Punjabi-Canadians roll into trucking, rerouting a traditional industry

Once the domain of white, blue-collar big-riggers, trucking has shifted gears as South Asian Canadians fill a growing labour shortage and reroute the industry with tech-savvy and chai-vending truck stops.

In 1996, less than two per cent of Canada’s truckers were South Asian immigrants. In 2016, they comprised 18 per cent of the country’s roughly 181,000 drivers, according to a study by Newcom Media Inc. based on Statistics Canada’s National Household Survey.

More than half of all truckers in the Vancouver and Toronto areas were born in South Asia. One-third of Canada’s big-riggers are immigrants, with those from India making up by far the highest proportion at more than 40 per cent. The vast majority speak Punjabi, according to StatCan.