Truck manufacturers & owners seek more time to modify their vehicles and get the necessary tests and approvals completed.
In November last year, the central government had passed a regulation that aimed at making all vehicles that fall in the N2 or N3 category (commercial trucks) to be equipped with air conditioned cabins from April 1, 2017. The same date was also set as a deadline, over two years ago, for all truck manufacturers to get their products aligned with the BS-IV emission norms. While making trucks BS-IV compliant is well on course, the central government has now extended the deadline for mandatory AC truck cabins to December 31, 2017.
The government is of the opinion that introducing air conditioned cabins will bring down the number of road accidents by a huge margin. Its main argument was that it will help drivers to become a lot more attentive during non-stop driving stints, which at times extend up to 12 hours a day.
However, SIAM (Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers) and officials from the truck industry said that this policy needs to be put on hold for two reasons. One, there isn’t enough time for the automakers to structurally modify their offerings to accommodate the air conditioning system, which will further require assessments, tests and approvals from governing bodies. Two, even if there is AC present in cabins, which a number of products from manufacturers like Tata Motors already offer, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the driver will be allowed to use it. Air conditioning will make use of more fuel and hence the mileage is bound to drop, which is something that the truck owner cannot afford over long runs.
SIAM has also argued that installing ACs is more of a comfort issue. If the government wants to curb the issue of casualties on roads, it needs to work on regulations to ensure that truck drivers don’t work more than eight hours at a stretch without taking a proper break.
It seems that the complexities of approvals, research and development, and value for money proposition won’t allow automakers to meet the extended deadline either. Will the government extend the deadline further or eradicate this mandatory policy altogether? Only time will tell.