DASS SPEAK:What is unique about Trucking?

By Chittranjan Dass, Editor, SAARC Journal of Transport

 

Mobility, particularly of commercial cargo, is crucial as well as critical for socio-economic development of the country.

 

Way back in early fifties, when Government adopted planned development, as policy, to take the country  forward, railways, having vast network across the nation, carried over 70% of the total cargo moved by surface transport.

 

Moving goods by road, despite being convenient, speedy, economical and door to door, accounted for about 20% share only. However, despite no specific policy encouragement being in place, eleven Five Year Plans later, trucks are carrying about 68% of the total cargo, besides providing the crucial first and last kilometer services for every other mode of transport.

 

Trucking, by all means, is a legitimate basic infra-structural service and the people carrying on this as a “profession” are no different than others. Entreprenures in trucking, like most other professionals, are self-employed and unlike most of other professionals, truckers provide employment for additional nine skilled / unskilled persons per vehicle.

 

All automobiles, for the sake of their identity, are required to be registered with their local Authority against specified payment periodically. Trucks are no exception. But because the trucks are used for commercial purposes, these need to obtain a Permit against unexplained justification. Till a few years ago, this permit (again against specific tax) had to be taken from each State, one wished to work in. In the beginning only, none other than the Mahatma Gandhi as well wondered as to why in a free country people should need permit for visiting different States.

 

Admittedly, trucking is like the back-bone of country’s economy, but the Government, as a policy, does not commit anywhere in any manner to promote and facilitate the trucking sector. On the contrary, it looks the otherway when the self-esteem of truck owners is trounced on the roads, by any tom-dic and harry, with no legal sanction.

 

Every professional owes some or the other dues to the Government, may be professional tax, income tax, housing tax et al, but never ever any of them is held-up, by enforcement agencies, while moving on the road, just to verify whether his dues were cleared. Why should then a truck owner, as a matter of routine, be stopped, even by a designated officer, for checking up papers relating to a truck. That too at undesignated places. Worse still, anybody who is somebody in any department of the Government in the country feels free to hold up a truck for whatever or even no reason with no fear of reprimand.

 

General perception is that loss of turn-around of trucks was individually, that of the vehicle owner. How pitiable indeed that Governments are unaware, rather unconcerned with the fact that loss of journey time of each individual truck is cumulatively loss to the country’s economy, which runs into billions of rupees. Misfortune has all along been that in Government every one is concerned with one’s own Pocket. None cares for the country’s POCKET.

 

The effort to change the name of proposed new statutes to Road Transport and safety Act is that way welcome. But “NAME alone may not make the mare go”. Road Transport be made respectable as a profession. It should be speedy, it’s character should be Pan-India, States’ tzarism must end. Taxation system and quantum must be reviewed in order to make these rational and fair. No checking of moving vehicles be done on highways (except in valid exceptional case).

Trucking, indeed, must be placed at par with any other profession and respected accordingly.