Has the Goods and Services Tax (GST) ensured a smooth passage for trucks? Are they able to travel longer distances in a day? Has road transportation become more efficient?
Bal Malkit Singh, former President of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), is of the view that none of these has happened. According to him, a barrier-free India for the trucks sector is still some time away. In an interview with BusinessLine, he discussed issues that are hampering the smooth flow for trucks and offered a few suggestions. Excerpts:
How have issues such as demonetisation, GST and eWay bill impacted the transport sector?
We always believe that reforms should be beneficial to the road transport sector.
However, the triple whammy of demonetisation, GST and eWay (operational issues) affected the truck industry. Manufacturing has declined. This is just a phase. Gradually, it is improving as compared to the last few months. However, there have been no changes in freight rates.
Hasn’t the government sorted out the need for two drivers?
Yes. Recently, the Centre sorted out the major issue of not requiring two drivers in trucks. For a national permit, a new clause was introduced with the necessity for two drivers on trucks.
However, the industry explained to the government that due to 26 per cent shortage of drivers, it was not possible to have two drivers. This rule was amended last month.
Has GST benefited transporters?
GST is the biggest reform since independence. We were hopeful that it would remove checkposts and there would not be frequent stopping of trucks, and that vehicles could easily travel about 500 km per day. But this has not happened. For us, GST is of no use as trucks are still travelling only 280-300 km per day.
This means, there is an indirect effect on the logistics cost..
Yes. Logistics cost in India is one of the highest in the world as there is no optimum use of trucks despite modern vehicles and good roads.
In advanced countries, trucks easily cover 800 km per day. Indian trucks can also cover 400-450 km per day if the bottlenecks are removed. The government should give serious thought to this. This in turn will reduce logistics costs.
Is toll collection still a major issue concern to transporters?
The transport industry is not against toll payment but the way toll is collected.
There should an alternative toll collection methodology like annual toll permit on the lines of national permit or cess on diesel. We don’t mind paying more in way of road development cess but all the bottlenecks and toll plazas should be removed.
What is the impact of daily fuel price ?
The industry’s latest demand is to stop daily fuel price and move to monthly or quarterly revision. There should also be uniformity in fuel prices across the country and it should be brought under GST.