About 80% of freight in India is roadways based rather than rail, and trucks are responsible for most of the carriage. While road activity is optimum, unfortunately road accidents in India is more than that of other countries. NCRB data reveals about 1,39,000 people die in road accidents each year. Of them, 26,678 people die because of sleep deprivation. Drowsy driving by truck drivers during transit is oft discussed.A sample survey of drivers by Institute of Road Traffic Education (IRTE) in 2013 points to 29% drivers enduring sleep disorder. Globally, about 20% accidents occur due to ‘driver fatigue’.
In 2006, Ramesh and Rajender Agarwal of Agarwal Packers & Movers Ltd.(APML) turned their focus on drivers, whom they consider key drivers of economy. A survey has revealed that over time drivers available per 1000 vehicles has reduced. In 1982 this number was 1310. In 1992, 1000, in 2002, 890, and in 2012 it was 750. Projections put this number at a low of 480 drivers per 1000 trucks in 2022.
In 2007 when Ramesh Agarwal became National President of All India Transporter’s Welfare Association (AITWA), he pledged to work towards for upliftment of drivers with focus on reviving this class and re-establishing its identity in society. While drivers are responsible for the major section of transportation, they’re treated shabbily and with disrespect even in the face of delivering in dire situations. Policemen’s apathy is a major concern says Rajender Agarwal, who has himself travelled in trucks to get an insight into issues faced by the trucking industry.
The lives of Indian truckers speaks volumes about their difficult jobs. Drivers don’t get uninterrupted sleep for more than 2:40 hours/day, and die at least 10 years before normal human life span. About 22% of drivers remain unmarried, and 26% of total trucks, about 23 lakh vehicles remain halted each day due to unavailability of truck drivers.
Ramesh Agarwal, Chairman – Agarwal Movers Group has established the 1st ‘Driver Seva Kendra’ in India at Jaipur – Kishangarh highway (NH-8). Spread over 50 acres, it houses a building with 500 cots and fans so drivers can rest uninterrupted. The CSR initiative includes barber services, large bathrooms and toilets, and parking for trucks free of cost. Motels/dhabas operating at Driver Seva Kendra provide good and hygienic food at zero profit. A retail stop makes available daily need commodities at reasonable rates. A truck repair centre caters to vehicle repairs at nominal charges. Facilities are being used by 450-500 truck drivers each day reaching about 15,000 trucks a month. In data terms, this single Driver Seva Kendra is responsible for saving 41 lives each month through its ‘Nidra Daan’ concept. Ramesh Agarwal is devoted in trying to make this profession more dignified so drivers may get their due place in society. It is only when drivers have a respectable life and get due benefits, more people will join the profession. Policy implementations in this regard would take a while to reap benefits, so it needs to be put into gear at the earliest.