How the Shortage of Truck Drivers is Shaking Up the Logistics Sector?

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Grappling with a severe shortage of long-haul truck drivers, the Indian logistics sector is facing significant challenges in maintaining an efficient supply chain. The truck-to-driver ratio has plummeted to about 55:100, a sharp decline from 75:100 just a few years ago, according to fleet operators and industry associations.

The reasons for this shortage are the same multifaceted, long-standing issues of lower pay, harassment by highway authorities and police, adverse weather conditions, high accident risks, and a lack of benefits and hygienic rest facilities. These conditions are also deterring the younger generation from entering the profession.

“There are about 60 lakh trucks actively being plied on Indian roads. The number of drivers, though, is roughly about 36 lakh. The ratio of trucks to drivers is 1:0.6 now,” said Balasubramanian A, vice president, TeamLease Services. The ratio was about 1:1.3 in the 80s and 90s. “There are at least 20 lakh trucks that are not being actively used owing to driver shortages,” he said.

Truck drivers often spend 20–25 days away from home each month in challenging conditions, leading to a high prevalence of medical issues. Their average salary is about Rs 20,000–25,000 a month, which is comparable to or lower than what city cab drivers earn, despite the job being much more demanding.

In recent months, the situation has further worsened. The scorching heat has left many drivers falling ill or not reporting to work. “Driver shortage has been a concern, especially this year due to the extreme weather conditions,” said Abhishek Gupta, General Secretary of the All India Transporters Welfare Association.

The shortage is particularly acute in the medium and heavy truck segments, further complicating logistics operations, and forcing logistics companies to operate less efficiently.

The government is taking steps to address these issues, such as planning to build 1,000 truck pitstops and mandating air-conditioned cabins in trucks by the end of 2025. However, these measures are still in the future, and the current challenges pose a significant demand-supply crisis for the logistics sector.

“Fleet operators too have not been expanding their fleet,” said Bal Malkit Singh of Bal Roadlines and former president of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC). The increasing sales of commercial vehicles juxtaposed with the declining number of drivers suggest that more trucks will remain idle.

Despite these difficulties, fleet operators are managing to keep supply chains operational by working at extremely thin margins. “With the huge excess capacity of trucks, the impact on the supply chain has been minimal because these fleet operators are willing to operate at wafer-thin margins, below their operating costs,” said industry expert Girish Mirchandani.

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