Posted on Sept 21, 2016 at 10:25 AM
Sprawling yard full of container trucks, each displaying the name BEST Roadways proudly. Typical of any big workshop, the BEST Hub near Bawal in Haryana – pitched right on the edges of National Highway 8 – liking Delhi with Jaipur - was reverberating with sounds of machine and the whirr of engines from the big trucks. The team of TransportMitra & Pixel Health had a date with the soldiers of the highway at this spot.
Changing mindsets of the transport industry stakeholders is surely showing up in attempting for an inclusive growth. Growing number of transporters and logistic honchos are coming to terms that no more it is possible to sustain the growth of their empire by excluding or ignoring the most important constituent of their industry viz., the drivers. This being so for the transport industry in general, it is heartwarming to notice the heads of the organization taking up the issue with full involvement and eager to upgrade the safety, health and life skills of their highway drivers. Sitting through the entire session with an analytical mind towards the content and an honest openness to understand the nitty gritty of the nomad clan needs an equally honest appreciation.
Typically shy and introvert, a driver, needs some real cajoling to come out of his cocoon. But once out in the open and inhibitions shed, one could find a logical person (if you could overlook his foul language!) full of real life solutions. Your unassuming interaction with them will prove beyond doubt that the non-descriptive driver is no less than anyone of us but for the lack of right opportunities.
TransportMitra’s primary aim was to bring an awareness among BEST Drivers. The group of trainees were a mix of senior and junior drivers. A question posed to them elicited the same reply from all irrespective of their seniority, age, region or religion. You must be wondering as to what brought the entire community on a single platform. Well, you don’t need to strain your imagination. None want their wards to be a driver. Not a career option at all.
Such is the state of the driving profession in India that a driver and more specifically that of a highway tribe dreads to induct his kith and kin into a profession the blues of which have a left a deep scar into their psyche. Where the responsibility rests? The society they live in, the transport industry that they work for and most importantly they themselves.
Grooming to look better. Acha dikhne me bura kya hai An awareness campaign has to be developed among the highway driver fraternity is the need of the hour. And that too it has to be administered like sugar-coated pills lest the internally bleeding brethren will not bite the bait. A bait for the betterment of their gait. Over the years I have learnt a lesson from these training interactions. If one intends to touch the mind, go through their hearts. Connect the issue to their sentimental psyche to gain an impact. Success of message is sure and that too with a lasting effect.
Next important factor for a highway driver is food. Food that is affordable and healthy. Food that needs to be consumed more and the food that should be avoided. A run through the advantages of including fruits, inexpensive seasonal local fruits and intake of more water daily was well received by the drivers - seniors and juniors alike. Cut short on tea and use the money for fruits was the cost mantra. Simple economic formula of reallocation of available resources. Not a penny more, not a penny less.
Safety was our next agenda of Smart Driver Programme for BEST drivers. While talking about safety to the highway chalaks, it should include all the three aspects viz., vehicle, cargo and themselves. More or less, drivers carry out a mechanical check of their truck either themselves or through their assistants just before the trip. These checks should be more organized in the form of pre trip checklist. A Standard Operation Process has to have uniform implementation.
To start with at least in the Company that they work for should have a monitoring system for and by the drivers themselves. They are efficient no doubt but the efficiency should be across the board. Similarly, SOPs for Trip Papers including driver-related, insurance-related and personal health-related must have to be standardized for better safety. A point well taken but for an open question as to who will bell the cat? It should be in close coordination with the Chalaks and the Malaks that a system could be created which will be effective, acceptable to both sides and long lasting too.
While talking about the safety a very sensitive personal safety point was raised in a hush hush voice. You got it right. Protection from leaks of highway rendezvous. An outcome of being denied sexual need by remaining out of home for months together.
We had, accompanying with us, our Medical team too. They guided them through, out of their apprehensions. Forthright advice was to use the condom for their personal leaks while with the sex workers rather than using it to stop the fuel leak of their truck pipes.
Highway drivers social and professional stature has to increase and for that a push from the stakeholders of the industry is inevitable. This is a segment which needs constant prodding, cajoling and guiding. End result will not only be beneficial to the individual driver but also will be more conducive to the concerned employer and the transport industry on the whole. All said and done, any visible behavioural changes can be brought about in individuals by sustained efforts. A one day musing may be considered only as a first step and of course a step in the right direction towards bringing in the change. Well, Rome wasn't built in a day!