experience a 6% job growth rate in the United States until 2030, per BLS data. This rate is comparable to the average growth rate for all American occupations.
The employment picture is noticeably better in states with a higher percentage of immigrant truck drivers. Before the end of the decade, trucking jobs in New Jersey are anticipated to increase by 10%, whereas California’s forecast job growth is 15%.
Commercial truck driving can offer a steady income of about $47,000 per year on average, as well as retirement benefits, life and health insurance, and other perks.
In states where a higher proportion of immigrants work in the sector, truck driver wages are higher. For instance, the average yearly salary for truck drivers in New Jersey is $51,640.
A Smoother Transition
Since the United States government accepts commercial driver’s licenses from Canada and Mexico, foreign nationals can begin working there right away. However, there are significant limitations and fine print regarding these reciprocity agreements with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
How Businesses Can Hire Truck Drivers Who Are Immigrants
Immigrants are being sought out by American trucking companies to deal with the dire labor crisis facing the sector. The CEO of logistics company C.H. Robinson, Robert Biesterfeld, has argued in favor of hiring immigrants to assist fill the labor deficit.
Other freight companies are aggressively hiring newcomers. A&M Transport is working to hire more international drivers, particularly from Mexico, Europe, Canada, and South Africa, in order to satisfy the demand. The business hired 20 foreign drivers in 2020 and plans to bring on at least a dozen more.
Visas for American truck drivers
For businesses wishing to hire foreign drivers, there are two visa choices.
H-2B Truck Driver Visa
Employers in the US are permitted to temporarily hire non-agricultural workers for up to 12 months under the H-2B visa (which can be extended to three years, if necessary). Companies must show a clear shortage of American workers who are accessible, which shouldn’t be challenging given the current truck driver deficit. Employers must also prove that hiring immigrants won’t have an impact on local salaries and working conditions for Americans with similar jobs. The job must be transient, which is characterized as being occasional, peak load, intermittent, or seasonal.
Companies must get a labor certification from the Department of Labor in order to hire foreigners as commercial drivers under the H-2B visa. The company must next send a petition to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (with a maximum of 25 employees) (USCIS). After being accepted, the new hires must apply for a visa at the nearby American consulate before traveling to the country to start working. However, following the petition’s approval, drivers from Canada can cross the border.
EB-3 for Truck Drivers
For firms interested in a lengthier commitment, the EB-3 visa option—employment-based permanent resident—is the ideal choice. Companies can employ either skilled or unskilled foreign labor under this program. A worker is considered skilled if they have two years of relevant education or experience. Employers must once more demonstrate that the available workforce cannot be filled by Americans.
Employers are required to submit a labor certification to the Department of Labor, just like the H-2B. After that is complete, the business can submit a Permanent Resident petition to the USCIS. The employee who is an immigrant may visit a U.S. embassy to obtain a visa or, if already present, to modify their status.
How Carriers Can Help Immigrant Truck Drivers Adjust
Making their workplaces welcoming for foreign drivers is something that motor carriers wishing to hire immigrants living in the U.S. should think about doing. In light of the fact that 32% of immigrant drivers are from Mexico, removing linguistic and cultural obstacles is crucial.
Employers should remember the following advice while working with employees whose second language is English:
- Speak loudly and a little more slowly than usual.
- Don’t use contractions when speaking.
- Be kind and patient.
- Don’t shout.
- Employ plain language.
- Recognize cultural differences and resist the urge to take offense at unusual behavior.
- To aid communication, use a translation tool.
Businesses could also wish to think about promoting the fact that they hire immigrants. Even though a sizable portion of the trucking industry’s workforce is made up of immigrants, businesses frequently seem reluctant to highlight these statistics. This, according to some analysts, is done to deter truck drivers from organizing. Advertising that they have hired and are actively recruiting immigrants is a smart place to start, though, if trucking companies want to come off as more diverse and inviting in order to attract workers.
Barriers to Driving Jobs for Immigrants
Despite the high demand, immigrants may still run into problems while trying to find employment as truck drivers in the United States.
Understanding English is a requirement for training and passing the required exams in order to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) in the United States. For immigrants who come from nations where English is spoken as a first language, such as truck drivers from Canada and South Africa, this language barrier may not be a problem.
Some programs might be helpful for drivers whose first language is not English. Non-native English speakers in Kansas are able to take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes while obtaining their CDL thanks to a collaboration between the Johnson County Adult Education Literacy Program and the Johnson County Community College’s Continuing Education Transportation program.
Drivers who are not yet citizens of the United States could have trouble getting visas. The COVID-19 pandemic has considerably lengthened the time it takes to process applications.
As some business executives might not want to recruit foreigners, xenophobia (a hate or fear of foreigners) could potentially be a factor in preventing immigrants from working as truck drivers in the United States. For foreign employees, lower pay and exploitation are prevalent problems. Make sure you are aware of your rights and are familiar with the immigration and employment regulations in the United States.
Job Search Advice for Immigrants in the Trucking Industry
Finding a job can be challenging, especially abroad.
To locate businesses employing drivers, use employment boards and search engines. Search for open positions on websites like Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter. To see if any top American fleet carriers are offering open opportunities, you might also wish to visit their websites. Your current relationships in America may also be a significant asset when looking for work.
For ESL students, some trucking occupations can be a better fit than others. Driving over the road (OTR) may be more appropriate because it frequently requires less client engagement than driving for local deliveries. Driving a regional truck is a suitable alternative as well. While it is similar to OTR, it has shorter driving distances and more time spent at home. This job is another one that is doable because auto transporters can also drive OTR or regional routes.
In order to connect with transportation companies interested in hiring foreign workers, immigrants who haven’t yet immigrated to the United States can work with immigration services like Visa Solutions. Truck drivers from other countries can get assistance from agencies with finding employment, applying for visas, and moving. Consider enrolling in courses that combine CDL training with language instruction so you may achieve two objectives at once.
When looking for a job, give your resume a final polish and have a native English speaker proofread it. Prior to an interview, prepare some of your own questions, practice responses to frequently asked questions, and investigate the firm. Make sure to follow up with a thank-you note after the interview.
Resources and Employment Rights for Immigrants
Through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, immigrants are shielded from employment discrimination. This organization carries out laws prohibiting discrimination against immigrants, including discrimination based on a person’s place of birth, accent, appearance, and the adoption of English-only rules. Discrimination based on citizenship status is also expressly forbidden by the Immigration and Nationality Act.
The information listed below may be helpful to you if you are an immigrant who is considering coming to the United States or who is already living here.
The immigration and relocation agency assists immigrants in finding employment in the United States, particularly truck driving positions.
Immigrant Legal Resource Center
The ILRC imparts knowledge on how to best assist immigrants and foster a just and democratic environment to immigrants, civil society, and the legal profession.
Immigration Advocates Network
IAN is a nonprofit organization that offers free legal information and support to immigrants.
Upwardly Global is a networking and skills-building platform that aids refugees and immigrants in beginning their careers in the United States with the goal of removing employment barriers.
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