The road transport sector doesn’t have enough funds for daily operations even though lockdown restrictions have been eased for the movement of essential goods, truckers have said.
All India Motor Transport Congress has called for the suspension of toll and reduction in diesel prices. Both components together constitute 80% of the operating costs.
"There is no inland movement as they do not want to increase their inventory or have adequate finance to pay up import duties," AIMTC president Kultaran Singh Atwal said of the situation at ports across the country.
Containers were piling up as industries were closed.
There is no fresh load or unloading at the factories, go-downs or warehouses, which make up for a substantial chunk of business, said sources.
There were several instances of loaded vehicles remaining stuck for days together. Truckers also complained of harassment by the local administration.
The Centre has issued guidelines for lifting restrictions but there was confusion on the ground as states have the final say on lockdown conditions. These vary from state to state, depending on the spread of the coronavirus.
More than 85 percent of the truck operators are small players, who own anywhere between one to five vehicles. As many as 65 percent of them are self-employed or owner-drivers. Many of them may face bankruptcy, said AIMTC.
At present, working capital is raised from NBFCs and private financiers at a higher rate of interest.
The road transport industry had earlier sought soft loans at lower rate of 2-3%, payable at a deferred timeline that would help small operators resume business.
Lack of insurance cover for coronavirus was also keeping drivers from work.
Reports of coronavirus infections 19 in Gwalior and Nawashahr have created panic among drivers.
AIMTC requested the government to provide facilities at petrol pumps and toll plazas for sanitising vehicles, screening of drivers, helpers and creating awareness on the highways and other roads about the virus.