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Old 3rd March 2018, 21:11   #1
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Default The plight of Indian Truckers

Is trucking a menial job ? No way man. It requires a lot of hard-work, determination, patience and perseverance to survive the life of a trucker. The life of a long-distance trucker in India is a daring adventure in more ways than one. Yet no one willingly becomes a trucker these days. In fact, the trucking industry in India is facing acute shortage of drivers. In India, there prevails a social stigma among the educated folks to take up certain jobs, such as agriculture labour, construction labour, sanitation labour and the like. Trucking is one among them. On one hand we have a large pool of unemployed college degree holders (one statistic points that out the 80 Lakh Engineering graduates passing out every year, 60% remain unemployed) on the other hand we have acute shortage in skilled labour.

When will trucking become a dignified profession, worthy of some respect ?

Logistics and transportation contribute about an estimated 14 % of Indian GDP, which is higher than the developed nations like the US and Germany (It's about 8 %). Almost 60% of the freight transport in India happens by road. 3500 MMT (Million Metric Tonnes), that is roughly how much of cargo that is transported every year in India, by road, through light and heavy duty trucks, by truckers. Freight movement by road is expected to increase at a CAGR of 15%.


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It would not be an exaggeration if I say, truckers are the movers and shakers of the India's economy. They are the backbone of the freight transportation sector. Yet it is one of the highly unorganized sector in India. From being paid paltry sums to unrealistic delivery schedules to poor sanitation, they brave it day in and day out to make our economy reach greater heights !

I have tried to list down some of the difficulties faced by the truckers day in and day out.

Lack of safety. Safety is a joke in India ain't it ? It is good to see these days the trucks that come with cabins, from the manufacturer itself, having basic safety features such as seat belts. But the trucks with cabin built by the body-builders, lack even the basic safety features. Not to forget the poor cabin ergonomics.


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Meeting deadlines. Being under constant pressure to deliver the cargo on time, without any damage. All most all of the truckers are overworked and tired. There is no designated driving time. Under pressure to deliver the cargo on time, truckers sometimes work for 12 to 16 hours a day, leaving them tired and prone to drowsiness resulting in deadly accidents.


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Harsh Working Conditions. Be it heavy rain or scorching sun, they have got a delivery to make and they ought to do it on time.

Lack of proper rest.Spending sleepless nights continuously in a row, resulting in accidents. Unlike the west, there are no proper truck stops, for them to stop over and have a good night's sleep.


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• Staying away from family for weeks and sometimes months together.

Poor state of trucks. Unlike western countries, the state of the trucks in India is nothing to write about. They have a very long way to go to catch up with the western standards. The trucks lack basic safety features like reflector stickers, working head light/tail lights, under-run bars etc., The owners bother to have them repaired only when the trucks go for FC. It's a night mare to drive these trucks on our roads. The truckers driving these poorly maintained trucks, pose a potential safety threat to other road users.


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Paltry payments. A truck driver earns anywhere between Rs. 15, 000 to 25, 000 a month. Do you think it is would be enough to take care of his own well-being and his families’ well-being? Or does it pay justice to the kind of struggle he undergoes?

Health and hygiene. They do not have proper access to food, sanitation or rest. Most of the time they eat on Highway Dhabas and sleep in their trucks. Sanitation? What’s that?


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• Diesel price rise. If there is one industry which bears the brunt of fuel price rise, it is the trucking industry. Many a times to meet the fuel economy demands of the fleet owners, the truckers are forced to use diesel frugally and operate at excruciatingly low speeds of 40-45 Km/hour.

• HIV/AIDS. A number of studies from India have reported high vulnerability of truckers to HIV transmission. National Aids Control Organization estimated in 2010-11 that 2.59% of the two million truckers in India are living with HIV.

Combined with the above problems they have other problems to deal with like over loading of the trucks by transporters, poor road conditions, rising diesel prices, harassment by the law enforcing agencies, highway robberies etc.

Yet many of us have come across truckers as some of the most helpful souls on the road. Don't we ?


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Is it not the responsibility of the government to regularize the sector? What respect do we have for the poor souls and their contribution towards the growth of our economy? Is it not high time that we do something to reduce the plight?

Questions are many. The answers, do we have any ?

NOTE: All the images used in the post were downloaded from Google images. Copyright belongs to the respective owners.

Last edited by BLACKBLADE : 7th March 2018 at 14:01.
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Old 8th March 2018, 08:37   #2
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Commercial Vehicles Section. Thanks for sharing!

Had recently read a related article on Business Today:

A truck driver's life in India is not an easy one, and it regularly figures in the list of worst jobs in the country. Long hours, inhospitable working conditions, lack of sleep and constant harassment on the road means the life expectancy of a truck driver is at least 10 years less than the national average. Those that live long, like Guman Singh, suffer from multiple health disorders. Driving a truck is risky as well. According to National Crime Records Bureau data, 20 per cent of all fatalities on the road in India in 2014 were of those driving trucks.

"The living conditions of a truck driver is an apt case for the National Human Rights Commission. They live in the fringes of the society, like outcasts," says S.P. Singh, Senior Fellow and Coordinator, Indian Foundation for Transport Research and Training. "I have heard instances where truck drivers have struggled to find brides as nobody wants to give their daughters to them. Lack of any infrastructure for them to rest on the highway also means they become alcoholics and drug addicts."

The rise of taxi start-ups like Ola and Uber as well as low-floor buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme has lured many erstwhile truck drivers to jump ship. The benefits are multifarious - better pay, relaxed working hours and more respect from the society. After driving container trucks for 10 years, Coimbatore-based Irudayaraj shifted to driving cabs three years ago. When Uber launched its operations in his city a year ago, he quickly enrolled himself. Today he claims he is earning more than three times what he was making when he was driving trucks.
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Old 8th March 2018, 08:55   #3
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

I believe the core issue is regulation and its enforcement. Authorities (incl. politicians) fall prey to transportation lobbies, whose sole intent is cost. This desire to drive down cost and have fat margins helps nobody, but the trucking companies themselves.

1. Seen truckers stop at spots and cook for themselves in minimalistic stoves and vessels - to save costs for themselves. (many avoid the cheaper road side dabhas too!)
2. Life insurance - I don't think small players provide any form of life insurance to these truckers.
3. Lack of spine from authorities - recent example, lets have AC cabins and then that was downgraded to blower cabins.
4. Lack of education among truck drivers itself - use of seat belts, importance of tail lamps / indicators / blinkers; for their own safety and that of others.
5. No sympathy / taken for granted - I have more than once seen people stopping truckers and pulling drivers out of their trucks and thrashing them.. because they are too easy to target you see.

Even with such harsh conditions, I have come across many truckers (particularly the interstate highway mile munchers) who slow down, let pass by some Car drivers in a hurry, who abruptly cut them from left right and center! Their levels of patience is incredible.

Having said that, people from other professions will move to trucking only when -
1. Living conditions improve (better trucks, cleaner accommodation, etc)
2. Sector gets more organized and thus providing professionally managed working environments
3. Increased road safety across the board
4. Market forces driving up wages. Existing low wages does not entice enough people to take up the risks/work load of long distance trucking.
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Old 8th March 2018, 10:08   #4
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Thank you BLACKBLADE for bringing this topic here and how. Though we are mostly aware of truckers plight, you have beautifully put it together with those images making a very strong impact on the story being told.

Just a thought from my side - we can be little respectful towards them while we encounter them on the roads. General perception about them is not very good in India and we tend to show that in our behavior towards them. For an example, I think a little 'thank you' by waving a hand would do a world of good to them when they allow us to overtake them on busy roads.

After all these are also the men on wheels and large wheels at that.
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Old 8th March 2018, 10:41   #5
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Almost everyone is aware of the plight of truck drivers in India and several other developing countries. A part of the problem is is physical and mental harassment by transport authorities. I took lift from a truck driver few years back when the state roadways has gone on strike and few things which we discussed were:

- They have no control over the loading (almost every truck is loaded between 120 to 200% of its "pass" certificate); this is the starting point of their problems

- The under reporting in the BILTI / LR makes them pray to the RTO / transport authorities, which at times even results in physical abuse / beating by police / bribe through Chalti / Kachhi Parchi, which can be used across certain distances falling under the patrolling area of a particular RTO. At times even verbal code words are used when they are pulled up by another RTO as a confirmation that they have paid out at previous check post. The harassment increases multiple folds where language is a barrier.

- Driving trucks with 200% of loading capacity is difficult because of lack of pulling power by engine and poor braking. The leftmost lanes at several stretches are occupied by unauthorized commercial activities; there are far and few truck lay by zones except on golden quadrilateral

- Looting and thefts are normal and are very prominent in Bihar & Bengal. Owners tend to blame drivers for such instances (he admitted that there are few rotten apples who are involved in thefts themselves, but was also defending them by saying that the salary frequency is never consistent sometimes payout happens at a delay of 15 - 20 days).

There is definitely a lot required to be done right from the very basic

- Hygienic driving conditions
- Sympathy and treating them with dignity
- Safe working conditions (Some kind of regularization in this sector atleast similar to porters @ Indian Railways to start with)
- RTO and Police with a helping hand instead of making their life miserable (its ridiculous that they have to bear physical & verbal abuse !!)

Last edited by i74js : 8th March 2018 at 10:46.
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Old 8th March 2018, 10:47   #6
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Originally Posted by yogesh.8984 View Post

For an example, I think a little 'thank you' by waving a hand would do a world of good to them when they allow us to overtake them on busy roads.

After all these are also the men on wheels and large wheels at that.
Rightly said . A 'Thank You' surely would give a little spark of happiness for them.

'Beep Beep'. That's how we do it in the hills and in return you get a single 'Beep' or rather a loud 'phom' as acknowledgement from the truckers.

But in cities people are so busy even to thank.
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Old 8th March 2018, 11:08   #7
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I think truckers are the most helpful people I have EVER seen on the roads.

1) Once my dad, uncle and 2 fui's, that's like the entire family were returning from Junagadh in my uncle's Swift and they were passing through the jungles and they were 150 kilometers from Mumbai and at 1 am in the night, someone threw a large stone at the Swift while it was at 100 km, it hit the passenger side front window, missed my dad who was sitting in the front by a whisker and hit my uncle's left hand like a bullet.

The intention of the stone was for the car to crash and for them to then loot whatever they wanted, my uncle fortunately did not lose control and he stopped the car a little ahead with my dad having his face and entire body filled with glass, my uncle bleeding from left hand profusely. There were 4 cars behind who saw all this, they slowed down for a second and just whisked past, who stopped? 1 trailer and 1 Eicher, out came 4 from these 2 truckers with one guy having a huge rod in his hand, other having a huge spanner. They helped these people with water and one guy even went with the huge rod to look for who threw the stone, which he did not find.

Imagine, their trucks were loaded with stuff worth lakhs, still they stopped, they waited till my dad uncle and fui's had composed themselves back and were ready to scoot from there. My dad then took over the wheel and they at sub sonic speed they exited the jungle areas till Virar appeared and the population density somewhat increased.

Even on my road trips, I have seen them drive with so much consideration for fellow drivers, yes, most of them drive in the centre and right lane, but that is because bikers drive in the left lane and dart from anywhere and hence these guys have to constantly brake, make risky manoeuvres to avoid killing a biker etc etc, but when you want to overtake them, they give you ample way and signals.

Whenever I see a trucker who's number shows that he has come from many states away I am always in aww and think 'These guys rock'
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Old 8th March 2018, 11:12   #8
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers


Indeed great respect for truckers in India specially when they have very poor infrastructural support & you have summarised it very well.

BUT wish they maintained their trucks well, coz more than 50% of them throw black smoke out & are the real pollutants on the road.

And really hate it when the drivers allow the inexperienced cleaners to drive their trucks.
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Old 8th March 2018, 11:12   #9
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Being a regular biker in the hills with huge trucks going by up and down, the truck drivers have always been and would continue to be a delight to me 90% of the time by allowing me and my gang to pass through safely in most of the cases. In a rare case, a truck with a heavy payload driving down the hill who didn't want to leave a huge trail of traffic behind him stopped at one point and gave way for almost all the vehicles to pass bringing in big smiles onto everyone's faces that day.

As a kind gesture, I waited for him at Mettupalayam and thanked him by offering a cup of tea where we stopped for a pit break too. He wouldn't forget that moment nor the kind gesture of letting us pass that he would still continue.
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Old 8th March 2018, 11:30   #10
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Whenever I drive on highways and watch the trucks, one thing that always strikes me is the slow progress of the trucking industry. We have progressed leaps and bounds in other vehicle areas in the last 15 years- Whether it is cars, two wheelers or even buses. Volvos/Scania's/AC Buses/Sleepers are all common place now. But majority of the trucks still seem to be from the 90's or best case based off designs from the 90's.

Considering the effort that needs to be put in and other sacrifices, the compensation is totally inadequate. I doubt that is going to change and with the explosion of traffic on our highways, it is definitely not going to get better. Any road/corridor built is soon taken over by cars and other passenger vehicles.

The Bangalore ORR is a good example. Was built initially to enable truck traffic to bypass Bangalore easily. Soon it became the 'IT Corridor' and now officially trucks are banned during peak hours. Similar case with NICE road. Although still mostly used by truckers, they have to compete for space with a lot of maniacally driven private vehicles.

The exodus I believe will continue with cab aggregators continuing to expand into tier 2 and 3 cities and with intra city requirements continuing to increase.

Fast Tracking initiatives like the Dedicated Railway Freight Corridor and Moving cargo like Cars via Sea can help reduce some of the burden on long distance trucks and truckers and the issues due to shortage of drivers. A long way to go though.
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Old 8th March 2018, 11:34   #11
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Great thread BlackBlade.

It not only adversely affects the truckers but anyone who uses the road network. We all face the dangers emanating out of overworked drivers driving unsafe trucks.

Got BHP?
Apart from spartan cabins, Indian trucks are also woefully underpowered. The smaller displacement results in the (not so smooth)engine and it's driver always working that much harder to keep it going. Even that isn't enough in ghat sections like the one on the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. Trucks can be seen struggling, sometimes climbing at no more than 10-15 km/hr even though their engines are revving hard.

Originally Posted by BLACKBLADE View Post
Questions are many. The answers, do we have any ?
While we are far from solving the problem, it's not that there isn't hope.

Take Rivigo for example. Their motto is 'We are transforming logistics in India making it human, faster and safer'. Who knew an Indian trucking company's motto would be so holistic? They call themselves a technology-enabled logistics company and aren't all talk either. They have an entire page dedicated to safety prominently displayed on their website and backed by global PE firms, are on track to become the largest fleet operators in the country and are massive orders like this single largest order of 1200 Ashok Leyland trucks.

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What really won me over was their approach to the human component. They call their drivers Pilots. and focus a lot on improving that aspect. Much like airline pilots, they work in a relay system which ensures that the drivers never go too far away from their homes but the trucks keep chugging along. It's the same fleet utilization strategy adopted by airlines which keep their planes in the air for as long as possible but keep switching the pilots. They also focus a lot on improving their lives.

Originally Posted by BLACKBLADE View Post
Is it not the responsibility of the government to regularize the sector? What respect do we have for the poor souls and their contribution towards the growth of our economy? Is it not high time that we do something to reduce the plight?
We have a history of attacking the problem wrongly. It's like criminalizing prostitutes instead of the client or the PIMP.

To me, a three-pronged approach needs to be adopted:

The Manufacturers: This is the easiest to do and we have seen the government pass laws that mandate things like ABS and speed limiters. Still, a lot is to be desired. Body-Builders also need to be brought in the regulation mix and implementation for things like crash bars and reflectors need to be stricter.

Fleet Operators: Fleet operators should have to follow work hour norms that dictate a rest period, a minimum allowance for stays and food to be included in the driver pay among other things. This is the case for airline pilots and while I know that it's easier said than done and that there will be many loopholes, it would be a step in the right direction.

The Clients: They are the main culprits and also the ones that go scot-free. This is the change in approach that would make a lot of difference. The client hiring a truck should be held equally responsible if not more. In fact, IMO the main reason behind the problem is the client. They constantly pressure the transporters to make quicker and cheaper deliveries. They are also the ones who get the tucks overloaded. My parents are in the warehousing business and I have witnessed first hand, the kind of pressure that is put on transporters by the companies. Be it a local company or an MNC, they are all the same. The time, low-margin and overloading pressure ultimately trickles down to the truck and it's driver who faces the brunt of it. If it gets caught or ends up in a mishap, the driver suffers and the company hiring the truck shares zero responsibility. If anything, they get to crib about their delivery getting delayed or their overloaded goods getting damaged.

I think it's the client and not the poor trucker that needs to be criminalized. Think about it, who would voluntarily drive a spartan, underpowered, unsafe and overloaded truck for long hours without rest if it wasn't for pressure from the one shelling out the moolah?
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Old 8th March 2018, 11:45   #12
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

If you can't or don't know or haven't learnt how to respect a long haul trucker on Indian roads, you just haven't learnt to drive on the highways - Period!

I am one of those who has used short honks or hand gestures to say 'Thank you' or 'Sorry' to a long haul trucker and I have always felt good about it to hear an acknowledgement. I would feel guilty if I hear the power brakes of that truck behind or next to me make that hissing noise just because of my bad maneuver.

They exercise extreme patience, for they deal with so many things all day and night:
  • Atrocities by RTOs & Cops
  • Ruffian attitude by some 'you know who I am' and 'where you come from' drivers
  • Petty traffic passing every small town to major city
  • Getting physically manhandled for no mistakes of them in case of incidents/accidents
  • Extremely higher waiting times (tolls, checkposts, traffic jams)

With all this, they are still having their usual day on road, driving and resting at times by pulling over yet a majority of them are gentlemen drivers.

In 2009 when I was driving back to Bangalore with my dad from Pune, I confronted a truck heading towards me on the wrong side with his headlights on. I got so furious that I stopped in front of it, went on and on venting my anger against this and all he did was just look at me and say nothing. It was only after few seconds I realised tailing traffic behind him of all sorts making me think that he was taking the wrong side for some reason like others.

I felt totally embarrassed, didn't say a word and moved on to see that road work on the other side had resulted in authorities diverting traffic to the opposite corridor.

I stop by at Dhabas when I am driving with just my father or friends ; The best bet when it comes to fresh food although many would argue on the hygiene part but then it is exactly at these authentic truckers dhaba you get to see so many facets of their lives!!

The way they eat food, sleep and relax, wash their utensils, clothes or themselves makes you realise that their own homes are holiday destinations for them.

Thanks for bringing up this thread and each day my respect for these truckers keeps growing.

At the same time, I will never be able to talk anything good when it comes to short haul truckers - Sand lorries, Tippers etc. They are the most dangerous lot that I have even seen Sand lorries bullying long haul trucks if they want to have their way and were unable to.

Last edited by paragsachania : 8th March 2018 at 11:46.
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Old 8th March 2018, 12:02   #13
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As a frequent recipient of services of logistic companies for my factory, i have done some calculations and here are the results: small 15 ton truck earns somewhere between Rs 30 to 50 per km (figures may vary a little based on different routes). I, as a consumer think, its fair enough, problem is with the speed or distance they cover in a day. Where as, in a western country it is common to cover a distance of more then 600-700kms in a day, for a distance of 600 kms, it takes 4 to 5 days for my material to reach at my warehouse. That comes down to an average of just 150 kms/ day. Which is pathetically slow. If they can improve on the speed, they can improve the frequency of trips and earnings.

Reasons for these delays are many, like; poor infrastructure of roads, poor traffic management and traffic jams, lack of driving sense in the public (schumachers on the roads) and truck driver has to have 5 eyes and 4 hands to manage, frequent bands or chakka jams. Along with these another typical problem for a trucker is, insatiable appetite for money, of a traffic policemen standing at every chowk, which force truckers to avoid crossing big cities during day time, and wait at the outskirts for the right time to cross.

This problem of the truckers is not a isolated one, but industrial problem, and all the aspects of this industry need infrastructural reforms, one which has been implemented is GST, we will have to wait for the government to solve other teething troubles

One interesting fact i will like to add about life of truckers; if you are in a road trip in an unknown area and are not sure about quality of food served in the dhabas, go to the dabha where most of the trucks are parked, you will get good food at reasonable price, trust me, it works.

Another community which is highly neglected is, the night service bus drivers, they also work for 12+ hour shifts that too in the night, and at high speeds. If you are curious to know how they do it, try to befriend the driver on your next night trip, he will have some amazing stories to tell and also an interesting way to tackle that fatigue, here in punjab its called "bhukki", google it, if not familiar with the word.

Overloading can be a problem for short trips but not for long interstate trips because each interstate as well as toll barrier has a weight bridge and huge fines for overloading

Last edited by navin : 8th March 2018 at 12:21.
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Old 8th March 2018, 12:26   #14
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

Great thread!

A sad reality; but true as it is for many other professions that are labor intensive. For the simple reasons:
a) human life has negligible value in India: hence the low wages, allowances for food/stay)
b) laws don't translate to safety and discipline: hence, the quality of our trucks, infrastructure and regulations on truck drivers

The other thing: if truck drivers were to have the kind of life truck driver do in developed countries, cost of transportation, and hence, cost of almost everything will go up. Are we fine with that?

Imagine all the heartache truck operators went through when a/c cabins were introduced, everyone was discussing how cost/km would go up.

Since we want everything at the lowest possible rate, if not free, often at the expense of the entity delivering the service, we can't really expect it to be at global standards.
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Old 8th March 2018, 12:29   #15
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Default Re: The plight of Indian Truckers

A very relevant thread.

India being one of those countries with a huge road network, still runs ancient trucks on its roads.
I am one those guys who always think, even now, that if I was in a nation like in Europe or North America, I would have taken up this profession. From the many series I have watched, the profession is at the other end of the pole from what it is in India. It is respected, good money, good working conditions and is a career that is built, none of which is looked at in India.

When Volvo came to India, I thought things would change. But, we are still stuck with the vintage designs and cabins with only the number of axles increased for more load to be carried.

On my the highway on a recent trip , I was stuck at a fastag toll for close to 30 minutes with couple of trucks in front of me. The reason was a private car which did not have enough balance to cross the toll. The driver would not budge and wasn't prepared to pay either for some reason. The truck drivers were asking the attendant to ask the car to move and no one bothered to even listen to them. Later when I went to give a mouthful to the attendant and the car driver, one of these drivers came and requested me to talk to them and ask them to move since they wouldn't listen to him. He was a driver of a heavy haul trailer carrying a heavy load , and he was doing it solo . For me , he was up there and for the rest of the world he was as good as invisible.
It is a sad story. How I wish it was different.
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