Business, Economy, Government

Empty Roads Ahead: Truckers’ protest begins today

CHENNAI, Mar 30: Truckers all over South India commenced their protest against the hike in third party insurance premium, abnormal toll charges and old-vehicles scrappage policy which has left trucks carrying essential commodities stranded at truck terminals at Madhavaram from 6 a.m. today.

Agricultural produce, poultry, LPG and cotton from Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra couldn’t enter the city.  Products like match boxes, crackers, copper plates were packed-ready to be sent to different parts of the country.

The increase in insurance premium by 50 per cent for public commercial vehicles with Gross Vehicle Weight of 40 tonnes under a third party insurance provider was approved by the Insurance Regulatory Authority of India in 2016. A third party insurance excludes driver, owner and vehicle from insurance cover and provides it to whom the damage was done by the insurance holder – for instance, in the case of an accidental death or damage caused by the truck, the insured amount would go to the victim.

“IRDA has failed to provide real time data [on the increase in deaths caused by trucks and insured amount demanded] since last four years inspite of repeated assurances in the past,” said the press release by All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC).

“We transport essential commodities and hence are against an indefinite strike. But, if it takes one or two months for the demands to be heard and addressed, essential commodities transporters and people will suffer – everybody will face losses,” said M Ponnambalam, Secretary, All India Motor Transport Congress (Tamil Nadu Chapter), Namakkal.

The association has asked for the accidents, claims and compensations data to be sent to the Tariff Advisory Committee (TAC), having representatives from the Ministry of Road transport and highways, Ministry of Finance, and AIMTC, before the hike is implemented.

On the issue of toll, Achutan Nair, Secretary, Chennai Goods Transport Association, said that reducing delays at toll plazas would decrease the idling time of the vehicle thus saving fuel. The frequent and arbitrary levy of toll was also an issue, he added.

Goods transport Associations all across the country have sought the shelving of scrappage policy drafted to phase out heavy vehicles that are more than 15-years-old. They have asked the government to give concession in excise duty to those who are ready to scrap the old vehicle and buy a new one. “It should also let them keep the money received when the old vehicle is sold as scrap. Several people will lose their livelihood if compensations are denied. Creating an awareness in the vehicles owners – about clean technology and environment – is important. If the government is unwilling to take these initiatives, how can livelihoods be saved?” said Ponnambalam.

The truckers have also sought the curbing of corruption on the road through restricted discriminatory powers granted to law enforcement agencies – RTO, Traffic, and Police.

The associations, represented by the AIMTC, have placed before the Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, with a caution that an all India strike would be called from April 20 if their demands are not met.

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