DASS SPEAK:Trucking is Vital Infrastructure activity; But Truckers are not flies or mosquitos deserving fumigation

By Chittranjan Dass, Editor, SAARC Journal of Transport

 

We all know that for the past over 30 months the sale of trucks is fairly subdued. This is also common knowledge that the reason for this was the slump in economy,  world over. More notably, it is for the same reason that truckers are not replacing their fleet or buying new vehicles.

 

With such huge investment in the Automobile manufacturing sector, it’s potential for providing employment and extent of revenue yield to the Centre as well the States, undoubtedly Government’s concern for such delay in vehicle demand revival, is truly genuine.

 

AT the same time, Government seems to be concerned only about promotion  of sale of vehicles,  with eyes closed to the depleted economy of the buyers of commercial vehicles and absence of a viable rational scheme for truck fleet modernization.  So also the Governments, not unknowingly, do not admit that ten or twenty lakhs of capital investment required for purchase of a vehicle is pro-rata at par with the huge capital investment needed for say, vehicle manufacturing business.

 

So also manufacture of commercial vehicles, keeping trucks moving and flourishing of general manufacturing sector, together make the vital trio for sustaining the growth of country’s economy.

 

How unfair, thus, it is that while the Government is pro-actively trying to rejenuvate manufacturing in general and vehicle manufacturing in particular; it is incessantly engaging in destructive policy in respect to truck owners and trucking sector. On the contrary, reportedly, the Government is almost ready with a plan which, rather humiliatingly, is called “Cash for Clunkers”.

 

“Clunkar”,  the dictionary says, is “dilapidated”. The promoters of this idea are, to be polite, conceited. In the instant case what  does the Government mean & what it is telling people is the moot point. The former could not be the intention because “Trucks” could not be addressed as clunkars on the basis of their age. 

So naturally, even if inadvertently, the Government’s objective and intention is nothing but “serious mistake”.  Soon after the Committee being formed (with no representation from trucking sector, the major stake-holder) is faulty and it’s Scheme of scraping trucks as a measure for reviving sales of new commercial vehicles, is horribly hostile. Particularly when like vehicle manufacturers the fleet owners i.e. the buyers are in same condition. Status thus is so apparent that buyers being in tight strait due to slack economy are not able to replace older vehicles or add to their fleet. It is consequent to that  the sale of trucks is low.

 

The million dollar quiz before the Committee should have been as to where does the problem rest ? At the doors of the fleet owners or that of the vehicle manufacturers. Without even any attempt to spot the problem area, the Government has already made up it’s mind to declare vehicles as clunkers on the basis of their age.

 

Further, by the way, fluctuation in sale of commercial vehicles is no new phenomenon. Indeed, in the past, for fairly long periods, trucks used to be in short supply and in such a sellers’ market the vehicles were sold at premium, as high as 100% Government remained unconcerned even when good part of the premium the manufacturers used to add to the basic price of the vehicle then. No wonder thus in the prevailing price of trucks substantial amount was added in those day which was not cost related..

 

Government has all the reason and responsibility for coming to the aid of any industry which is faced with slump in market, but the manner in which the Government is trying to deal with trucking sector is incomprehensible after all truckers are no flies or mosquitos.

 

Finally, scrapping the truck through a fiat, is fair and reasonable only when it is as per provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 i.e. it ceased to be “Road- Worthy”. But that necessarily does not or shall not result in increase in Sale of new vehicles. Obviously there seems to be a pre-conceived objective to clothe which a Committee has been formed whose members are just a coterie. The Government better avoid being partisan between the vehicle Manufacturers and buyers of their product, which it is doing precisely right now. Government, to keep it’s credentials above board, has not only to play – fair but it should also appear being fair to all.

 

To conclude, it needs to be reiterated that truck owners are not flied or mosquitos deserving to be fumigated Instead the inevitability of mutual survival of Truckers and Vehicle Manufacturers and their sustenance is a pre-requisite. This the Government should consider seriously.