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Why truck drivers in India are apprehensive about their profession?

Truck drivers in India
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While travelling across India’s highways, you cannot deny seeing a truck adorned like a bride, decorated with shiny tassels, flashy LEDs, a bright colourful-painted body, a catchy phrase, and an even more catchy and loud honk. While those glamorously decorated vehicles show their supremacy on the highways of India, the truck drivers driving them lives a life far from it.   

In India, over 8 million truck drivers sitting behind a steering wheel on a truck, driving across, transporting goods along the second largest road network of the world is not just a job it’s a lifestyle, a lifestyle that no one appreciates or desires.

According to a study based on a qualitative interview done by Asia-Africa Supply Chain Transform Health Alliance in association with the People to People Health Foundation (a not-for-profit organization), Nearly 98% of truck drivers covered in the study do not want their family members to join the driving profession.

Addressed as the unsung heroes and backbone of the Indian economy, truck drivers are often not appreciated or even worse just forgotten by society.

Living a life as a trucker in India comes with challenges. Sacrificing their time at home with loved and dear ones, staying over the road, for upward of 300 days per year, and living in hostile conditions while crisscrossing across the highways of India is not all that the job demand. 

In addition, they have to face harassment by authorities, work on a low and irregular income, take the risk of fatalities or injuries and live a life with no dignity. And, this is the main reason that hardly any driver wants anyone else in the family to take up the job of a trucker as their profession, the study reveals. 

As per a survey, 75% of the truckers surveyed raised the issue of harassment by police and local groups, 72% complained about low and irregular income; and nearly 36% felt there is no dignity in their labour.

Most of the drivers admitted to driving up to 14 hours a day. A prime reason for not only the growing highway accidents but also the reason for the poor health of India’s unsung heroes.  

The survey reported, that 37% of the respondents suffered from chronic pain or musculoskeletal issues, while 28% had sleep-related problems.

The lack of standard life offered to truckers by the broken and fragmented trucking industry of India have left the industry with fewer aspirants and an acute shortage, despite a growing economy.

With 90 lakh vehicles currently running on the road, the Indian trucking industry which is making new additions to meet the nation’s growing demand needs approximately nine lakh, new truck drivers, every year, the report says. 

While the demand for truckers grows, the number of people opting for commercial truck-driving as a career or profession dips rapidly. As a consequence, about 40% of total trucks and goods transport vehicles remain idle on any given day.

As per major truckers’ bodies, states like Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh – traditionally sending huge men behind the wheels have seen a significant fall in the number of drivers. Now a large chunk of drivers in the unorganized sector hail from Mewat in Haryana.

Truck driving in India, which is more of a compulsion than a passion for truckers needs to evolve. The profession to attract more people needs to reinvent itself and grant the truckers better compensation, better social structure, strong support from industry and government, more respect, transparency, and superior structure. 

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