Hi! I’m Satnam Singh, and I’ve been trucking for 25 years. My community of Punjabi Sikhs are very active in truck driving, especially in California, where I live. We work day and night to deliver food, produce and everyday use items. Curious about life in the truck, the long journey I took from India to eventually cross the U.S.-Mexico border, or the detention center I stayed in my first few months in the U.S.?

AJ+ producer Shreen Khan joined me on a recent trucking trip for a video about our community and life on the road – she'll also be available to answer questions. My son, Harjit, will be typing out my answers.

Watch the Untold America Episode here

Read more about Sikh Punjabi truckers here

Proof: https://twitter.com/ajplus/status/1117870725669380096

Watch more of AJ+’s Untold America on YouTube here!

Update: Thank you everyone for your wonderful questions! I enjoyed reading them and responding. Thank you for taking your time to watch the video and learn more about trucking and the Sikh Punjabi community. Right now I have to get back to driving. But if you have more questions in the future or would like to learn more, I would be happy to share my experiences.

Comments: 1759 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

metzgerhass1144 karma

Are you vegetarian full time? If you are, how difficult is it to maintain a healthy diet on the road full time and not be a bagel-tarian?

AJ-Plus2090 karma

Yes, I am a full-time vegetarian. Luckily, there are many vegetarian options with Punjabi food. We can eat roti with many different vegetables and daals (lentil and bean soups). I also eat fresh salad and dahin (yogurt). I am lucky because my wife prepares food for me and I take it on the road.

therichshow72 karma

Have you eaten at this restaurant, Punjabi Dhaba? It’s near Barstow.

I felt like it was tailored towards truckers. It was an unexpected pit stop on the road. Also pretty good.

AJ-Plus48 karma

No, I have not eaten there yet.

Sheamless1124 karma

Why is your community so active in Trucking vs any other profession?

AJ-Plus2411 karma

The Punjabi Sikh community is very active in trucking because there are many jobs available. When we immigrate to the U.S., there are not many jobs for people who don't have a college degree and don't know English very well. Trucking is a hard job but we are willing to work hard. Also, there is a lot of freedom in trucking. We can set our own schedule and work how much we want to.

CardboardSoyuz854 karma

Do kids in cars still pull down their hands asking you to blast your air horn? Do you oblige them?

AJ-Plus1345 karma

Yes! Kids still ask me to blast my horn. I always blow it because they get very happy. They start to smile and clap their hands or give me a thumbs up.

Gu0416 karma

Are you concerned about the longevity of your company with the automation of trucking on the horizon?

AJ-Plus545 karma

Yes, I am concerned about the automation of trucking. I would lose my job and at my age, no one else would want to hire me. Many people are going to lose their jobs. This will hurt a lot of families who don't have other good options for well-paying jobs.

Gu0151 karma

What is your contingency plan? What if you start saving now to purchase an automated truck in the future? Or do you think the large corporations will buy so many that the little guy won't have any chips in the game?

AJ-Plus300 karma

I do think that large corporations will buy most of the trucks. They have more money to buy and they also negotiate lower prices with the truck manufacturers so they get better rates. If there is no other option I will have to buy an automated truck but I hope I can continue with my current truck for a long time.

SFXBTPD387 karma

They company makes 200k a year? Is that profit or revenue of the company, or is that your personal income from it. 200k revenue for a trucking company i imagine would only be running 2 trucks.

AJ-Plus707 karma

The $200k a year is revenue. I am an owner-operator and only have 1 truck in my company. So this is all from 1 truck. Many companies have more trucks and so they make more money.

callmealias232 karma

Why were you detained?

AJ-Plus375 karma

I was detained because I crossed the Mexican border without a visa.

ChuckEye171 karma

There is a stereotype that the majority of truckers are rednecks. Has there been any significant prejudice against you or your Sikh drivers from other truckers? Or have they welcomed you as brothers of the road?

AJ-Plus406 karma

For many years, there has been a lot of prejudice against me and other Sikh drivers. Drivers who are white will call us names, curse at us, give us the middle finger, not talk to us properly, and assume we don't know English. There have been incidents where Sikh drivers have been assaulted. However, some of this started to change in 2017 when we protested against the federal ELD mandate. We started to work together with the white drivers to protest because we were all being affected. Since then, the white drivers have started to understand us more but some racism is still there.

AJ-Plus316 karma

The ELD: electronic logging device was a regulation change where truckers lost the ability to log their driving hours and break hours, manually. Instead that would be monitored electronically which many truckers protested against. Since electronic monitoring fails to account for hours wasted in traffic, or at loading sites, many truck drivers felt it would negatively impact their work.

AJ-Plus143 karma

This article I wrote would help to explain ELDs more. -Harjit


SuperstarTinsanity123 karma

How many days a year do you take off for vacations and fun?

How much do you get to enjoy the different places you go to? Take a hike at a national park, for example.

AJ-Plus306 karma

I do not regularly take time off for vacation or traveling. Maybe once every 4 or 5 years I will visit India. Sometimes I take a few days off every 2 or 3 months to rest and spend time with my family. When there is a large Sikh gathering or event, I will take a week off (two or three times per year) to help make food for people.

Morgolol90 karma

Oh I actually saw the video last night. I'm fascinated by how beautiful and customized the trucks are, a better flair to it than, say, your traditional truckers(nothing wrong with it, various cultures decorating their trucks is always interesting)

What's some of the most interesting Sikh truck customizations and additions you've seen?

AJ-Plus178 karma

The coolest thing I have seen is some drivers have changed their horn to a Punjabi folk song tune. I have seen some Sikh drivers add chrome parts and accessories to their trucks. Some people's inside cabins are decorated very nicely with lights and drapes. Some even have a dedicated space for prayer inside their truck cabin.

Urbanmerc79 karma

Congrats on your business being successful! What’s the craziest thing you have seen happen while driving?

AJ-Plus215 karma

I was driving in Washington on I-5. A deer ran onto the highway and slammed into my driver's side door. It didn't die! It got up and ran back into the trees. But it left a huge dent in my door that cost $4,000 to repair.

aranurea71 karma

As someone who is familiar with trucking from firsthand experience (riding along with my trucker cousin, also Punjabi family), I know that lack of sleep and exercise are issues for many truckers. What is your take on these issues and what can truckers do to alleviate them? Is there legislation related to these in the works? If so, why or why not support it?

AJ-Plus93 karma

This is a very good question. I do not know the answer because it is also hard for me. The best way is if you can follow a regular schedule but this is difficult because we always get loads on different times and days. I want to exercise on weekends but am usually too tired and want to rest. The ELD legislation is supposed to help but it actually hurts us more because or schedule is determined by the electronic logging device and we have less freedom.

AJ-Plus54 karma

This article I wrote would help to explain ELDs more. -Harjit


whtsnk54 karma

  1. ਇਸ ਕਾਰੋਬਾਰ ’ਚ ਤੁਹਾਡੀ ਸ਼ੁਰੂਆਤ ਕਿੱਥੋਂ ਅਤੇ ਕਿਵੇਂ ਹੋਈ?

  2. ਮੁਢਲਾ ਜੀਵਨ ਤੁਹਾਡਾ ਕਿਸ ਤਰ੍ਹਾਂ ਬੀਤਿਆ?

tojki61 karma

Translation: 1. How and where did you enter this profession/business? 2. Please elaborate on what your early life was like?

Did I get this right? :)

AJ-Plus81 karma

I started trucking while living in Live Oak, CA. Before, I working as a farm laborer in the fields. My friend was a truck driver and told me I can learn to drive a truck to better support my family. While working during the day I learned to drive a truck at night. My early life was filled with a lot of struggles. Our family was very poor so it was hard for us to make a living. This is why I came to America.

AJ-Plus59 karma

ਮੇਰੇ ਦੋਸਤ ਨੇ ਮੈਂਨੂੰ ਟਰੱਕ ਚਲਾਉਣਾ ਸਖਾਇਆ। ਮੈਂ ਪਹਿਲਾਂ ਖੇਤਾਂ ਵਿੱਚ ਕੰਮ ਕਰਦਾ ਸਾਂ। ਆਪਣੇ ਪਰਿਵਾਰ ਦੀ ਵਧੀਆ ਦੇਖ-ਭਾਲ ਵਾਸਤੇ ਮੈਂ ਟਰੱਕ ਚਲਾਉਣਾ ਸ਼ੁਰੂ ਕੀਤਾ।

Thanks_Obama54 karma

How to pronounce Sikh?

AJ-Plus114 karma

Sikh comes from a Sanskrit word for student. In Punjabi it’s pronounced with a short ‘i’ and an aspirated ‘k’ like “sick” in English. Some people also pronounce it as “seek.” -Shreen

EDIT: Signed off as Shreen!

Pastoredbtwo53 karma

Is it offensive to you to hear "dude, that's Sikh!" as a compliment?

Because your beard and turban combo look so great!

AJ-Plus84 karma

I would say thank you and appreciate you for respecting my identity.

mansimar0136 karma

Sat Sri Akal ! I feel proud looking at our community growing allover the world. I'm a Punjabi Sikh (still in Punjab). I would like to ask you if you face any racism living abroad. Also, would you suggest a well-settled person in Punjab to go abroad and try to restart his life just to get a better Lifestyle? Waheguru Mehar Kare!

AJ-Plus75 karma

There is still racism but it depends on where you live. If you live in a community with a lot of Sikhs then you will feel safer.

If you are already well-settled in Punjab, it is best to stay in Punjab. If you move abroad, it will take a lot of hard work and effort to get a better lifestyle. I only came because I was desperate and had no other options. If you are well-settled and living in the motherland then that is the best place to be.

CpntBrryCrnch35 karma

Is there an increasing awareness of the massive differences between Sikhs and Muslims? Or is that the primary source of confusion?

AJ-Plus78 karma

There is still a lot of confusion here. Many people do not know who Sikhs are and think we are Muslim. Some people think Sikhs are Hindus also. But these are all 3 different religions.

thomaskyd21 karma

What highway is the scariest to drive? Heading down the Grapevine on the I-5 south of Bakersfield always scared me because there's these runaway truck ramps in case your breaks fail. Is there anything like that that you've driven where you were like, "It's very possible I lose control of my truck on this patch of road."

AJ-Plus71 karma

The scariest for me is during the winter on Highway 97 in Oregon. The elevation is high. There the snow freezes and forms black ice. I have seen many trucks lose control there. Even my truck has slipped there. In 1995, I was in a big accident on Hwy 97 and had to be taken to the hospital on a helicopter.

blastcat419 karma

What model of truck do you drive? What would be your dream truck?

AJ-Plus39 karma

I drive a Freightliner Cascadia. My dream truck is a Kenworth T600. I also would like to have a Peterbilt with a Studio Sleeper.

moontif12 karma

Do you use the UHF, CB Radio that Truckers uses? How other drivers respond when they hear your accent?

AJ-Plus29 karma

I don't use the CB anymore because my current truck does not have it. People don't use CB much anymore. When I previously used it, sometimes people would curse me out but mostly people were respectful.

ObIivious8 karma

Is the trucking community worried about automated vehicles? If they release electric trucks, would you buy them for your drivers? Why or why not?

AJ-Plus9 karma

If electric trucks are released and they are the same price as diesel trucks, I would buy them. Diesel is very expensive and electric trucks would produce less emissions so it is better for the environment.