Problems Truck Drivers Face in India
Published On Nov 30, 2016
"It was a hot summer day, the traffic was moving at a snail's pace. People inside their air-conditioned cars had very little idea of the grilling heat the sun was emitting. Thanks to people honking impatiently, roads were slowly turning deaf. A whole fleet of vehicles, including trucks, was waiting for the lights to turn green. People were hurling threats and abuses at truck drivers. The scene was nothing short of a war, a war that was being fought with words and gestures filled with hatred for truck drivers. People clearly had no idea about trucks not having air-conditioning.
Perhaps, nobody abusing truck drivers knew that the drivers were not only bearing the heat from above, but also from underneath as they were sitting just above the boiling engines. In fact, the circumstances were way scary and difficult for the truck drivers than anybody else on the road. All that people seemed to care about was to blame someone for the mess, and these poor truckers appeared to be the perfect targets."
It is very easy to find people who believe that individuals with no particular skills take up truck driving. The society has generalised truck drivers to be outlaws, school dropouts and much more. Something more important the same society forgets is the effort these ‘generalised’ truck drivers put in to make sure that essential commodities are delivered to all the corners in the country. History TV's Ice Road Truckers is a testament to hardships faced by truck drivers on the move.
The Government of India has recently amended the 1988 Motor Vehicles Act, and through it, has made air-conditioning a mandate in the trucks that will be sold on or after April 1, 2017. Truck drivers across the country have got a reason to rejoice, but is the mandate all that was really required? Making it mandatory for CV manufacturers to develop and sell trucks with ACs does solve a problem, but there is a Pandora’s Box full of challenges waiting to be opened. Let's look at what truck drivers really go through:
There is no denying the fact that money plays an important role in making both ends meet and its significance grows when you are travelling. Expenses made on food, clothing and other essentials grow. But what if you are on the move constantly and are paid peanuts for the job?
INR 30k to 40k is the maximum a truck driver earns in the country. The package looks handsome at first glance, but take into account days and nights of driving away from home, spending more and more on food etc, and the money would automatically shrink to single digits. This is what many people driving trucks in India go through. They work and sacrifice, just because they want both the ends to meet!
No Fixed Working Hours
Most of the organizations in our country have a general shift of nine hours. Employees are paid more for the extra hours they put in for work. Working on holidays is compensated in terms of handsome benefits. All in all, people work 'extra' for that 'extra purse' they get in return. Is it possible to say the same about the truck driving community in India?
Obviously not! Truckers in the country drive day and night. They do not have specified work hours as they get paid by the kilometres and not by the hours. Situations many a times require truck drivers to drive for more than 10 hours in a row. The worst part is the plain truth that they can't even complain, deliveries have to be made in time no matter what. Think of the physical exaggeration and mental stress they go through. No wonder many of them appear frustrated at times!
India is one of the few countries in the world to be blessed with all types of weather. People from desert regions visit places with snow, those from rainy parts travel to enjoy the dry ones, but this blessing turns into a nightmare for truck drivers. Indian weather conditions worsen driving standards on already dangerous roads. Extreme rain, excess sun, freezing cold are all enemies of people from the truck driving fraternity. No air-conditioning in the cabins further aggravates the situation. Barring a few times, truck drivers are either left facing sub-zero temperatures, above 45 degrees heat, dense fog or pouring rains. Driving in such adverse weather can be called adventurous, when not done on a regular basis!
Yeah, we all know what we are going to mention here, or do we? The first impression we assume of dangerous roads includes pot holes and rash driving, but wait, that's not all. You have got to watch the current season of Ice Road Truckers in India or read what Sangram Singh thinks about truck driving. The show has the capability of changing the way you think or look at truck driving. It is quite exclamatory to see people drive trucks on roads which at times appear smaller for cars. Yes, Indian truck drivers do that just to make sure that people living in remote areas get their share of commodities.
No Proper Pit Stops
Nothing's better than crashing on a soft bed placed in the warmth of four walls we call home, at the end of a day. The fact is, a lot of truck drivers don't get that pleasure. Many times, all they get is a khaat (cot made of bamboo and ropes) or the driver's cabin to rest.
Our country has a poor infrastructure when it comes to pit stops for truck drivers. The places that can be termed good, are either expensive or are not located on the highways. All that truck drivers get during travels are dhabas that serve spicy food along with cots for sleeping. Eating spicy food over a long period of time can severely impact the mechanism our body functions on. In addition, lack of proper rest only adds to the misery.
This is an issue of debate for many. We see overloading as something truck drivers do on purpose to increase their profits. But the reality is far from what meets the eye. The gravity of the situation lies in the fact that many truck drivers are merely workers employed by fleet owners, and all they do is follow commands. Now, if a fleet owner asks a truck driver to transports goods via an overloaded truck, there is not much a driver can do. Additionally, drivers with their own trucks find themselves in situations where the agency hiring them for a particular assignment requires them to deliver the complete load in one cycle.
Overloading is dangerous as it increases the probability of the truck going out of balance and meeting a fatal accident. It is not just the lives of drivers which is at stake but also the lives of other people on the road who might get potentially harmed.
Earned leaves, annual leaves, sick leaves, etc. are some of the perks of working in the organized sector. People have the privilege of easily applying for leaves the instant they presume they are going to fall sick. But the story in Indian trucking industry is completely different. Many truck drivers literally have to beg for leaves, which are also unpaid. Now add the retirement fund that you have been working on in the form of PF for a better life after 65. Truck drivers do not get that privilege as well.
Now that we have accustomed you to some of the challenges that truck drivers in the country face, we request you to be respectful towards them. Remember they are people like us who work around the clock to ensure that the food we eat and clothes we wear are delivered on time, every time.