Logistics

Covid-19 fallout: Truck movements yet to normalise

Abhishek Law Kolkata | Updated on April 14, 2020 Published on April 14, 2020

Market sources, including FMCG majors, point out that vehicular movement “still” remains affected   -  Rajendra Gawankar

Manpower shortage apart, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are battling supply chain glitches following the Covid-19-induced lockdown in India. But 20 days into the lockdown, movement of trucks continues to be an issue.

Market sources, including FMCG majors, point out that vehicular movement “still” remains affected, severely impacting supplies, both at the manufacturing and retail ends. Goods vehicles / carriers remain stuck along state borders or on highways.

“There is not enough coordination between state-level authorities regarding essential transport,” Kartik Johari, Vice President, Nobel Hygiene, said. Nobel Hygiene makes the ‘Friends’ brand of adult diapers.

Reduced truck movement

According to major transport operators in West Bengal, between two lakh and three lakh trucks ply on the highways in the state on any given day. This includes vehicles entering or exiting and those on the roads.

However, since the lockdown, not more than 20,000-25,000 trucks are plying daily. Nearly 50,000 vehicles (including those with national permit) remain stuck across different border areas and depots, or are stranded on the highways.

Nationally, around one lakh trucks are said to be stuck across state borders, say sources.

“Yes, problems in truck movements persist, and it will still take another two to five days for normalcy to return. We are coordinating with the police and calling up different transport associations to simplify the process of obtaining passes or releasing vehicles that are stuck at state borders or midway (under a particular administrative district),” Prabir Chatterjee, Secretary, Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators Association, told BusinessLine.

Operators says over the first two weeks, not more that 10,000 trucks were on the roads. Most had been left midway by drivers and helpers.

Far from normal

The situation is far from normal. A company can get an e-pass and ensure movement of goods. But, what happens to the previous consignments that do not have these passes, representatives of different FMCG majors who are trying to clear these stuck vehicles, ask. Releasing them or getting permission for their movement is a Herculean task, they say.

According to Shahrukh Khan, Director – Operations, Dabur India, difficulties exist in the smooth functioning of the supply chain, despite steps taken by the central and state governments to ease truck movements.

“The situation is far from normal. Companies are facing difficulties, both in servicing domestic demand and (also in) meeting export commitments,” he said.

Operators say truck movement was first hit when states announced their own containment measures. Vehicles carrying non-essential items got stuck. Some movement was still being managed at the grassroots. But the national lockdown brought things to a halt.

It was always clear that vehicles carrying “essentials” will be allowed movement. But the definition of essentials varied at local administration levels. This led to hindrance in movement.

More clarity in rules

Meanwhile, Ajay Bhalla, Union Home Secretary, in an April 12 letter to the Chief Secretaries of all States, raised the issues of “trucks carrying essentials and non-essentials being detained”, workers needed for manufacturing operations not getting passes, and inter-state movement of goods getting hampered, among others.

Accordingly, the ministry clarified and reiterated some previous guidelines. These include that inter- and intra-state movement of “all trucks and other goods / carrier vehicles” be allowed with “one driver and one additional person, irrespective of the nature of the cargo”, and no further permits are required. Empty trucks have also been allowed to pick up goods after completing a delivery / on their way back.

Further, local authorities should facilitate movement of truck drivers, cleaners, workers to their respective places of work. Passes are to be issued “expeditiously” by the local authorities. These stipulations are to be followed in all areas except those requiring containment, surveillance (hotspots) and quarantine measures.

Published on April 14, 2020

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.