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India To Face A Logistical Nightmare

India is facing a scarcity of commercial vehicle drivers. Also, we lack the quality of drivers because of the improper training and the nature of the job & monetary reward attached to the profession is comparably low, hence the profession is significantly less preferred by people. As the future sees a shortage of commercial vehicle drivers – what does this means for the Indian economy?

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The role of drivers on the road is very important and holds a lot of responsibility as they have to be very much cautious about their each and every move. India has an extensive network of highways, the second-highest in the world, with a total of 5.89 million kilometers and over  2.39 million vehicles that traverse them (as of FY2021).

The industry produced a total of 22,652,108 vehicles including Passenger Vehicles, Commercial Vehicles, Three Wheelers, Two Wheelers and Quadricycles in April-March 2021 as against 26,353,293 in April-March 2020. Not only public commute, but the industrial movement of goods through roads has also been on the rise with well over two billion metric tons of freight transported via roads. 

When it comes to driving a commercial vehicle as per data (The all-India transporters welfare association) driver to truck ratio is 750 per 1000 vehicles currently and it was 1300 in 1982 which dropped to 890 in 2019 resulting in around 30 percent of vehicles left idle at any given point. The data speaks for itself that we are facing a scarcity of commercial vehicle drivers. Also, we lack the quality of drivers because proper training is not being provided to the drivers. The nature of the job and the monetary reward attached to the profession is comparably low and hence the profession is significantly less preferred by people. 

Most of the commercial vehicle drivers tend to drive in the absence of training and in order to get better pay they generally work overtime and are sleep-deprived most of the time. Lack of sleep is the most general cause of road accidents that leads to the loss of life and the indirect loss to the economy of the country because of the loss of human resources. So, road accidents are a major threat to society and in order to address it, there is a two-way goal, we must see it as a way to increase the number of commercial vehicle drivers and concurrently, promote road safety. 

To reduce road accidents, Union Minister of Road, Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari pitched for fixed driving hours for commercial truck drivers similar to that of pilots, as well as on-board sleep detection sensors in commercial vehicles which are effective and useful but on-ground compliance reports are not available yet. 

However commercial vehicles play a very important albeit unique role in driving the economy of the country as a lot of commercial transactions are being done through these vehicles across the country. Even everyday goods are being delivered to far-flung places so the transit of the commercial vehicles across the country is a must and is only possible if we have skilled commercial vehicle drivers. For this, proper driving schools need to be set up where the people can enroll themselves and learn the correct skills and driving behavior. Also, to better incentivize the profession, a universal database for the drivers of commercial vehicles needs to be created. This database will allow for a ‘driving score’ to be created based on drivers’ skill, rank, driving pattern, etc that are each allotted points. The higher the score, the higher incentives to drive better. Positive incentivization of the profession will not just avoid accidents and the loss thereafter; but also make commercial vehicle drivers have a profession of repute in the eyes of the citizens. 

Of course, maintaining logistics in the market is a tough job and several factors are involved in it; commercial vehicles and their drivers play a very important role in balancing the intricate supply chain of our economy. Good, skilled commercial vehicle drivers are the need of the hour and the time to act, empower, elevate and motivate truck drivers is now. It is vital we recognize this dire shortage and take the right measures to counteract a myriad of negative effects on our economy.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Akhilesh Srivastava

Project Head of Road Safety 2.0 - a WEF initiative

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