We generally hear about rampant overloading on Indian roads. We also hear about accidents due to overload or overhang material oozing out of trucks. Many a times we see over turned trucks on highways due to excess material loaded on them. There are times when we see trucks on roads ‘sprinkling’ dust or pebbles on roads, which at times hit our car screens as well. For all these acts, we curse the drivers, call them rogues, merciless, ill-mannered, uneducated and much more.
But did we ever try to analyse why overloading / overhanging on trucks happen? Who are the real rogues? Why do drivers end up carrying extra material on trucks? Or why do they carry uncovered dust on trucks which ultimately gets sprinkled all over the road. Do they ever do it on their own wish?
Let us try looking at few such questions here!
Who does the truck carry the material for? Well, it can be anyone including you, me or anyone for that matter. It is us (on individual or an organisational capacity) who give the material to the drivers to transport; the value of this material can range from few lacs to many lacs Rupees.
Why don’t drivers generally say ‘NO’ to carry extra material on trucks? As few of lowest paid in the society with respect to the amount of time and effort they put in, some of them surely do it for that extra buck. While some work on the sheer influence of the truck owners or the material owners. Most of the drivers know the rules of the road. Most of them know the load carrying capacity of the vehicles. And most of them tell, inform and even warn the owner of goods about the possible consequences of overloading and over hanging. But, many a times, we don’t bother to listen to them due to our sheer ego or ignorance (may be sometime). And, at other times, we try to bribe them. I am of the view that no driver would ever push his way through to hold you to ransom to get extra load on his truck.
Whoever had the chance to deal with such situation (drivers) would certainly recall something like this:
ज़्यादा होशियारी न दिखा, तू नहीं करेगा तो कोइ और कर लेगा!
कितना और ख़र्चा लगेगा? भाई देख लेना यार, बस जैसे कैसे पहुँचा दे!
कोई जुगाड़ लगा दे यार, ‘इनाम’ दे दूँगा!......
Are some of these phrases being refreshed in mind?
Let’s see the stance of Government of India on this subject. Interestingly, Government of India does not charge full service tax on transportation services under Goods & Transport Agency Act (GTA) and gives abatement in it. Further, the responsibility of paying the abated service tax is entrusted on the end user unlike all other services where providers collects the service tax on behalf of the government and deposit the same in Govt accounts. There may be host of reasons for this policy deviation. But, one prominent and possibly implicit reason is that, the transport sector is considered to be unorganised. The players are considered to be smaller, not very literate and hence would not be able to take the responsibility of collecting service tax on behalf of the Government and deposit it in Govt accounts.
So Govt recognizes that transporters (many of whom are even drivers as well) are not as big / organised to take care of many things including collecting and managing service tax of few hundred rupees per truck trip. Whereas, we as individuals or organisations, try ‘pushing our way through’ by entrusting the same drivers with many lacs worth of goods to ‘manage’ things on his own especially when it is ‘extra’ in weight or dimensions. We, at times, also offer him ‘prize’ if he reaches things intact without any hassles.
Isn’t it an irony that we spoil the good men out there for our greed / laziness / unawareness and then blame them for wrong doings, if at all? Many even corporatize this practice by getting indemnification signed by the ‘hapless’ drivers or transporters in stamp papers known as ‘agreement’ or ‘contract’. In case of overload and overhang material, is it anything less than a ‘contract for killing’? Can there be an indemnification for killing? Why only the drivers are penalised for such ‘killings’? I am, not at all, saying that every one of us is like that. But, it also does not mean that every driver would ‘request’ for extra load own his own.
Let us know few facts. Whatever we consume at our places from morning till evening or during night has been transported by one such ‘hapless’ drivers. Newspapers, Milk, Grocery, handicrafts, white goods, brown goods and everything inside our homes, even the material with which our houses are made is being carried by these drivers from the place of their manufacture to the our place. But did we ever try talking to a truck driver. Yes, a truck driver?? We generally consider it below our dignity to talk to them. While on roads or highways, we honk continuously on them to give us way. On a slightest delay in letting us pass, the holy words that we murmur or the stare that we give to the driver has the intensity of an atom bomb or a laser. Such extreme behavior by many of us with the drivers show our level of hypocrisy. Its not about forming/framing rules, many rules already exist there. Its more about a culture of finding ways to break these rules and that's a dangerous trend.
In most of the cases, the owners of material know what they are making, selling or buying. They ‘take care’ of every gram of material when they pay for the raw material. They know each gram & millimeter of finished goods. Incidentally, they do not dare to overload if / when exporting to US / Europe.
So what if we also have few laws which can be enacted / enforced as below:
- What if owner of the goods is made solely accountable for the extra material / overhang material on the trucks and penalised heavily and instantly?
- What if owner of the vehicle, owner of LR, and the owner of the goods (both sender and receiver) are made to share the responsibility in a certain proportion along with the driver whenever there is a case of overload or overhang material on trucks. And make them all appear in courts / police in person to face this.
- What if such indemnifications in agreements stand null and void in cases where ones basic right of protection is infringed upon?
- What if there is an easy system to allow public to report such matters to a statuary authority. And if found such things plying on roads, make the concerned beat officer, last naka in-charge, last toll booth in-charge etc as party to the crime and penalise them instantly.
What do you think; can’t overloading be stopped by taking some small and simple measures like the above? Do suggest more measure !