All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC) is an apex body of transporters representing approximately 93 lakh truckers and 50 lakh bus and tourist operators. It is an umbrella body covering over 3300 state level federations and transport associations. Naveen Kumar Gupta, Secretary General, AIMTC, spoke to BE’s Kuntala Sarkar.
Q. What are the infrastructural challenges faced by your sector and what sort of policies can resolve these challenges?
A. Our sector, which is an essential services providing sector, is mostly unorganised. It is the highest taxpayer and the second highest in terms of employment generation. About 86% of the vehicle population on the National Highways (NHs) constitutes commercial vehicles and yet, there is negligible infrastructure on the highways related to wayside amenities, secured parking lots, drinking water, toilets and rest rooms for the drivers and the crew. There are no secured parking zones. Due to non-availability of parking spaces, our members face a lot of harassment and extortion.
Q. Has there been any significant increase in road linkage to tier I, tier II and tier III cities?
A. Yes, there has been some increase but not significantly. The focus remains on national highways. The state governments do not have the capacity or the focus for the same.
Q. How do you judge the truck services in India?
A. The trucks are not luxury vehicles but are in the service of the nation. Yet, this sector is extorted and exploited. Good infrastructure is highly taxed with high toll charges, while poor infrastructure leads to weakening of vehicle health, high usage of fuel and increased maintenance costs. An increase of operating costs is difficult for road transporters as this sector depends largely on demand and supply of the market.
Q. What is your opinion regarding toll plazas?
A. We are in a dialogue with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for the removal of toll plazas across the country. We are ready to pay amounts equivalent to toll charges to the government through indirect taxation and demand the abolition of all physical toll plazas and manual interference on the roads.
The road transport fraternity pins its hope on a ‘toll barrier free India’. We expect an alternate method of toll tax collection. Additionally, due to corruption, there is revenue leakage. Wastage of fuel at the toll plazas on account of waiting for clearance of vehicles is another problem. These problems collectively lead to higher logistical costs.
Q. How would you react to the newly issued surcharge on fuel prices?
A. The fuel cess started at Rs. 50 paise per litre as road cess in 1996, it increased to Rs. 2 per litre and then to Rs. 6 per litre in 2015, Rs. 8 per litre in 2018 and to Rs. 10 per litre in 2019. The new surcharge will definitely push up fuel prices which is diesel in our case. Fuel accounts for about 62% of the operating costs and this surcharge will lead to new problems.
Q. Can higher penetration of warehouses positively influence your sector?
A. Yes, to a certain extent. However, problems of our sector are more operational and arise due to excessive corruption, taxation, and a coercive regulatory regime.
Q. What will be your suggestions to make this sector cost-effective and profitable?
A. This sector is one of the highest taxed sectors and also a major employment generator. However, it remains highly suppressed and marginalised. To save the road transport sector, a minimum Cost Based Freight (CBF) system should be implemented. This will help transporters and truckers who are reeling under acute undercutting.