SynopsisAccording to Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training or IFTRT, about 450,000 drivers who take up the difficult task of transporting necessities from one part of the country to the other have contracted Covid-19.
More than 40% of India’s 2.5 million trucks plying the trunk routes are idling at depots, causing revenue losses of ₹1,600 crore a day, with four out of five states enforcing either total lockdowns or strict mobility curbs to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.
At this rate, fleet owners stand to lose ₹50,000 crore of sales in May alone, with operations at some major factories and even ecommerce warehouses truncated by the localised restrictions. Freight tariff and cargo load factor have crashed even as costs surge due to the rise in diesel prices.
“Almost 80% of the country is under some form of lockdown and about 65% of the vehicles are standing idle. The transport sector is losing about ₹1,600 crore per day and even freights have dropped by 30% as there is no demand,” said Bal Malkit Singh, chairman-core committee at the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC). “Even manufacturing or ecommerce is shutting down or has limited itself to transporting only the essential commodities.”
Separately, many truck drivers are also affected by the viral disease, the second wave of which has now shut major consumption centres such as Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Bengaluru. AIMTC said that last year, there was more noise but casualties were fewer.
Singh said that every second household has been hit this time, and the spiralling death toll has drained the industry and its on-the-ground employees socially, emotionally and financially.
According to Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training or IFTRT, about 450,000 drivers who take up the difficult task of transporting necessities from one part of the country to the other have contracted Covid-19.
“Fearing contraction, half a million drivers have gone back to their homes in rural areas, leading to the fleet of trucks lying idle,” said SP Singh, a coordinator at IFTRT.
The Indian transport sector employs about 4 million drivers and 2.5 million helpers — about 90% of them unorganised. So, they are without any socio-legal environment protection of minimum wages as prescribed under Motor Transport Workers Act.
The impact of lower fleet utilisation can be gauged from the fact that e-way bills for April dropped sequentially by 18% to 58.8 million, according to the GSTN network. The decline in intra-state e-way bills fell 19% in April. Similarly, electronic toll collections dropped 10% sequentially to Rs 2,770 crore, National Payment Corp data showed.
Likewise, diesel consumption fell 8% in April, data from PPAC showed. Collection efficiency of Shriram Transport Finance, a financer for used trucks, dropped to 91.3% April, compared with 108% in March. Analysts believe there will be some rise in delinquencies due to the second wave.
The lack of business and potential loan defaults could also derail the nascent recovery in the medium and heavy truck industry.