Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed a 21-day nationwide lockdown on March 24. Since then the transport services sector has paid a heavy price. There have been reports of a lot of truck drivers being stranded on highways. The drivers have now abandoned their vehicles on the highways as transportation has been restricted to just essentials.
How long will the lockdown impact the industry and is there a resolution in sight are the big questions facing the industry.
Vineet Agarwal, MD, Transport Corporation of India (TCI) said that the trucks have still not started moving. “The kind of movement currently would be at 5-7 percent. Basically, the trucks that were on the road before the lockdown have started to move now to reach their destination. But, there is no labour that is available at the factories to unload these trucks,"he said, adding that even if the trucks reach the destinations, they cannot unload.
“There are a lot of issues -at the local level we are still seeing that there is resistance to even let our people to go and get passes or the local authorities understanding that the transportation is very essential,” he added.
However, the rail side is doing better as compared to movement on roads, said Agarwal. “We also operate on the rail and sea side. The rail side domestic movement has been happening and that is very positive. In fact it has been faster since there are no passenger trains running,” he added.
“On the sea side, we operate on the coastal shipping side and that too is working well. Of course there is congestion at the ports, the evacuation of containers are not happening at the usual pace but work has certainly started,” he added.
Kultaran Singh Aitwal of All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) said that the overall situation is not good. There is no shortage of trucks but there is a shortage of drivers.
“In the coming times there could be shortage of essential goods because so many drivers have left their trucks. Many drivers did not have food or water for a lot of days and so they left the trucks to return home,” he said.
“About 50-60 percent drivers have left for their home, while 40-45 percent are still there and if they are available, then we can supply easily. 40-45 percent of drivers would be enough for essential goods,” said Aitwal.