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Trucking sector in Kerala seeks more focus

Our Bureau Kochi | Updated on July 08, 2018 Published on July 08, 2018

Panellists discussing the Road Ahead for the trucking sector in Kochi on Friday. (from left ) Nipun Jain, Tomy Thomas, Vinson Kurian (moderator), VM Hari Kumar and PP Chacko   -  Thulasi Kakkat

Truckers in Kerala want the State government to give their sector the importance it deserves. They see a bumpy road ahead with a number of issues ranging from congestion on highways, to a disadvantageous tax structure and shortage of crew to delays at toll plazas.

The truckers voiced their concerns at a panel discussion organised by BusinessLine in association with Indian Oil Corporation and YES Bank on ‘The Road Ahead’ as part of a Transporters Meet held here on Friday.

 

‘Unscientific’ tax structure

Chacko PP, President, All Kerala Tanker Lorry Owners Association, was critical of the unscientific road tax structure in Kerala and pointed out that the State government was not giving the tanker sector the attention it deserved.

The road tax collected for a 25-tonne capacity vehicle in Tamil Nadu is ₹4,700 per quarter, while it was ₹12,190 in Kerala, including a welfare tax. For higher-capacity vehicles, the rates in Tamil Nadu are ₹5,700, while Kerala collects ₹18,990. Rates in Karnataka are also competitive when compared to Kerala.

Terming the inordinate delays at toll plazas a “stumbling block,” Tomy Thomas, Secretary of the Cochin Container Carrier Owners Welfare Association, requested the authorities to beef up staff at toll booths. A separate passage for cargo-laden vehicles — similar to the Green Channels at check posts — could expedite timely delivery.

Toll plaza woes

Citing the unreasonable increase in toll rates incurring additional expenses to the sector, he pointed out that the hike in third-party insurance premium added to the woes, rendering the sector uncompetitive. Today, the industry margin is dependent on the load and type of business, he said. Absence of service roads in several stretches of the National Highways and haphazard parking posed problems to the trailer crew.

VM Hari Kumar, DGM (Retail Sales), Indian Oil Corporation, said a network of retail outlets of international standards in every 50 km is being implemented featuring facilities such as retiring rooms for the crew and toilets. It has already opened 76 such facilities across the highways, which are being manned by Kudumbashree — a women-empowerment project by the State government.

Availability of land has restricted expansion plans and the company feels that Kerala needs a special strategy here. The company is also exploring the possibilities of transporting petroleum products through the National Waterways No:3 as part of the programme taken up by the State government to decongest the highways.

Truck financing

Nipun Jain, National Head, Commercial Retail Lending, YES Bank, said the prospects of the commercial vehicle segment looks bullish, thanks to associated infrastructure development. The emerging situation has emboldened truck operators to ramp up capacity to meet the growing demand. Moreover, small operators, who have a space of their own, are able to scale up their business. Bringing fuel under GST could facilitate this transition faster.

Truck financing has become an easy proposition these days and YES Bank has fine-tuned its products giving due deference to the track record of companies. The response has been good as is evident from the growth in volumes in the number of units sold, at 50 per cent, during the first quarter of this financial year. “We also have one of the lowest default ratios,” Jain added.

Vinson Kurian, Deputy Editor, BusinessLine, moderated the event.

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Published on July 08, 2018
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