Truckers in West Bengal on 72-hour strike

Our Bureau Kolkata | Updated on October 12, 2020 Published on October 12, 2020

Trucks being parked along the Highways during the 72-hour strike call

Trucks across West Bengal have gone off-the-roads following a 72-hour strike, beginning today, by the Federation of West Bengal Truck Operators’ Associations protesting non-implementation of revised axle weight norms and “police excesses”.

Over 500,000 trucks off the roads in response to the call by the umbrella organisation, according to the associations.. The strike is supported by the All India Motor Transport Congress.

‘Call to update norms’

The revision of axle weight norms which India made in 2018, for the first time in 35 years, increased the maximum weights trucks can carry by 20-25 per cent and gave transport operators some relief from crackdown on overloading.

The apex organisation has asked all its members in other states to “support the cause” and “not send or ply vehicles to the State”. At least 20,000 trucks from other States ply across West Bengal.

According to Prabir Chatterjee, Organisation Secretary of the federation, the “Revision of Safe Axle Weights for Transport Vehicles” came into effect in 2018 but is yet to be implement in West Bengal. Truck operators are forced to ply at reduced capacities impacting trip margins and profitability.

‘Losing out on capacity’

In fact, interstate trucks (with West Bengal registration numbers) carry at least four tonnes less cargo either while leaving the State or if they are entering from elsewhere. This works out to be a loss of ₹24,000 per round trip – calculated at ₹3,000 per tonne per trip – and so a monthly loss of around ₹100,000, presuming the truck makes four trips.

“Diesel prices have gone up. Profit margins have shrunk. This will have direct bearing on repayment of vehicle EMIs for us. Moreover, truck drivers in other States enjoy the benefits of the Revision of Safe Axle Weights of Goods Vehicles that allows them to carry more of the commodities,” he told BusinessLine.

The truck operators also demanded the removal of unnecessary no-entry points on highways, withdrawal of toll tax, waiving road tax for current fiscal, action against police harassment, and financial aid for truck operators in the wake of Covid- 19 pandemic and reducing diesel prices.

According to Chatterjee, the Federation will intensify their agitation post Durga Puja. If demands are not met, there will be “blockades at State borders” leading to full stoppage of truck movement.

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Published on October 12, 2020
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