24th March 2020 – Nation Wide Lockdown imposed. Exactly 48 days ago PM, Mr. Narendra Modi announced county wide lock-down to reduce the Impact of Covid-19 outbreak and break the chain to curtail the severity of spread of Virus in India.
The announcement was a bold step but had its own collateral damage, ripples of which are being felt even after 48 days of the Lock-Down.
The entire country came to a standstill including the lifeline of the country, The Trucking. Everyday around 1 million Trucks load & dispatch for their destinations. These trucks are across segments spanning Fruits & Vegetables/FMCG/Reefers/Tankers/Steel/Coal & Construction. That’s the reason we synonym Transport Sector as “Backbone Of Economy”.
Chaos On the Road
During initial days of lock-down there surfaced multiple videos showing drivers of trucks in dire circumstances left without access to food & clean water. With no money and excess baggage of unloaded trucks & consignees not willing to take them in they were literally abandoned. Few of the fleet owners who were into critical goods transportation (Tobacco & Allied Products, Refrigerated Perishable Food Products) had a real hard time to even get their vehicles parked to keep the goods worth crores safe.
Role of Apex Bodies
All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) along with AITWA, Regional Transportation Associations like SIMTA, PSGTA, DGTA & various others local associations brought the situation on the ground to the notice of Ministry of Home Affairs & Road Ministry (MoRTH). AIMTC the Apex Body of 80L Transporters in the country, headed by the President, Mr. Kultaran Singh Atwal along with his battery of associates have time and again knocked the doors of government to highlight the concerns.
20 days into the lock-down came the first relaxation for the movement of trucks which was coupled with peculiar problems of its own viz Expired E-Way Bills/ Abandoned Vehicles/ Closed Workshops & Dhabas/ Expired Insurances and Permits to name a few.
OEMs came to rescue but partially by providing extended Warranty & Service Schedules of the vehicles. Helping & Assisting Transporters in getting their vehicles parked and drivers with Lodging & Boarding.
RBI acted as a saviour in these critical times but 3 months moratorium ending 31st May 2020 was actual an eye wash and was for two Month only as most of the March was already gone & EMIs payed when the Moratorium Policy (EMI Holiday) was announced by RBI on 27th March 2020.
Referring to what 90% of the trucks proudly display at their rear end “OK TATA OK”, in present day everything is still not OK.
Certain issues summarized below are still haunting the smooth movement of Trucks.
- Still an estimated 60% of Trucks are off road and major challenge to bring them on-road is driver availability & En-route Services devoid of which Drivers are feeling shy of returning to work.
- Whatever trucks are still on road are facing the risk of thefts. Various Instances of Tyre, Battery & even the load thefts are being reported from different parts of the country.
3. Numbers of Instances have come on record where local RTO/Police Authorities are not allowing interstate safe passage of Trucks. This is also becoming center of corruption at various checkpoints and increasing the operating hassles for fellow Transporters.
4. There has been 48% reduction in consumption of Fuel in India for the month April. This is very much a proof of the contribution of Transport Industry in the Indian Economy but at the end what it got is ZERO benefit of reduced Global Crude Pricing.
5. With BJP Government at center everyone thought ease of doing business would improve but things remain different on ground. Why center has not ever thought of implementing One Nation One Tax when it comes to fixing of RTO Charges/Fitness/Road Permit Fees giving free hand to Touts & Brokers. Every State in the country has different tax structure.
6. Govt. has at its RTO authorities set up fitness centers which have become another center of corruption. Isn’t it that fitness should be part of the OEMs who supplied the vehicle? After all it is one area where the maker of the product has the ultimate expertise.
7. Nowadays E-Way Bills mandatorily record Vehicle Registration Details on it. With so much IT into the system not a single vehicle should be stopped on the road for checking of documents. HSRPs fitted on the vehicles linked to GST Portal should be first check thus saving drivers of the harassment.
8. In-spite of digital India movement launched & running for last 5 Years why government has not fully digitized their RTOs. Just to highlight with an example, Delhi being the Capital of the Country, is still not fully Digitized and Online Temporary System is still not active for Commercial Vehicles.
9. In addition, there is no provision of paying Road Tax/Renewal Permit Fees online. This would have eased a lot of burden over the Transporters who face Red Tapeism in almost each step of Govt. Machinery leading to dependencies on brokers.
10. Effectively entire country has shifted to Fastags but is it helping is another big question. With Crores of money parked in Fastag accounts of Banks who is the beneficiary of the entire system? Well not the transporter for sure.
11. In these critical times of Covid-19 spread, drivers are one of the front-end warriors risking their lives for a better good. Urging govt. to cover all the truck drivers for the 50L health Insurance Cover under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yogna.
12. The presumptive Income Calculation which calculates the income basis the GVW of the Truck which is clearly over estimated.
Its high time government takes note of this critical industry which is reeling under pressure for last 2 years. Govt. needs to fix guidelines and do away with the Policy Paralysis hitting the transport industry from time to time.