Four months into GST, transporters struggle to find efficiency. Representative image
Bal Malkit Singh, the owner of Mumbai-headquartered Bal Roadlines, is facing a new challenge. Many of his customers, serviced by his fleet of 400 trucks, want him to pass on the benefits of the much talked about reduction in travel time after introduction of the goods and services tax
(GST) in July this year.
“I have one answer for such customers. I invite them to travel with our trucks and find out for themselves if efficiency has increased in the transportation industry,” said Singh.
Various claims have been made on reduction in the transit time of trucks in delivering goods. A reduction of as much as 30 per cent in the travel time of trucks has been indicated by the government and credit for this has gone to the introduction of the GST and the consequent removal of interstate checkposts.
The government has said the transportation system has become efficient post-GST. But the industry thinks otherwise. “Not much has changed at the ground level. There are regional transport office (RTO) checkposts in every state. Physical checking of goods continues. Our unofficial expenses have not come down. Time taken at toll plazas also remains high. All these consume time,” said Singh. His company’s website lists Unilever, Cadbury, and Godrej as clients. Trucks form a critical mode of transporting goods from production to consumption centres. Scrutiny of compliances at state borders results in delays in delivery of goods and leads to environment pollution as well as fuel wastage.
Vipul Nanda, director at Mercurio-Pallia Logistics, a Gurgaon-based company that owns 400 trailers engaged in moving cars from car factories to various markets in the country, said technically, there were no borders after the GST. “Things looked smooth in the initial few days after the GST was implemented. Now states have placed flying squads from RTOs at different points on highways and this is a nuisance. Challans are imposed without any reason. The situation is especially difficult in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh. There is no significant drop in transit time,” said Nanda, who is also the president of the Car Carrier Association, a body representing 15,000 car carriers. He said states were not ready to listen as they were more concerned about the revenue from such challans.
R C Bhargava, chairman of Maruti Suzuki, however, said that trucks carrying the company’s cars were able to cover the same distance in 10-15 per cent less time. “Stoppage at various interstate barriers has come down,” he said.
Transportation industry experts say the strong double-digit growth in sales of medium and heavy trucks in recent months should not be taking place in an environment of an improvement in efficiencies of the existing fleet of trucks. “The sales increase should not have been happening at this pace,” said S P Singh, senior fellow at the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training. Medium and heavy commercial vehicle sales have zoomed 20 per cent in the domestic market during the first quarter (July-September) of the GST. In September alone, sales surged 25 per cent to 31,086 units, Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers data showed.
Singh said a truck used to do three to three-and-a-half Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi trips in a month before the GST came into force. “There is no marked change in this. A saving of four or five hours in a round trip does not make a difference. The actual transit time from loading to unloading is the same as before.”
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