A recent study has been found out that Indian truck drivers are burning out.

Story by:

Bhushan Mhapralkar

Kulwant Singh is driving on a long route from Ludhiana to Chennai. Save for a few trips between Ludhiana and Delhi NCR, which he terms as ‘local’, Singh has been doing long routes for as long as he can remember. He is into the profession for the last 10 years, and his job keeps him away from his family for weeks together. It is a good paying job he says, but probe further and he mentions that he does not want either of his sons to enter this field. “It lacks life,” he reasons. We are at Delhi’s transport Nagar where Singh has come to meet an acquaintance. The innocence with which he spoke about the life he leads as one of the million truck drivers in India, it did not leave a very positive impression. Two years back when I met a friend Will Shiers who edits Commercial Motor magazine of UK at the Tata T1 Truck Racing Championship at Greater Noida, we got talking about the treatment meted out to drivers in either country, and he told me that it is not very different from how they are treated in India. If it felt like a reality check, a recent survey carried out by Castrol India in association with Kantar IMRB has concluded that the nation’s truck drivers are burning out. It is not surprising for the survey to come to this conclusion since the driver community in India lacks the ability to lobby or make an effective electorate.

Often lacking the ability to turn entrepreneur and buy a truck since they lack the business acumen, truck drivers are a community that is often invisible. Invisible it is even though it forms the backbone of India’s thriving economy, and plays an integral role in driving the growth of our nation. The stressful and demanding nature of the work done by the truckers, who drive this industry, clearly impacts their physical and mental well-being. As the month-long research by Castrol India and Kantar MRB found out, covering over 1000 kms, truck drivers have a high rate of occupation-related injury and have among the highest rates of on-job fatality. The survey carried out to understand the health issues faced by truckers found a link between the health of truck drivers and the hazardous nature of their job as well as their working conditions. Delving into the lifestyle of truck drivers, the survey found out that 50 per cent of truckers faces driving related health issues. Ironically, many do not seem to understand the priority of health as one of the three top priorities. As a part of the survey, unusually long working hours, long periods away from home and family, and difficult road and driving conditions emerged as issues impacting their health and well-being in the survey.

Mentioned a source in the know of the survey that 50 per cent of the truck drivers do trips where the driving duration is over 12 hours. Some 46 per cent of the drivers the survey sampled said that they drive continuously for over six hours. Many pointed at the chaotic driving conditions and put forth the stressful lifestyle they were often subjected to. Despite the need to maintain mental and physical fitness, roughly 62 per cent of the drivers has not undergone a medical checkup in the past one year. Awkward and fixed postures, repetitive twisting of back and neck and working and sleeping in tight spaces results in chronic back, neck and joint pain, and not many drivers are immune to it. The negligence of health among truck drivers is exacerbated by unfavourable environment and cultural factors in the road transport industry like poor driving infrastructure, badly maintained vehicles, lack of hygienic food and places to take rest, unplanned driving schedules and long absences from home. Consequentially, most truck drivers end up neglecting their own health while struggling to make a decent living. Said Singh, that road infrastructure has improved, but they continue to grapple with a dearth of secure parking stops where they can rest and enjoy clean and hygienic basic amenities.

Drawing attention to Castrol India’s long-standing association with the trucking industry, and the truckers, Omer Dormen, Managing Director, Castrol India, said that truck drivers are a vital force in moving the nation forward. “Taking cognizance of the results that have come out of the recent survey, we are taking more efforts to find solutions which could mitigate some of the challenges being faced by the drivers,” he added. Stating that the trucking industry is a significant contributor to our nation’s economic growth and prosperity, Dormen averred, “We have been conducting several programmes to improve the safety and well-being (of the drivers).” Acknowledging the fact that much needs to be done, Dormen informed that Castrol has commissioned experts from Mumbai’s Yoga Institute in an effort to address some of the health issues faced by the drivers. “The experts have come up with Yoga ‘Assanas’, which can be followed by the truckers even when they are on the go,” he said. Yoga ‘Assanas’ may be a good initiative towards helping the drivers lead a good and healthy life, efforts are also necessary to ensure that the driving hours are limited and the trucks they drive are comfortable and safe. The driver shortfall may have given the drivers an ability to choose which truck they would want to drive, the fact is, India is still not a comfort and ergonomics driven market as far as trucks are concerned. Measures like the mandatory fitment of blowers are just the beginning.

Stating that a silent transformation is taking place in the Indian CV industry, Rama Rao AS, SVP – Sales, Marketing and Aftermarket, VE Commercial Vehicles, averred that it is not about money when it comes to creating drivers, what is needed is the creation of a good working environment. “The comfort levels, safety levels and more,” he added. Stating that the money drivers carry home is decent, Rao expressed that they need a good working environment above all. Highlighting that fact that the sale of air-conditioned trucks is rising, Rao mentioned that safer trucks are finding their way to the roads, and not just from the driver’s point of view, but also from an environmental point of view. A case in point could be the rise in the sales of fully-built trucks compared to cowls. Expressing that the real HD story has just begun, Rao said, “Very soon, the number of fully-built trucks will cross the 50 per cent mark.” Pointing at the driver academy VE Commercial Vehicles inaugurated recently at Indore, Rao concluded, “We as an industry are becoming more efficient.”

 

Read http://commercialvehicle.in/eicher-driver-academy/

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