Only 5 per cent of around 90 lakh trucks across India are plying on the roads at the moment due to shortage of drivers and labourers at loading and unloading points following the nationwide lockdown, thereby severely hampering transportation of goods, according to truckers body AIMTC. The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) said even after the notification by Union Home Ministry on Sunday allowing movement of non-essential goods during the lockdown, things have not changed at the ground level as many drivers have either abandoned trucks and went to native places, or have moved to stay put at places where basic amenities like food and shelter are available.
"There are around 90 lakh commercial vehicles that we represent all across the country with 3,500 state, district and taluka level bodies affiliated with us... What we feel is that only around 5 per cent of them are operating now. These are mainly LPG and other petroleum products carriers and short distance milk tankers," AIMTC Chairman Core Committee and former president Bal Malkit Singh told PTI.
He further said vegetable and fruits that are available in the market now transported by farmers through their own means. Singh said before the nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24, there was already partial lockdown as some states have already sealed borders and lakhs of trucks were stranded.
"When lockdown was announced, there was a panic situation among drivers fraternity across the country. As a result many drivers abandoned vehicles and went to their native places. Some headed to safer places where basic amenities like food and shelter are available and they don''t want to come on the highways at the moment as there are no ''dhabas'' or eateries available now," he said.
Apart from driver issues, Singh said labour availability is also a big challenge that is also hampering logistics operations in the country.
"Truck owners are at home, offices are closed, staff are at home, garages are closed and labourers are not available at loading and unloading points," he said. Singh further said, "in the logistics supply chain, huge manpower is involved. At loading point you need supervisor who would do documentation but with no public transportation available he can''t go to loading points at the moment."
Besides, he said,"There is also a huge fear factor as staff are unwilling to come out due to coronavirus, and the same is also with drivers."
"We have suggested that people who are involved in supply chain must also be given the Rs 50 lakh insurance cover that government has announced for frontline health workers during these trying circumstances. If that happens it can be an incentive for them to come out," Singh said. Moreover, trucks should also be sanitised at every 200 kilomtres and drivers health checked before entering from one state border to another, he added.
When asked if things could improve with government interventions, like the home ministry order allowing movement of non-essential goods, he said, "we will have to wait and watch, but the fact is drivers are also human and they are fearful of coronavirus outbreak."
Many FMCG companies like ITC, Dabur India, Parle Products, Godrej Consumer Products and Jyothi Labs had said that due to trucks shortage transportation of their goods have been affected during the lockdown which has been imposed to curb spread of coronavirus pandemic.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)