There is much fear and animosity surrounding drivers who wear turbans. But truth is, these people, who are usually from the Sikh faith, are not someone to be afraid of or offended by. Most of them, if they follow their Sikh religious beliefs, are hard-working, honest, peaceful and non-judgmental folks. Mintu Pandher (40) of Laramie, WY is a great example. As the owner and operator of a trucking operation and three truck stops, he also actively participates in real attempts to make our highways safer by promoting stricter driver training standards and safety. Last year, Mintu even took his fight directly to some of the top officials at the FMCSA in Washington, D.C.
Immigrating to the United States from India in 1998, Mintu became a US citizen in 2005. Since then, he has worked hard and built a successful business. Coming from an agricultural background in India, where his family farmed wheat, sugar cane and rice, getting into the transportation industry just made sense. Buying his first truck stop in Laramie, WY in 2014, called Akal Travel Center (I-80 exit 290), he has since added two additional locations – one in Santa Rosa, NM (I-40 exit 267) and another in York, NE (I-80 exit 380). Mintu proudly stands behind the statement that he has the cheapest fuel on I-80! We are also happy to have distribution racks at each of his locations, so if cheap fuel is not enough motivation to get you to stop, maybe a free copy of 10-4 is.
In addition to the truck stops, Mintu also has a trucking company called Akal Energy. With nine newer Peterbilt 389s and 12 trailers, mostly tankers, this operation delivers fuel to not only his locations, but others, as well. His sole reefer trailer (the stainless 2019 Great Dane 48-foot spread-axle seen here), was purchased to haul refrigerated products between his locations, and to be used as a rental, back-up and/or loaner trailer for his customers who came in with reefer issues but couldn’t get fixed fast enough. In addition to fuel, his truck stops offer roadside service, tire repairs, oil changes and general maintenance (everything except full rebuilds).
The truck featured here is a 2017 Peterbilt 389 that was ordered as a glider kit and then powered with the drivetrain out of Mintu’s previous truck – a 2000 Kenworth T-2000 that had a 550-hp Cat 6NZ and an 18-speed transmission. Ben at Marini Diesel in Commerce City, CO rebuilt the Cat engine and installed it into the new 389. After that, Mintu added a polished RoadWorks visor and window chops, 8-inch Dynaflex exhaust, Hogebuilt stainless full fenders and double straps on the tanks. The “Legendary Blue” paint features crushed glass mixed into it for a unique look. He also has white trucks and hopes to soon get a few new ones painted “Legendary Red” for a red, white and blue-themed fleet!
Our friend and contributor Art Czajkowski has known Mintu for quite some time, and when the motor in his Peterbilt 387 blew up a few weeks ago, with almost 1.8 million miles on the odometer, Mintu was kind enough to loan his good friend this beautiful combination so he could keep working while his truck was being repaired. Art did several runs with this rig, stopping to take pictures of it several times along the way, which is where the pictures for this story came from. For that, we would like to thank Art.
In 2017, during a peaceful protest in Washington D.C., Mintu and some of his trucking friends were invited inside the FMCSA headquarters to discuss their concerns with some of the top officials there. The meeting went well, and Mintu impressed the politicians with his ideas and professionalism regarding driver training and safety. In fact, they agreed with what he was saying. Sometimes it is hard to gauge if your actions are having any impact on things, but since the FMCSA just recently announced stricter guidelines for entry level driver training on fleet owners and trucking schools, which will take effect on February 7, 2020, it is safe to say that Mintu and his friends may have had a hand in helping these new regulations come to pass.
Sikhism is a religion that began in the Punjab region in the northern part of India around the end of the 15th century. The philosophy behind this religion centers around God is one. We are all equal, we are all connected, and there is just one class of people. This religion, which came from Hindus who were dissatisfied with the strict rules, harsh judgments and unfairly-divided classes of people (some were “better” than others), preaches honesty and service, and should not be feared or condemned. Sikh people respect other religions and beliefs and are not looking to “convert” you to their way of life. It is one of the youngest of the major world religions, and the world’s fifth largest organized religion.
The fundamental beliefs of the Sikh, articulated in the sacred scripture of Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one and only creator, divine unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder’s (simple) life.
In the early 21st century, there were some 25 million Sikhs worldwide, with the great majority of them still living in Punjab. But, in recent years, many of them have come to the US, because our concept of individuality and freedom lines up squarely with the Sikh way of life, so many have sought refuge here in the United States.
Working hard for himself, his family and his friends, Mintu Pandher is a great example of what it means to be a good Sikh – or, in this case, a good human being. Don’t let the turban jokes and unflattering impersonations cause you to believe that these people should scare or offended you. “Sikh” the truth and you will find, that most of the people you see wearing a turban are good people – not terrorists!