During the second wave of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the shortage of oxygen across states has put major focus on the quick and smooth transportation of Liquid Oxygen (LOX).
The Ministry of Road Transport & Highways in this regard, as per extant rules and in consonance with the CMVR, 1989 has stated that only trained drivers with adequate training and having ‘hazardous cargo’ license are allowed to operate the Liquid Oxygen (LOX) trucks.
Owing to the same, there is an urgent need to make available a large pool of trained drivers who can supplement / replace the existing drivers, keeping in mind 24×7 operations.
The Ministry has advised states and Union territories to create a pool of trained drivers and 500 such trained drivers are to be made available immediately and the number of drivers to be increased to 2500 in the next two months.
Furthermore, the ministry has suggested a few strategies to adopt and to create an additional pool:
- Quickly skill drivers with training in handling hazardous chemicals and LMO handling through a short program and apprenticeship,
- Skill HMV license holders in hazardous chemicals and LMO handling through short (3/4 days) program and apprenticeship.
The training modules have been designed with the help of the Logistics Sector Skill Council (LSSC), Indian Chemical Council (ICC), National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) & medical oxygen manufacturers.
States / UTs have been requested to recommend some local drivers with HMV / hazardous chemical license to opt for these training programs.
Furthermore, a list of all the skilled drivers would be made available on a digital platform and the services of these trained drivers could be utilised for carrying cryogenic LMO tankers.
Special Covid-19 vaccination drive:
The ministry had also advised that LOX tanker drivers may be facilitated with a special COVID-19 vaccination drive and priority in admission and treatment in hospitals, in case they are found to be Covid-infected.
Apart from this, sources close to the government has informed that plans of providing a financial incentive of around INR 15000 to each oxygen tanker driver for their service are also being considered. However, no action has been taken on the same yet.
While the government gives incentives to the oxygen tanker drivers, the industry feels that the government should take a similar approach and prioritise the commercial vehicle drivers as well, who are ensuring the delivery of essentials.
The transportation industry amid the second wave of the pandemic is facing a severe shortage of manpower, owing to the surge in cases and reverse migration. While many companies have taken initiatives and is appreciating the work of these frontline workers by giving them incentives and medical facilities, they are also expecting the government to take action in this regard.