Lockdown: 75k inter-state trucks added to running fleet in a day

As many as 2.25 lakh national-permit trucks plied on Indian roads on Tuesday, up from 1.5 lakh on the previous day and 1.2 lakh a week ago, in what indicates a steady improvement in inter-state commerce. However, only 15% of the national-permit vehicles are on the roads even now and it would be a long road ahead before the plying rate returns to over 10 lakh vehicles or 70% of the NP-registered that prevailed before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA) joint secretary Abhishek Gupta told.

“Vehicles which are being unloaded thanks to relaxations in lockdown guidelines in some areas are being made available in an efficient manner,” Gupta said. Maximum effort is being made by the transporters to give priority to transport of pharmaceuticals, essentials and important raw materials, he added.

“We are hopeful that the e-pass facility, started by AITWA in association with IRIS, will prove to be a good tool for drivers to return to the stranded vehicles,” Gupta said.

The truckers’ body had developed an app to help drivers return to trucks stranded at different locations in the country. About 275 transporters across the country are already using the app. Hyderabad Goods Transport Association (HGTA) and Karnataka Goods Transport Association (KGTA) have also joined this e-platform to help drivers. About 1,500 e-passes have so far been issued to truck drivers after the app was launched.

Truck drivers are permitted to move with license but giving them an e-pass adds to their confidence while dealing with authorities, including police. E-pass can be generated by a registered transporter and can be sent to drivers through WhatsApp. Transporters have to register on epass.irisgst.com, which is developed and maintained by Iris Business Services.

AITWA has also sought a Rs 50 lakh health insurance cover for each truck driver risking his life in the pandemic to help keep supply chains running. The government can also use the details of the passes issued to drivers as proof of being at the job for giving insurance.

The April 15 MHA order has stressed on the movement of trucks from April 20 to clear the logistics logjam to ease supply of daily staples and other essential supplies across the country. Before the lockdown was enforced on March 24, trucks running with load had to be stopped as drivers were not getting food.

As a consequence, many drivers abandoned the vehicles and went back to their villages. The main issue now is how to move back drivers from their villages to trucks. Normalisation of movement of trucks will also help in the collection of goods and service tax (GST), which has taken a hit after lock-down was imposed.