Indian Transport & Logistics

When you shop next time acknowledge efforts of truck drivers as well

When you shop next time acknowledge efforts of truck drivers as well

A road trip is what many of us would like to go on for fun and adventure. Driving, camping, cooking on the road, or simply eating at the roadside Dhaba, exploring new paths on the way, enjoying the beautiful sites, and mingling with the locals - all these sounds super exciting and full of experiences. And to add to this, the company of a best friend makes the journey simply ecstatic.

Sounds like a good plan, isn't it? While this can be a one-time fun and adventure for us, truck drivers are on such rides almost every day. But the question is – is it as euphoric as it sounds right now? The answer is, not really! These rides are full of sacrifices and hardships, writes Nilesh Ghule.

Staying away from the family for days, sometimes even missing out on celebrating special days with family members, resting on the roadside - sometimes without any shed available and under the scorching sun, eating the cold food that they will carry with them from home, or even cooking on their own on the roadside with whatever little they would have - yes, that’s the normal day for every truck driver. And this is just to ensure the goods reach our doorsteps.

Right through the pandemic, drivers have been at the forefront who have taken up the responsibility and challenge to deliver goods amid a highly risky environment. Every state had a different intensity of virus spread. In fact, in the second wave, it had even reached the small villages. Navigating through these states adhering to the lockdown rules of every state, truck drivers still delivered the goods at the destination. It is not just about driving through, but also ensuring they follow all the protocols, goods they are carrying are also handled well and sanitized regularly. Many drivers did catch the virus and suffered, but never gave up and after recovering, they even came back to the action. This commitment was just to ensure we receive what we desired.

At TruckBhejo, drivers’ safety is of utmost importance; Covid-19 or no Covid-19. There are about 3000+ truck owner-drivers impanelled on our platform. 85 percent of them have joined us through just the word of mouth and have stayed with us since they have joined. In the initial phase, we provided all the necessary things like masks, sanitisers, protection shields, etc to our truck drivers. We equipped them with proper training on the protocols and how can they reduce the contact during their journey. Further, as the drivers are generally on road, it gets very difficult to get them to one place and get their vaccination done. We tied up with the warehouse owners to ensure all the drivers get vaccinated on the go. As I write this, more than 50 percent of our drivers are already vaccinated and the rest will get vaccinated in another 45 days.

This is one aspect of safety, there are multiple such aspects like the health of the drivers, vehicle conditions, road accidents, and many such risks a driver carries as he embarks on his trip. The majority of the drivers consider taking insurance as a huge cost and hence are reluctant to buy adequate life cover and even medical insurance. A study published by SaveLife Foundation in 2020 found that among road-user categories, truck/ lorry makes up the third-highest share of deaths due to accidents at 10 percent every year. In the majority of the cases, drivers are the only earning members of the family and due to this accidental death or injuries, the family suffers financially. There is a strong need to spread awareness amongst them for insurance and maybe we can create special insurance packages for truck drivers that are simple to understand and cost-effective too.

Another aspect that needs some more introspection is the social taboo. Trucking as a profession is always looked down upon and rarely respected. At TruckBhejo, hence, all of us are extremely sensitive about everything related to the truck drivers. We ensure regular long-term business with secured and timely payment and also eliminate the middlemen. It has empowered owner-drivers to scale up their business. Certainty of contracts and presence across the supply chain of customers give them visibility of assured income. It then allows them to plan their family and other expenses with better clarity. Enhanced income cycle, in turn, lift up their social quotient. Even while distributing festival gifts, we give sustainable gifts like clothes instead of sweets which is their actual need. In every possible action, we attempt to instil a sense of dignity and belongingness with the drivers.

In India, 60-65 percent of transport happens via road and is highly fragmented and unorganized. The trucking community has around 15 million commercial vehicles, however, the driver to truck ratio is significantly low. An industry estimate suggests that by 2022, the driver and truck ratio would have fallen to 450 drivers for every 1,000 trucks. The study conducted by SaveLife Foundation found that 61 percent of the truck drivers find their job unattractive and hence do not encourage family members to join them. In times when dependence on logistics is steadily increasing, this is concerning. While we are focused on developing roads, and deploying technology, it is important to create the infrastructure and conducive environment for truck drivers too. They are the unsung champions. Without their commitment and hard work, the logistics network would not be able to perform efficiently.

While shopping for our requirements, either from the shops or online, we acknowledge the storekeeper, online platforms and even the delivery boys. Do think about those truck drivers too, without whom, it wouldn't have reached us.

Nilesh Ghule is the co-founder and chief executive officer of TruckBhejo

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Indian Transport & Logistics News

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