A study by the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad (IIMA) has suggested that just like airplanes, trucks plying on Indian roads should be equipped with video cameras and black box to analyze the causes of accidents.
The study, titled ‘An overview of the Trucking sector in India: significance and structure’, also put emphasis on various other measures to be taken to improve the safety and efficiency of this sector, which, according to the study, is marred by various problems, including corruption.
Stressing on the safety aspect, the study claimed that Indian roads kill more people every year than any other country.
“Indian roads kill the maximum number of people globally, on a country-wise comparison. Road engineering, signages, driver training and licensing, driving practices and vehicle maintenance need significant attention. Post-accident support is also critical to minimize loss of life and limb,” the study said.
“While the government is trying to arm itself with a new Transport and Safety Bill, a lot can happen even without it by focused action at the grassroots. Truck-based video cameras and black box should be considered for better analysis of the causes of accidents,” said the study.
Citing international studies related to road safety, the study cautions the government from planting trees near the highways, which may actually cause accidents.
“The recent initiative to have tree plantations on the land adjacent to highways needs caution. As per many international studies, trees are the biggest killers during accidents. This is specially significant, when we are trying to increase the average speed on the roads,” the study said.
The study also expressed concern over the average speed at which trucks ply in India. It said that a truck covers around 300 km per day in India, which needs to be increased. It also said that infrastructure development has slowed down recently.
“The primary need of the trucking sector is speed. While vehicle technologies are moving in this direction, infrastructural and regulatory bottlenecks remain. There was a push on infrastructure in the last decade, which has slowed down. Attempts are being made to re-energize this,” the study claimed.
“On the regulatory side, a lot needs to happen to enable streamlined movement of trucks across the country. Apart from removing inter-state checkposts, electronic tolling needs immediate attention. The average speed of trucks needs to move significantly upward from the current 300-plus km per day,” it said.
According to the study, cut-throat competition, corruption and safety level are interwoven in this sector.
“This sector is characterized by cut-throat competition, given the large number of truck owners. Market rates tend to get deflated. This creates the incentive to drive and earn more. This leads to practices such as overloading, overspeeding, not taking the required breaks, violating the regulatory provisions, etc,” it said.
“This leads to corruption, as these operators pay bribes to avoid being caught for plying overloaded trucks, exceeding speed limits and violating other traffic and commercial rules. Various studies have documented the bribes that the truckers have to pay on a daily basis,” the study said.
The study further emphasized improving overall working conditions of the truck drivers as well as improvement in road infrastructure to reduce losses.
“Studies have estimated that the economic loss due to damages on the road, vehicle and cargo would amount to 2 per cent of the GDP. In addition, the driver is often stressed out, which could also be a cause of accidents,” it said.
“High-quality road infrastructure, improved truck cab design for driver comfort and scientific cargo loading practices need emphasis,” suggested the study.