‘Eye-Catchy, American Dream’ Attracts More Than 30,000 Indian-American Sikhs To Trucking In Last 2 Years

“I mean the presentation can be a little eye-catchy, but you know that’s the reality.” – Mintu Pandher, small fleet & truck stop owner

Mintu Pandher / CBS News-YouTube

Laramie, Wyoming – According to a new report by CBS Evening News, more than 30,000 Indian-Americans who practice the Sikh faith have entered the North American trucking workforce in the past two years.

Mintu Pandher, featured in the report, entered the trucking industry over a decade ago. He bought his first used semi 13 years ago and hasn’t looked back. He told CBS why he believes trucking is a great fit for those who are Sikhs. “For Sikhs, they want to keep their articles of faith, turban, unshaven hair, beard, moustache — it’s a safety hazard for a lot of jobs that require it. So in trucking they can keep everything, and still make a decent living,” Pandher said.

Mr. Pandher believes the American dream is “not dead at all.” In fact, trucking seems to have become the ticket to his dreams. He has grown his fleet to 9 trucks and even owns a truck stop in Laramie.

 

Mr. Pandher is doing his part to make practicing Sikhs feel at home in trucking. He built a Sikh temple on the property to accommodate those who practice the faith. Plus, the truck stop serves some traditional Indian food dishes as well.

However, not all Sikhs have felt welcomed by some in the trucking community. Take the recent discrimination case against J.B. Hunt as an example.

Sikhs Won Landmark Discrimination Case Against J.B. Hunt

It hasn’t been completely smooth highway for those who practice the Sikh faith. You may remember the recent discrimination complaint filed by a group of East Indian Sikhs against J.B. Hunt alleging religious discrimination in the hiring process.

J.B. Hunt is a strong proponent of administering a hair follicle drug test to each of its driver applicants in the pre-employment screening process. The company has been doing so for a number of years now. This is of course in addition to an urinalysis.

Practicing Sikhs are forbidden to cut their hair. When J.B. Hunt denied an accommodation request and ultimately employment to a group of Sikh applicants, the applicants claimed discrimination on religious grounds.

 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed with the Sikh applicants. It found reasonable cause to believe that J.B. Hunt failed to accommodate the Sikhs’ religious beliefs and, as a result, failed to hire a class of individuals due to race, national origin and religion in violation of Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. J.B. Hunt agreed to pay $260,000 and extend unconditional offers of employment to the complainants.

This case is regarded by legal experts to potentially be a landmark decision regarding the legality of requiring applicants to be subjected to a hair follicle drug screen as a condition of employment.


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“A Little Eye-Catchy” Or Unrealistic?

It’s no secret the trucking marketplace is facing a shortfall of CDL holders who are willing to work under current industry conditions. This reality has led trucking industry stakeholders to look for new and enticing ways to appeal to potential recruits.

Two tried and true persuasive mediums are video and music. When combined together the combination can be quite persuasive to an audience with an open mind. Images like the ones portrayed in British recording artist and producer Surjit Khan’s song, “Truck Union,” have certainly grabbed the attention of many. The video has been watched more than 2.5 million times on YouTube alone.

 

The video portrays a trucking career as a glamorous lifestyle and leading to a life of luxury. It has some questioning whether this is going too far and creating an unrealistic expectation for people who might be interested in a career in trucking. When asked about this, Mr. Pandher told CBS, “I mean the presentation can be a little eye-catchy, but you know that’s the reality.”

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