Truckers jittery over move to resume toll collection

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on April 19, 2020 Published on April 19, 2020

Transporters have urged the Centre not to resume toll collection as the entire transport industry is facing hardship. Reports have emerged that toll collection on highways is set to resume on April 20 as part of the lockdown relaxation announced by the Centre recently.

The lockdown to contain the Covid-19 pandemic has already grounded the transport sector. The resumption of toll collection will only aggravate the situation, transporters say.

‘Ill-timed move’

“This is not the right time to resume toll collection when essential commodities are being moved. Defer the toll payment for at least six months to improve the cash flow,” said P Sundarraj, Managing Director of Tiruchirapalli-based Subham Freight Carriers India Pvt Ltd.

In view of the relaxation for inter-State and intra-State movement of trucks and other goods/carrier vehicles, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) should resume toll operations on April 20, said a communication from the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (toll section) to the Chairman of NHAI. A copy of the letter is available with BusinessLine.

“The entire transport fraternity is broke and does not have finance for operations and bringing back drivers either, which is another big challenge,” said Kultaran Singh Atwal, President, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the apex body representing the transporters.

The government, instead of extending a helping hand by giving a rescue package to the transport sector, is burdening it with toll charges that account for 20 per cent of the operating costs. The government will service its recovery plan from the transport sector, be it increasing excise on diesel or other taxes, but does not want to provide direct relief to the road transport sector.

The government should reconsider its decision before putting any financial burden on this sector, which is grappling with the lockdown woes,” said Atwal.

Plea for toll deferment

The majority of transporters are either bankrupt or are on the verge of it. It would be impossible to ply trucks if tolls are resumed and even essential supply chains may get affected, said Bal Malkit Singh of Bal Roadlines, Mumbai, and former president of AIMTC. The transporters had asked for toll deferment till October 31, or at least till May 3, he said.

“Disappointed by the decision of the Ministry of Surface Transport and NHAI to resume toll collection. Clearly, the government is not considering anything for the transport sector, no insurance cover for drivers has been announced yet and now the burden of toll is being reintroduced,” the Bombay Goods Transport Association said.

The Kandla Mundra Container Transport Welfare Association has urged the Centre to postpone the toll collection till May 3 for better containment of Covid-19. This will provide some financial relief to the trucking community, which is badly hit by the lockdown.

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Published on April 19, 2020
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