With Unlock 1.0 in full swing, freight movement has seen an uptick as well, thanks to trucks making a comeback on the roads. As per data, 58% of the registered national permit trucks were active on the roads on June 8, which accounts for almost 8.7 lakh trucks in the country. This increase has been recorded against 30% or 4.5 lakh trucks that were plying on the roads on May 8.
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This data is significant in pointing towards revived economic activities in the country, such as movement of farm and agricultural produce to markets, an increase in the GST e-way bills and improved frequency of goods movement at ports.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak had hit the country, 70% of the registered national permit trucks, or more than 10 lakh vehicles, were plying on the roads. The nationwide lockdown had witnessed a steep decline in truck movement in the country, from a minimal 8% on April 12, to 24% on April 24 to a slight improvement to 30% on May 8.
As per Abhishek Gupta, Joint Secretary, All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), the improvement in truck movement rates is heavily dependent on availability of drivers and the load. Commenting on why India’s witnessing a shortage of drivers in this crisis, he said, “A lot of trucks are now being used for shorter routes as drivers are not keen to go out of their comfort zone.”. According to Gupta, improvement in truck movement still has a long way to go, since driver shortage is such that more than 40% of the trucks are sitting idle.
As per reports, the freight rates have seen a surge at major ports in the country, such as Mumbai’s JNPT, Gujarat’s Mundra Port and Chennai Port. Gupta said, “JNPT has been badly affected due to 50-100% rise in freight rates.”. This can significantly increase the costs for importers and exporters.