When eight bells toll
A good eight days worth of business was lost as an estimated 93 lakh transporters grounded their trucks in protest. It will take an amount of time and money until the transporters get down to doing business and compensate for the days and business lost by their clients. Trucks rentals continue to be on the higher side. To fulfil their commitments towards the clients, higher rentals mean fleet operators (and truckers) are paying from their pockets. I remember asking an industry leader about freight rates not rising in proportion to the rise in fuel prices, which account for the biggest chunk of the operating costs a trucker encounters, and his answer was simple – that they will rise. Since then the fuel prices have continued to be almost at the same level. There are other costs that have been rising. Freight rates are however yet to rise as much. Talks with the insurance authority may have begun, the results of the process that may follow are not clear yet, or if there will be any results at all is not clear yet. The cascading effect of the strike has led to a steep hike in market hiring costs. The strike, which many transporters have come to refer to as a ‘chaka-jaam’, does not seem to have clearly yielded a positive outcome on the count of harrasment by the regional authorities who strike under the guise of ‘flying squads’ or are still found at the state borders. The time spent dealing with them and at the toll booths is significant. It is threatening to neutralise the efficiency benefits assured by GST and the e-way bill.
A picture is emerging from within the transport industry where the big fish are rendering the small fish vulnerable. There is a section in the industry that feels that time should be given to the government to resolve the issues they face. There is the other part that questions why it has taken so long for the government to respond? The fact is, it is not as simple as it may look. New regulations like axle norms and extension of fitness certificate to two years are good to talk about Their implementation is however going to be a daunting task. There are many stakeholders involved. A big question is whether the implementation of axle norms should be left with the regional authorities to determine or a finely engineered certification and validation process should be put in place? This would serve existing as well as new CVs; their buyers as well as their manufacturers. It needs to be understood that announcing a date of implementation is easier than putting in place a framework that will fuel clarity of purpose and make it easy to achieve the results.