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Efficiency Necessity Of The Hour

by Raghuram

Posted on January 10, 2016 at 11:00 AM

Recently I have come across a white paper published in USA about Driver Hours and the resultant effect on the Transport sector and the economy on the whole. Whereas the West is considering how to increase the efficiency of the Driver Hours implementation, very sadly, in India The Motor Transport Workers Act, 1961 is a mere piece of legislation meant for the rule book.

The system is prevalent uniformly across the globe for the Aviation sector.

A crew has a fixed hours of duty time and within that a strict cap on flying hours per day per week per month per year and so on. There are specific regulatory authorities pertaining to this sector all over the world. In India it is DGCA which monitors the implementation of the regulations very strictly.

First of all, we do require such an exclusive independent authority for the updation of laws and its implementation in content and intention. Prior to that we must create an infrastructure which can assimilate the scientific growth of the surface transport industry in the country. It goes without saying that alongside the development of the highways and the new age vehicles the human resource need must be seriously answered.

In the West the legal limits for CMVs is pegged at 660 minutes or the 11 hours driving in a span of 24 hours. This component of driving limitations is supposed to be the key to increased driver utilization and optimization if one eliminates the impending obstacles and inefficiencies of the industry anywhere and more specifically In India. These can be broadly categorized into two. Government regulated agencies and the Industry induced unscientific parameters.

Whereas the umpteen number of Toll gates all over the highways and the corrupt and inhumane handling of them are on one side equally in competition is the corrupt police force exhorting money from the hapless drivers on some pretext or the other. Thereby it results in usurping the most perishable driver hours on a running clock and also weaning away the future crop of highway drivers indirectly.

Talk about the Industry. It is fragmented. 85% of the fleet is owned by the driver/owners who have one or a couple of trucks as their assets. They are too tiny and hence novices in the industry. Inept handlers of their resources as such, they are also very bad entrepreneurs. Resultant effect is the unproductive system which fails to see the larger picture.

Let us have a look at the prevailing working conditions of the highway drivers in India.

On our highways a long haul driver toils for 960 minutes or 16 hours on an average not because of a faulty regulation but more as a self-inflicted compulsion for survival or simply exploitation by the transporters.

In contrast 84o minutes or 14 hours are the mandatory limits in the USA. Similarly there is legal peg on the driving hours in the EU. These laws are followed in true spirit.

The average driver hours on Indian highways are 780 minutes or 13 hours compared to the 660 minutes or 11 hours as per FMCSA

There are regulatory provisions for a mandatory Rest period of 9 hours for a driver here than his counterpart governed by the DOT set rules which permits him 10 hours of rest before detailing him for the next trip.

Sleepers are a must in the long haul truck cabin in the West but our drivers uses a make shift sleeper in the cabin or takes a nap under their trucks! Without going deep into the details of the rules governing the highway drivers in the western countries one can see the utter contrast in the working conditions of our highway drivers.

Lack of proper toilets, resting places and absence of safety and security for the trucks and goods is quite common for the highway drivers. Coupled with other hardships on the highway, stress levels of the drivers are always high. Negative reaction for a stressed person is to opt for alcohol/drugs. Resultant effect is the higher percentage of accidents.

Another fallout of the negativities is the strong reluctance of the youth to get into this profession. So much so that even existing highway drivers are averse to the idea of initiating their wards into their own line of work.

There are ways and means to overcome the said problems provided the intentions are intended.

The Government and the stakeholders in co-ordination must create:

a. Onsite Driver Accommodation and Parking (close to the highways, truck Terminals and factory gates)

b. Creating positive conditions for drivers

c. Auto loading and offloading wherever possible to cut short the idle time of drives.

d. Working with Carriers to generate more efficient network

e. Transporters/Shippers must ensure prompt payment terms.

f. Minimizing excess time spent off the road and thereby increasing driver hours.

g. A platform for easy accessibility and transparency for consignees, consignors and transporters thereby reducing the dependency on the middle men.

h. Eliminate if not totally eradicate the corrupt practices of the Toll gate/ police officials. Best would be to make the Indian highways Toll Gate free. Upcoming GST will pave the way in a big way.

Once these minimum requirements are fulfilled, the next step would be to bring in an independent nodal agency to formulate and oversee implementation of regularized duty time limitations for a healthy growth of the whole industry.

We have to accept that we lack global standard road safety laws. Recently Union Transport minister, Mr.Nitin Gadkari had made the statement “committed to the world road safety summit to strengthen the laws and norms to cut road deaths by 50% by 2020”. Are we serious?

The growing economy of the nation demands growing need for driver numbers. As per the figures available we have a shortage of around 25% of drivers. As a good number of drivers falling in the senior age group are about to say good bye to the profession, the problem is bound to get accentuated. Introduction of two driver norm should soon become a must in view of the intended safety norms. The only answer to the problem is to induce fresh workforce towards this profession lest the transport industry will be left in a lurch. Efficiency is the need of the hour. It is time for action and not only verbal assurances and false promises.

Finally coming to the TM angle we must interact with the transporters and their Shippers to highlight the precarious situation and the need to groom the existing drivers. Finding innovate ways to induce fresh professionals and imparting formal training should be the sole responsibility of the big Auto mobile companies and the Supply chain groups. We at TM must drive the point into the stake holder's minds that it is going to be a win-win situation for them and the drivers alike. We at TM must take the role of an efficient service provider and thus create a healthy atmosphere in the Industry.

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