Monday, March 8, 2010

Indian Truckers Threaten Subcontinent's Freight and Logistics

Strike Action Warning over Diesel Prices and Road Tolls
Shipping News Feature

INDIA – In a move that reveals the depth of frustration that Indian haulage drivers are feeling at the failure of the Indian government to deliver on previous promises to help their industry, the president of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AITMC), G. R. Shanmugappa, has threatened to call all of their members trucks’ out of service on the 5th of April unless a number of issues of concern are addressed by the 31st of March.

As the AITMC claim that six million vehicles will respond to their call, and with road haulage transporting approximately 65% of India’s freight, the strike threatens to be immensely disruptive to the nation’s trade and commerce.

The heart of the dispute is taxation, with a recent increase in the duty on diesel looking to be the proverbial ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’. The increase is described by the AITMC as “abnormal, unbearable and intolerable, which will further deteriorate the already dwindling condition of the Truckers.”

The AITMC went on to say that: “More than 85% of the trucking community constitutes owners with one or two trucks who are trying to survive in the present highly inflationary and competitive environment. The Government is well aware that when the vehicles of poor truckers are seized by bank officials because of non-payment many have taken the extreme step of committing suicide.

“God knows what impact this increase will have on those poor truckers, who are finding it hard to arrange even a square meal!”

The AITMC is also arguing that the current fees that hauliers pay in road tolls is also unfair and disproportionate, arguing that by already paying a multitude of taxes and permit fees the road haulage industry has already more than paid its fair share for road construction and maintenance.

Combined with this is a great deal of anger that previous promises by the Indian government to deliver a ‘New National Permit Scheme’ by the 1st of January this year, which they agreed to in February 2009 to resolve a dispute with the truckers, have apparently not come close to implementation.

This would have seen a single payment made of 15000 rupees (Rs)/per annum for a single, nationwide road permit instead of truckers having to have individual state permits which cost Rs5000 each.

Summing up on the failed promises the AIMTC said: “In the last nationwide bandh (strike) from January 5, 2009 to January 12, 2009 the economy suffered heavy losses. To resolve the impasse then our Honorable Prime Minister had intervened on the subject and assured to resolve all our grievances.

“But these are still pending and we are very aggrieved by it. It is getting very tough for the transporters to make their business economically viable, with no alternative in sight.

“Therefore, if our demands are not addressed by the Government before March 31, 2010, we will be left with no alternative but to take action from midnight of April 5, 2010.”