By Srajan Nawal
If logistics is the heart of commerce then trucking is the blood in it. Hence, it is an established fact that trucking operations and the efficiency of the same is of primary importance in the growth and development of any economy.
Driver management is one of the biggest issues faced by the trucking industry. Truck driving profession is one of the least respected professions in the country. Historically too, this section of society has not been accorded any position of dignity, largely owing to their absence in the routine social life of their families and communities. In addition, the lifestyle practice/habits of the truck driver community are perceived negatively by the general public. And the remuneration for truck drivers is one of the most neglected areas of logistics operations, generally across the globe, but more specifically in India.
A truck driver in India earns somewhere between INR 20,000 to 25,000 a month, which is very less compared to the kind of efforts required to do the job. Truck driving is a very hectic job and in addition to physical stress it involves a lot of mental stress also. This is one of the main reasons for the general shortage of truck drivers in most urban and semi-urban markets.
Let’s have a look at availability of truck drivers over the years through a graphical representation:
The above graph shows the number of drivers that will be available per 1000 trucks in the years to come. We can clearly see how the numbers of drivers are declining. The drivers available in the year 2022 is 480 per 1000 trucks whereas the requirement estimated is of around 850 drivers per 1000 trucks. This issue is also discussed in the draft National Logistics Policy of the Indian government.
It is perceived to be a high-risk job because of poor living conditions, vulnerability to contracting HIV, drug, and alcohol addiction, and pressure from truck owners to drive more and faster.
A lot of rules have been framed and legislation was put in place, setting how many hours a driver can be on the road. Much of this is not followed, as the fleet owners want to achieve their monthly targets of completing the required trips and also have to fulfil their commitments to their clients of timely delivery.
The fact that drivers stay on the road for days on end makes this a profession that is looked down upon. Many truck drivers take to alcohol and drugs to cope with the stresses of the job, which include harassment from the police and dacoits. Studies have shown that long distance truck drivers are highly vulnerable to HIV transmission due to risky sexual behaviour, like unprotected sex with sex workers. The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) estimates that around 3% of India’s two million truckers are living with HIV. The prevalence rate among truckers is much higher than that for the country as a whole, which is at 0.3 percent.
The important question to answer is how we plan to solve this issue?
We at Trails have devised certain methods where we look aggressively into solving the driver management problems. We take the Humanising part very seriously at Trails and every person is dedicated to make the life of drivers better.
Trails is devising a method where the drivers will reach home the same day or within 24 hours. This will ensure the drivers a better work-life balance. Our main aim is to make drivers life easy and at the same time increase the efficiency of truck movement. The model that looks perfectly simple when we discuss it is actually a complex logistical exercise. This exercise will be backed by sophisticated algorithms, data science, automation process and analytics.
The driver management module at Trails will be called To-Fro. The implementation of To-Fro will reduce the overall logistics cost and also the transportation time. Through this model we plan to reduce the time by almost 60% to 70% and the logistics cost by almost 2.5% to 3%.
The model will ensure that the truck driver reaches home at the end of the day and if this happens it will solve many of the driver related issues that we discussed earlier.
When we talk about higher pay and lesser work hours it may seem like charity/social work, on the contrary we are just trying honour the truck driving profession with a justified pay that there work input deserves.
(Srajan Nawal is the Co-founder and former COO now CEO at Trails Supply Chain Solutions Pvt. Ltd.)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of author and has nothing to do with Trails Supply Chain Solutions Pvt. Ltd.)