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Role of trucking industry stakeholders in addressing Covid-19 challenges

The trucking industry in India is facing a major crisis due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. How is the industry responding to the crisis and what can we learn from this about the resilience of the industry in overcoming its challenges in these unprecedented times? We will attempt to answer these questions by looking at the role of trucking industry stakeholders and how they have come together in this time of need. But first a bit about stakeholders.

Stakeholders play a critical role in the efficient and effective functioning of any business or industry. They are defined as any groups, individuals or organizations that either directly impact or are impacted by the functioning of a business or industry. Examples of stakeholders include employees, owners, trade unions, government agencies, suppliers, financiers, customers and civil society/community based organizations.

The trucking industry in India like in other countries comprises of a complex web of stakeholders interacting with each other and influencing the industry in myriad ways. The list below highlights some of the major stakeholders in the industry and their roles:

    • > Truck drivers:Perhaps the most important but at the same time vulnerable stakeholder group who keep the wheels of the industry moving 24×7.

 

    • > Fleet owners: Another important group which defines the nature of businesses operating in the industry. The Indian trucking industry is said to be highly unorganized due to the predominance of a large share of small fleet owners.

 

    • > Transporters/Brokers: Due to the unorganized nature of the industry and a large share of transactions happening in the spot market (as opposed to contracts), transporters/brokers form an important link in the industry value chain to link demand with supply.

 

    • > Industry associations:They represent the interests of the truck drivers, fleet owners, brokers etc with policy makers, regulatory authorities and other industry stakeholders. Their role becomes essential particularly in a fragmented industry like trucking where individual drivers or owners don’t have a voice or bargaining power.

 

    • > Government agencies: Government agencies at the central and state government levels have a major impact on the industry in terms of policies, laws and regulations, among other things. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, State transport departments, as well as nodal agencies such as the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) are some of the important government stakeholders in the industry.

 

    • > Truck manufacturers: They are an important stakeholder group as they not only supply the equipment (trucks) to the industry but also provide additional services such as vehicle financing, road side assistance and driver training. Domestic players – Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland – dominate the Indian medium and heavy truck manufacturing market with a combined market share of more than 80%

 

    • > Fuel suppliers: India’s diesel fuel suppliers such as Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) are among the country’s largest public sector undertakings. Their network of fuel stations along the highways are in many places also providing additional amenities for drivers such as rest areas, food and road side assistance.

 

    • > Technology companies: There are a whole host of technology companies that are working to innovate and disrupt the unorganized trucking market in India in a diverse range of areas such as navigation, vehicle tracking, on-board diagnostics, online marketplace for transactions, and data analytics for better decision making, which will have a transformational impact on the industry in the future.

 

The above list of stakeholders along with a few others such as financiers, insurance companies, truck repair shops, and roadside food outlets collectively form important cogs in the Indian trucking industry wheel and ensure its smooth functioning.

Though stakeholders are essential to the day to day functioning of an industry, it is often at times of crisis that their support becomes critical especially to those impacted the most. Let’s take a look at how the different stakeholder groups are helping truck drivers and small fleet owners who have borne the brunt of the present crisis.

Industry associations:  The All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) and the All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), the two largest industry associations, have been very proactive in disseminating information through their social media accounts (Twitter and Facebook) to help stranded drivers find food, rest areas and other amenities as well as keep abreast on latest policy announcements. (AIMTC Twitter and Facebook AITWA Twitter and Facebook)

    • > AIMTC and AITWA have also been regularly liaisoning with the concerned Central government agencies to highlight the ground level challenges faced by truck drivers and recommend necessary actions to address them.

 

Government agencies:  The various agencies of the Central government are working diligently to address issues faced by drivers as well as fleet owners. Some examples of the various steps taken include the following :

    • > Plan is currently being put together by the Central government to provide life insurance coverage for truck drivers and medical insurance for their treatment in the event of Coronavirus infection. This will help a large number of truck drivers return to work many of whom are afraid to do so due to fear of infection

 

    • > Validity of documents such as drivers licence, vehicle permit, fitness, registration etc which have expired since February 1, 2020 or would expire by June 30, 2020, to be extended till June 30, 2020

 

    • > The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) is providing food to truck drivers at its toll plazas across the country

 

    • > The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has given a directive to lending institutions to implement a 3 month moratorium on loan repayment dues for the period between March 1, 2020 and May 31st, 2020. This will benefit fleet owners with existing loan repayment obligations

 

Truck manufacturers and fuel suppliers: Truck manufacturers and fuel suppliers have also responded proactively by reaching out to their owner and driver network and providing required help.

    • > Ashok Leyland has extended its free service as well as warranty on its range of products and has partnered with HPCL to provide safe parking space, food supplies and cash to stranded drivers

 

    • > Tata Motors has partnered with IOCL to provide free food, masks and sanitizers to truck drivers at their Saarthi Aaram Kendras. Additionally, it has extended warranty on its commercial vehicles and is also running a helpline number for truck drivers

 

Technology companies: A silver lining in the dark cloud of the Coronavirus pandemic is the realization among trucking industry stakeholders, and in particular among drivers and fleet owners, of the importance of technology adoption. There is increasing usage of social media platforms by drivers to access information and the usage of mobile apps to solve daily challenges is on the rise. Many technology companies are providing app based services at this time to help the driver community find information on food locations, rest areas and optimal routes.

It is indeed heartening to see how the different stakeholders have come together to help truck drivers and fleet owners at this difficult time. However, the industry is not out of the woods yet and a major challenge looms in the future – the predicted driver shortages as a result of a large number of migrant drivers moving back to their hometowns and the uncertainty on how many would be willing to return to their employers once things come back to normal. It is therefore important that stakeholders continue to work together with a long term focus to help the industry bounce back to it’s precrisis days.

As a technology company, we at Intents Mobi are also deeply invested in helping the trucking industry stakeholders, in particular the drivers and fleet owners not only tide over the present crisis but to build long term resilience in the future. Over the last month or so, we have been busy interacting with drivers, owners and associations to gather ground level information which has given us important insights to channel our efforts towards the right solutions. We will continue to share our thoughts and ideas and look forward to working with the other stakeholders to develop innovative technology solutions to #ThankOurTruckers who are giving it their all to help us.

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