Truck drivers, CSR in India!

I believe that “A nation which does not take care of it’s farmers and soldiers is doomed!” As a corollary,  as logistics professionals we should take care of drivers (or the supply chain is doomed). We as a country have the rare distinction of having  travelled a long distance on the road to doom, having ignored farmers, soldiers and drivers.

There are more about 5 million truck drivers in India who keep the wheels of the economy moving. The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the TVs we watch, the books we read and the laptops we use are all transported by these unsung heroes.   Roads have more than 70% share of the goods and freight traffic in India.

Yet the condition of the road drivers is pathetic. They do not have decent places to rest, perform their ablutions, have to tolerate long queues at checkpoints, frequent stoppages by the RTOs and police and wait for loading and unloading. The incidence of AIDs among drivers is 3 times higher than the average for the others.

These were the thoughts that were going through my mind on Independence Day as I attended the flag hoisting ceremony  on 15th August.

We as corporates do a lot of CSR [ Corporate Social Responsibility] activities . It is a buzzword and a lot of good work gets done. However, not too many CSR activities get focussed towards drivers.

What can we as corporates do to help the drivers and thereby take the trucking industry to the next level.

Overloading: Trucks invariably get overloaded Corporates turn a blind eye to overloading as transportation costs increase if trucks carry the permissible load.

There is a complete industry which thrives on overloading. As soon as a new truck is bought, it is kitted for overloading. New leaf springs with thicker and more number of plates are fitted and the side height of the body is increased so that extra weight can be carried.

Toilets, Rest rooms, canteens for drivers: Do we provide toilets, rest-rooms canteens for truck drivers? Trucks stand and wait for days together to get loaded or unloaded, yet basic facilities are not provided for the drivers. Sulabh would be more than willing to provide toilets as long as corporates can give land and some basic facilities. An eating facility can be provided for the drivers like a canteen. I know that is some places Rs 2 or Rs 5 is collected from drivers and toilet, canteen and rest-room facilities are provided.

Health check-ups: Eye check up and educating drivers about AIDS can be taken up. On this fairly good progress has been made.

Training: Training institutes have been setup to train drivers on safe driving habits and defensive driving. Ashok Leyland has a drivers training institute at Namakkal . Similarly PCRA does training on how to drive in an efficient manner so as to conserve fuel. The training is done at a nominal cost or sometimes even done free. After the safety training, regular surveys, checks and tests should be done to monitor the increase in safety habits. Corporates responsibility does not end with a training.

Incentive schemes based on number of trips: This is a practice which leads to over speedings and accidents. Corporates in their zest to fulfill targets and move material fix incentives based on a certain number of trips. This is the issue with Blueline buses in Delhi which kill more than 100 people every year. Absolute NO NO!!

Checking: Vehicles should be checked for headlights, tail lamps, brake-lights, indicators and reflective triangles. Only trucks having all this in working order should be allowed into the factory gate for loading. Driver’s license is usually checked. Breathalysers should be used to ensure that drivers are no intoxicated.

And logistics managers can ensure quick turnaround of trucks within the plant. This will lower costs and increase availability.