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SUNDAY MUSINGS

by Ramesh

Posted on Sept 03, 2017 at 11:30 AM

In any week, I receive a dozen telephone calls from long haul truck drivers across India.

Yes, it is a cribbing session against all and sundry. Forget about the highway bureaucracy which they know they cannot do anything. But what bugs them the most is the "callous attitude" of their immediate supervisors in companies whose trucks they ply.

These harried drivers have no access to their top bosses, though many motor maliks boast of how their drivers reach out to them when necessary. Half truth.

Actually, there is a systematic loot happening at the lower and middle management level of many transport companies. Motor maliks are certainly aware, but turn a blind eye. Because they firmly believe the driver fraternity is out "to screw them" and a bit of riff-raff between the lower rung and drivers is not to be abolished! Strange logic.

Outwardly, these motor maliks would say a lot of goody goody things, but there is little genuine concern for them. Lot of mutual distrust. Of course, there are exceptions. Unfortunately, these numbers are miniscule.

Not that drivers are angels. Like some motor maliks, there is a sizeable chunk of crooks among drivers as well.

How to resolve this eternal conflict between drivers and owners in their mutual interest?

Simple. Communicate. Regularly. Discipline the lower and middle management.

When we say the government is corrupt, we don't mean PM or CM or any Minister or IAS official is corrupt. Because we have actually no access to them. But when the interface with the government at the clerical level, traffic police level is corrupt, it is automatically extrapolated to the top brass.

The same logic holds good in this classic, yet to be resolved, but curable drivers versus owners battle. Yes, it is not a full fledged war, yet. However, drivers are stamping their foot down by reducing their supply, giving sleepless nights to heavily invested motor maliks.

Owners have to open up communication channels at the lowest denominator level. Meet and greet drivers like they meet their fellow drinking buddies at spacious drawing rooms or elite clubs or five star hotels or farm houses. (Most of them drink, imported stuff!). While they invested capital, it is the labor - read drivers - who pilot these costly vehicles and turn them into a money making machine and fill up the coffers from day one. So, there be an element of thanks giving. In the form of talking to these wealth-enablers, as a basic courtesy.

Where? Anywhere and everywhere.

Like Century Cargo Amit Gupta did a few weeks ago by visiting Mewat/Haryana from where his entire driver clan comes from. He literally got out of his airconditioned Mumbai office for the first time. Or for that matter, Kamal Dogra of Dogra Group of Companies from Ahmedabad truck tripped with his chassis jockeys to Bangaluru from Chennai and later paid a visit to one of his deceased driver's family to promise to underwrite the future of orphaned two kids for their education and job recently. A promise for next 15 years at least.

Am sure many maliks might be extending such courtesies. Again this numbers will be nothing to gloat.

Communication is essential. At regular intervals. Doable. Does not cost a dime. Or it does. But that will be a drop in the ocean.

Funny, yet it is true. Motor maliks are equally nomadics. Like their drivers. No, they don't drive trucks. But they fly to the doors of potential customers "building relationship" to further business regularly.

Again, the less said about the corruption at the logistics division of many corporate, who actually dish out favors to transporters, the better. "You take care of me, I will ensure your prosperity" types by quick or out of turn allotment of load, and quicker clearance of invoices. Motor maliks, obviously, oblige. All in the "interest of furthering business".

Okay, relationship built with OEMs. Arms and palms of logistics teams greased. When it comes to drivers who complete this circle of wealth creation, the performance of motor maliks is dismal.

This must change.

I say this for a personal reason. If drivers feel happy, my incoming calls from aggrieved drivers will vanish. It will be a good sign that trust deficit between these segments has been bridged. Good for drivers. Good for motor maliks. Good for the economy.

The earlier this happens via the simple route of communication, my role as the "wailing wall" will go away. And I can quietly retire.Help me, please!


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