Hispanic Heritage Month, which is held between September 15 to October 15, is the time of the year when there is a heightened sense of gratitude to the Hispanic community for its contributions to the growth of the U.S. while remaining an integral part of the American identity – a land that was founded on the precincts of multiculturalism and diversity.
Today, Hispanics account for roughly 18% of the U.S. population and are the second-largest ethnic group in the country. The trucking sector, in many ways, is a scaled-down representation of America's diversity – with a ubiquitous spread across the country and accounting for people from different ethnicities and socio-economic walks of life.
Hispanics total 12% of the U.S. trucker population and amount to over half of all the foreign-born drivers hauling in the country. FreightWaves caught up with a Hispanic fleet owner Sandra Alzate, who owns four trucks and operates in Los Angeles, to discuss how Hispanics feel about joining the trucking industry.
"My husband and I started this trucking business in 2003. Trucking is a very profitable business that you can enter with a minimal amount of money. We had an investment of $100,000, which we used to purchase a truck and started making money right away. We then used our profits to buy additional trucks," said Alzate.
Bringing more of the Hispanic demographic into the trucking business is essential, as the number of people joining the trucking workforce is dwindling. The average age of a trucker is in the mid-50s, and with millennials unconvinced to take up the physically taxing trucking life, the trucking sector might be heading to a crisis.
Government data on the trucking population split into groups based on age brackets showcases a fascinating picture. Two realizations are evident – the average age of Hispanic drivers is lower than the industry average, and the percentage of young Hispanics joining the workforce is much higher than the industry average.
For instance, the number of Hispanic drivers in the 25-34 years age bracket is more than half of the number of white drivers. In contrast, in the 55-64 years age bracket, Hispanics are less than one-fifth of the total white driver population.
The Hispanic community has a larger percentage of younger drivers than the white population
Apart from Hispanics who were born and raised in the U.S., people moving into the country with a very basic understanding of English may need help to settle. Several organizations and self-help groups have risen to the challenge, like the Coalition of American-Latino Truckers, which assists Spanish-speaking truckers in feeling at home in the industry.
Like with most fleets, Alzate pointed to the everyday challenges of finding a good broker or a shipper that will provide work consistently and also pay truckers on time. This can be offset by leveraging technology to connect with shippers on an on-demand basis, as with the case of digital freight marketplaces that are mushrooming within the trucking landscape.
That said, though a lot of fleets have woken up to the reality of technology, massive fragmentation within the market will continue to be a hurdle for large-scale adoption of digital freight marketplaces, at least for the foreseeable future.
"Trucking is a business where you can pick and choose where you want to go and when you want to work. I think this is an attraction for Hispanics to get into the business," said Alzate. "The market is very hot. If you work hard, you can make money and be successful in this business. Show up on time and do your work. Your name will get recognized, and you would get loads to haul all the time."
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