As demand for trucks is in a recovery mode with the economy picking up after the Covid pandemic, the continuous diesel price hike for the 11th day in a row on Sunday has put truckers on a backfoot. The hike has severely affected the fraternity, especially single vehicle owners.

In 2020 July, the government had increased the fuel price for nine days in a row. After a freeze of 137 days, the government on March 22 started increasing the diesel price again, which has gone up by over ₹6 a litre so far. This hurts truck operators as diesel accounts for over 60 per cent of the vehicle’s running cost.

“Anger and frustration are sweeping across the transport fraternity as they feel the heat of continuous diesel price hikes for the last 11 days,” said Kultaran Singh Atwal, President, All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the apex body of transporters (both cargo and passenger segments) representing the interests of about 2 crore truckers.

The transport operations are getting costlier and the hike will further give impetus to inflation getting out of control. “AIMTC is approaching the government and asking it to control the fuel price escalation as it did during the election times,” he said.

Russian crude

The government is getting cheap crude from Russia and therefore an increase in fuel prices could be controlled to ease inflationary pressure on the common man's household budget, he said. “We suggest that the Centre should consider cutting down the excise duty and the State governments should reduce their VAT to provide relief,” he added.

The entire industry is getting affected by this increase, said Sundararaj Ponnusamy, Advisor of the Bengaluru-based South zone Motors Transporters Welfare Association. The increase in crude oil price and increase in dollar price against Indian rupee value is quoted as a reason for the increase in diesel price. “However, the government has the option of reducing the excise duty cess and maintaining the fuel price,” he said.

Planning ahead

Increasing the fuel price on a daily basis is badly affecting small operators, who constitute the majority of the truck industry. If a truck is carrying goods from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, the fuel price is fixed at the start of the trip but the price increase enroute leads to heavy loss for operators as they cannot plan the cost for the entire trip, he said.

Instead of increasing the fuel price on a daily basis, the government should consider doing it once every three months. This would help in better planning, he added.

Despite the increase in fuel price, clients are not willing to share the additional burden, said Senthilkumar, President, Pondicherry Lorry Owners' Association.