Coronavirus Lockdown: Truck Rentals Jump As Drivers Ply Back Empty Trucks 
A workers sprays disinfectants on a truck entering APMC grain market in Navi Mumbai, during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, on April 1, 2020. (Source: PTI)

Coronavirus Lockdown: Truck Rentals Jump As Drivers Ply Back Empty Trucks 

The cost of renting a truck to transport goods has jumped sharply as the few operators who are on the roads face difficulties in operating amid a nationwide lockdown.

All transport services have been suspended except those needed for essential services, according to a notification by the Home Ministry.

One-way rentals for an 18-ton payload truck rose between 56 percent to 74 percent, according to data collated for some key routes by the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training.

On routes such as Ranchi-Delhi, truck rental prices rose to Rs 75,000, 56 percent higher than rates prevailing before the lockdown. The rise was steeper in some other routes such as Nagpur-Delhi, where truck rental prices went up to Rs 78,000, rising by over 70 percent compared to rental prices before the lockdown.

These figures are representative of the spike in truck rentals countrywide as there is no return load available, said SP Singh, senior fellow at the Indian Foundation of Transport Research. The shortage of drivers also caused higher prices he said.

Daily movement of trucks has collapsed to less than 10 percent of normal levels, according to All India Motor Transport Congress, an umbrella body of goods-vehicle operators representing about 10 million truckers. The AITWA estimates that as many as 2 lakh drivers have left the trucks as they were stopped at the borders or had no load to carry.

Abhijit Sen, former member of the planning commission, while speaking to BloombergQuint on the supply chain disruptions across essential items, said that truckers were unwilling to work because of harassment by the police over lack of clarity on what goods were permitted to be transported. These disruptions also caused a sharp drop in the arrivals of agricultural commodities to marketplaces.

A truck driver shaves his beard underneath his truck in Mumbai, during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown,  on April 6, 2020. (Source: PTI)
A truck driver shaves his beard underneath his truck in Mumbai, during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown, on April 6, 2020. (Source: PTI)

While trends in truck rentals may change if the lockdown is eased, ICICI Securities Ltd. in a report dated April 3 had pointed to the uncertainties that may persist for some time. These include concerns over how quickly drivers would return given some migration back to villages. In the absence of a quick return of labour, loading and unloading would remain a concern, the report said.

Still, should the lockdown be eased and availability of goods to transport picks up across key routes, rentals should normalise, said Singh.

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