A simple case study of the logistics industry can reveal how it functions on uncoordinated set-pieces that cause inefficiencies and disparity in functioning. But, the industry has also been suffering from a shortage of truck drivers. What is causing this shortage and why are even existing truck drivers leaving the industry? The answer to this question is rather simple: a truck drivers’ life is traditionally marred with inconveniences, miserable facilities, and absence of any regulations.
The issues are one too many, and little has been done in the past to sort them out. Let us just have a look at some of the prevalent problems faced by the truck drivers that all of us can agree on:
Poor Vehicle Maintenance & Upkeep
The biggest problem for Indian truck drivers is the miserable condition of the trucks. Most transporters have a very short-term vision and hence look to get every single penny out of their investments. Hence, trucks remain in service for a considerably longer period of time and the driver’s comfort is neglected. In the race to transport maximum freight with minimum costs, owners seldom take care of the condition of the truck(s).
The Condition of Highways & Roads
India has a network of over 90,000 kms of National Highways, but that number hardly clarifies the bigger picture and the state that they are in. With poorly maintained highways and worse conditions of state roads, it has become imperative for the NHAI to push for the overhaul of its maintenance efforts. In fact, the National Highways are just the tip of the iceberg, and the interiors of the countries have roads that can hardly be termed ‘comfortable’ for driving. Not only do these cause delays, but are also responsible for breakdowns of trucks in certain circumstances; thus making life even more difficult for the truckers.
Lack of Pit Stops, Poor Sanitation Options
Throughout the country, the only option to rest, for highway travelers and truck drivers alike, are the roadside dhabas. These dhabas serve as the pit-stop for rest and/or for sanitation. With no regulatory authority to look into this issue or to help set-up an alternative, there is no solution in sight either.
Lack of Tech-literacy
Whether we talk about truck drivers or very small transporters, the level of awareness for using technology is simply lacking. With the industry trying to adopt types of technologies prevalent in the west, this can prove to be a big hurdle and in fact, drivers who are now exposed to tech are already left feeling confused. Even after the boost in internet penetration and smartphone usage, the technological awareness of truck drivers has largely remained untouched.
Theft & Material Security
Commercially, innumerable consignments of valuable freight is moved across India every day. On certain routes, there is always a lurking threat to the security of the freight. This factor is specifically significant on certain routes which are not as ‘safe’ for transit due to which robbery and/or theft can occur.
Lack of Social Security & No Standardization of Remuneration
The truck driver community has long suffered in oblivion and has largely been ignored. Not only do the drivers have to comply with tight deadlines while being away from their families, but they also have to wait for days in one go because of the lack of freight consignments. Drivers in India are mostly paid on the basis of the number of kilometers that they run their vehicle. A constant income source, therefore, is not always functional. This prevents them from being financially independent. This is also the reason why they cannot afford to not accept a consignment even when the route is unfavourable. On the other hand, standardization of remuneration is purely lacking in the industry as different transport companies offer randomized paycheques.
Problems with the Authorities
During the transit of freight across various states in India, truck drivers have to cross several checkposts when entering and/or crossing states/UTs. At these checkpoints, the authorities can be particularly discriminatory in certain cases and this isn’t helped by the fact that corruption is prevalent as well. Since the drivers are the ones at the ground level executing the transit, harassment by the authorities is a regular issue that they have to deal with. There is a major disparity in the laws of various states. If the driver or the transport company is unaware of even one state-specific law, the authorities have enough leverage to haggle with them while stopping the freight movement altogether.
The above are just some of the challenges faced by the truck drivers in the country. Recently though, the industry has started realizing these aspects to an extent and there are some steps in the right direction that might improve the conditions for drivers. How much effective these steps are proving to be and how much they can change the lives of the truck drivers’ community, is a point of discussion for another blog post.
At Quikhop, we have assessed and are constantly understanding the concerns of the truck drivers in India. Only collective efforts in the sector can ensure significant improvements in the lives of the truck drivers who are the ‘driving’ force of the transport logistics sector.