Truckers lack basic facilities

TE Raja Simhan October 17 | Updated on October 17, 2021

Trucking troubles: The government hardly spends 2-3 per cent of revenue on the welfare of truck and bus drivers   -  The Hindu

The Centre’s envisaged programme for resting places is still on paper

Driving on the highways for a common man is a delight today, with roads comparable to some of the best in the world. But for truckers, lack of basic infrastructure facilities like toilets and resting places make driving on the highways a ‘painful’ experience, especially when one needs to attend nature’s call.

India has the second largest road network in the world of over 62 lakh km comprising national highways, expressways, State highways, major district roads, other district roads and village roads. There are nearly 10 million trucks in the country. In 2012, the Centre envisaged a programme that for every 50 kms, there will be a resting place for the truck drivers. However, this is still on paper, claim truckers.

Trucker woes

Truck driver Manickam from Chennai rues the lack of basic facilities on the highways. One cannot stop the truck on the highways and attend to urgent nature’s call. It can be dangerous and could lead to accidents. “We need more resting places. Nobody thinks of us and looks from our points of view. We are mostly dependent on the roadside dhabas that have poor facilities,” he adds.

Agreeing with Manickam, Vipul Bansal, Secretary, Bombay Goods Transport Association, says there is no facility on most of the highways even though huge amounts are spent on making roads. Petrol bunks are commercial establishments and have limited space. Dedicated parking facilities should be available, so that drivers can rest, if they are expected to drive eight hours. Else they will be only worried about the safety of their cargo or truck, he says.

Namakkal-based truck owner S P Mohan says that for every 50 kms, there should be a resting place with basic facilities for drivers. The truck lay bays mostly do not have toilet facilities. The available facilities are also not well maintained, he adds.

The All-India Transporters’ Welfare Association in a letter to Nitin Gadkari, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, said that during the pandemic times, when trucks got stranded and everything was closed, basic amenities infrastructure on highways was extremely poor.

In many truck parking areas, there was no provision for drinking water and the association had to arrange to send bottles of water for the stranded drivers who were giving SOS calls to the association’s helpline.

“Such issues truly make it difficult for our sector to attract new drivers and thus the ratio of drivers to trucks is reducing,” the association’s president Mahendra Arya, said.

Need for action

“We urge that these wayside amenities be audited thoroughly, and deficiencies be made good by the contractors. You will always be remembered for creating such a network of world-class highways. However, please do not let our country fall short of international standards when it comes to welfare of drivers on the whole grid,” he said.

“Lack of basic amenities for truck drivers on the highways is a serious issue and has been discussed for the last two decades,” said SP Singh, Senior Fellow and Co-ordinator, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT).

If toll, road cess and road tax is collected by the government, then the government is duty bound to have highway amenities for hapless truck drivers who work 24×7.

While the government spends 30 per cent of revenue collected from road transport and its welfare, the transporters hardly spend 2-3 percent of revenue on the welfare of truck and bus drivers. The truckers should also participate in providing basic facilities, he said.

A senior official of the National Highways disagrees with the allegations of the truckers. All the large petrol bunks have such facilities, and the drivers can use them. There are also resting places created on the highways, he adds.

Published on October 17, 2021

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