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In the 3rd phase of the lockdown, the government has allowed and arranged for migrant workers to return home. As per the All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), truck drivers have also joined the lakhs of migrant workers who are making their ways back home, thereby causing another dip in movement for national-permit trucks. Last week, after the 3rd phase began, the movement of 15 lakh national-permit trucks had reached 30% (4.5 lakh trucks were estimated to be on the roads last Friday i.e. 8th May) – this was an improvement from 3.6 lakh trucks on April 30th; 1.5 lakh on April 20th and 1.2 lakh on April 12th. However, the return of drivers back home may cause last week’s improvement to get somewhat negated.
Shortage of trucks and trailers seems to have shot up over the last weekend (9-10 May), after the permissions for the return of migrant workers were issued. The AITWA also received ground reports of drivers having abandoned trucks/trailers to move to their hometowns in many locations including Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune and Nagpur.
The AITWA has said that the non-recognition of ‘highway heroes’ i.e. truck drivers as Covid heroes by the Government and the absence of a Covid insurance for them could have contributed to this situation. The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) in a letter to Central Govt authorities remarked how government support is required for 20 crore people directly or indirectly supported by the transport sector and also the small enterprises who make up 85% of the fleet operators.
With yesterday’s (12th May) announcement by the Prime Minister of a mega stimulus package for the economy, we expect some more relief to be provided by the government for the transport sector. We can hope that driver migration back to homes is a temporary situation and that truck movement of National Permit registered vehicles can again eventually reach 70% of pre-Covid numbers i.e. approximately 10 lakh trucks on the road.
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