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Truckers' Union offers to move oxygen for free in trucks

Mamuni Das New Delhi | Updated on April 25, 2021

AIMTC is trying its best to maintain a supply chain of oxygen by deploying drivers and stand-by drivers across the country to ensure optimum usage of the existing fleet by road, rail and air R_V_Moorthy

Started doing this in cities in Maharashtra

All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), the truckers transport union, has offered to provide trucks for moving oxygen free of cost to various places in the country, Bal Malkit Singh, Chairman of Core Committee, AIMTC, told BusinessLine. It has already started doing so in a few cities in Maharashtra like Mumbai, Nashik and Nagpur.

In Nashik, AIMTC has set aside 200 trucks to move oxygen cylinders – from depots to smaller hospitals in the local areas, Sachin Jadhav, District President from AIMTC, told BusinessLine. This will take care of the last mile delivery. Large volumes of oxygen were delivered to the depots in Nashik by trains, from where large tankers can directly go to hospitals, but smaller hospitals require smaller cylinders, explained Jadhav.

Delhi, which had approached Indian Railways to get oxygen for the state, was trying to arrange oxygen trucks, it is understood. BusinessLine could not independently verify this. In its proposal, Delhi had asked railways to load Liquid Medical Oxygen from nine locations, of which Railways has found seven locations feasible. Railways had asked Railways to arrange tankers and place an indent with Railways.

For quicker transportation, empty oxygen tankers from Hyderabad were airlifted to Odisha. AIMTC is trying its best to maintain supply chain of oxygen round the clock by deploying drivers and stand by drivers across the country to ensure optimum usage of existing fleet by road, rail and air, said Singh.

India has 1000 such tankers in the country. Nitrogen tankers have been converted to oxygen tankers (a process quicker than procuring tankers) to increase overall capacity, said Singh. These tankers are expensive and take time as the manufacturers have to fabricate. Each of these costs about Rs 65-70 lakh, he said.

Storage and transportation of oxygen is becoming a challenge. “The delay in transportation of oxygen to dealers, conversion into cylinders and supply to hospitals can get longer if a tiny link the supply chain falters,” said Singh. Technical knowledge is essential to prevent handle the cargo and to prevent mishandling and wastage of precious oxygen.

Meanwhile, Railways, which has delivered medical oxygen through trains of Indian Army to places in Maharashtra and UP so far, said on Sunday that another Oxygen Express carrying three liquid medical oxygen tankers is planned on Sunday (April 25) from Rajkot Division to Kalamboli in Maharashtra. The oxygen tankers are supplied by Reliance Industries, Jamnagar.

Also, the drivers who are at risk, have sought Covid-19 insurance and frontline worker status for vaccination as a large chunk of the workers are below 45, said Singh. "Having vaccination camps at transport depots will help," said Singh.

The AIMTC President Kultaran Singh Atwal added that their members will also try to provide other services including a network of warehouses for storing medicines and Covid-19 related relief material, among others. 

In another move, SP Singh. Senior Fellow, Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training (IFTRT), said the Petroleum Explosives and Safety Organisation has permitted use of nitrogen, argon, helium and industrial oxygen cylinders to be used for medical oxygen, a move that will expand the pool of vehicles that can be used to transport oxygen. However, CNG vehicles cannot be used for such movement -- something that could have significantly widened the pool for carrying oxygen, said IFTRT's Singh. 

IFTRT, which welcomed the AIMTC move to carry oxygen for free, however, said several large tankers can cost much higher -- from Rs 70 lakh to Rs 1.3 crore.  So, many truck operators who have to repay their loans will rather offer trucks on a no-profit basis. Taking into account the pool of newer kind of vehicles permitted, IFTRT said there would be about 1,700 such tankers, most of which are already engaged. 

Published on April 25, 2021

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