Shortage of drivers forces trucks off the roads in Andhra Pradesh

Guntur: Shortage of drivers is troubling the transport sector in Andhra Pradesh. The poor working conditions, lack of regular sleep, homesickness, bad health, accidents on the roads and the erratic life style are all forcing the drivers to leave their jobs and return home. They are also discouraging the new generation, especially if it is someone from their homes to start a career as a lorry driver. This has resulted in an acute shortage of drivers in the road transport industry, which is the backbone of the Indian trade industry. 

According to reports, there were 3 lakh lorries in the 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh, but now 30 per cent of these vehicles are off the roads because of unavailability of drivers. The truck operators are gradually decreasing the number of vehicles and pulling in their transport operation due to shortage of drivers.

Every truck on the road has a driver and a cleaner who is his assistant and Man Friday. Gradually the cleaner learns driving in the “Guru-Shishya” system. He then becomes a driver after acquiring all the driving skills and passing the test of the Transport Department. But nowadays the trucks are plying without cleaners due to the reluctance of the unemployed to work in lorries.

The other factors that dissuade the drivers from becoming a lorry driver include the fear of highway robberies. Also, the unavailability of traditional food in other states forces the drivers to cook their own food. This is also harrowing after 8-10 hours of hard driving. Ailments related to diabetes, blood pressure, gastric issues, pollution are placing additional pressure on the drivers. 

A truck operator Mr N. Gurunath said that trucks, mini lorries and other vehicles are easily available on zero per cent finance or for payment of only Rs 10,000 to Rs 50,000 but drivers are unavailable. He said that drivers were also were becoming truck owners by purchasing trucks/lorries through vehicle finance on EMIs and earning good income driving their own vehicles. This was also a reason for the decrease of drivers. 

A driver Mr G. Panduranga Rao said that there is good demand of fish and prawns in West Bengal so aqua merchants used to trade in fish and prawns from Vijayawada, Vishakapat-nam, Bhimavaram, Rajahmundry and other areas of the state and supply to West Bengal. But since these were perishable items, they had to reach West Bengal, within a stipulated time, putting additional pressure on the drivers. He added that 75 per cent drivers were in 50 years age group and the new generation did not want to become drivers.

President of AP Lorry Owners Association Mr Y.V. Eswara Rao has sought the government’s help to take pro-active measures to attract the present generation towards the driving profession to save the lorry/truck industry.

Non-Telugus drive trucks
A new trend of employing non-Telugu drivers has started in Andhra Pradesh. Drivers from states like UP, Rajasthan, Odisha, Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala are being offered jobs as drivers in AP.  The unemployed from these states come in droves to work as skilled and unskilled workers, artisans, false ceiling workers, designer furniture workers and goldsmiths. Often they also start their own small businesses like starting up a tea stall or a small-time restaurant. 

Majority of these workers from other states live singly and go to their native places once or twice a year. As the locals are showing reluctance to work on trucks/lorries as drivers the owners and operators are now bringing the drivers from other states.

 A transport service owner Mr J. Suresh said that truck owners are ready to pay Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000 per month to a skilled and good driver but the local drivers are reluctant to leave their homes for days to go for long-distance trips. The new trend of getting drivers from other states is more workable. They are away from their families and visit their homes once a year. So they are more than happy to travel long distances. “This is good, because otherwise we had to lay off the vehicles which meant huge losses for us. This would also damage the vehicles,” he added.

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