Mr Nitish Rai is the founder and CEO of FreightFox. He works closely with teams across functions to design and execute business strategies in line with the company vision and mission. His extensive experience in the global manufacturing sector has provided him with deep insights into its everyday pain areas, which inspired him to build a data-driven enterprise logistics solution. Mr Rai holds an MBA as well as a PhD and is a member of the advisory council at the Army Institute of Technology. His interests include weaponry, railways and machine evolution.
The Indian manufacturing industry is heavily reliant on road transport to deliver supplies and ship products. Affordable to run and accessible to many pin codes, truck routes are the go-to transport option for large and small businesses alike. At present, India is home to more than eight million truck drivers and 12 million truck driver helpers.
Given the increasing demand and the perishable nature of many goods, truck drivers are frequently compelled to go above and beyond to do their deliveries on time. Thus, there is a clear need to support their daily well-being and ensure their long-term health.
The Pressing Issues
Road transport schedules can be highly demanding, covering several hundred miles in a single day, and these trips are often scheduled back-to-back. Due to these long journeys, truck drivers frequently have to compromise on health and comfort. Sleep deprivation is extremely common, as is a shortage of cheap nutritious food options on the road.
In a month-long research study on driver health conducted by Kantar IMRD and Castrol India in 2018 involving 1000 drivers, it was found that more than half of the drivers were having health issues like obesity, insomnia, stress, and breathlessness. In 2019, a research paper was published on the morbidity profile of truck drivers in South India involving 175 truck drivers. The paper said that 50% of the drivers were overweight, while 41% had hypertension and 12% suffered from diabetes.
In 2020, SaveLife Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving road safety in India, released a nationwide, multi-city report. The report found that truckers drive for around 12 hours a day on average, and almost 50% of them said they drive even when feeling tired or sleepy. The survey also found that health problems such as severe backaches, joint/muscle/neck pain, stomach problems, and lack of social security led them to feel dissatisfied.
Apart from the problems mentioned above, the lack of toilet facilities is another problem, and open defecation and urination are often the only options for a truck driver. Challenges like these lead to daily discomfort, and long-term health issues, and also impact the truck driver’s ability to concentrate and be effective on the road. Over long journeys, exhaustion and illness could potentially cause the driver to fall asleep or pass out, leading to critical accidents most of the time. These issues have pushed companies and the government to implement measures to help the physical and mental well-being of truck drivers.
The Need Of The Hour
Companies should be committed to building a freight and transport economy that prioritizes the well-being of the truck drivers, and not solely on the profits for the manufacturers. They should collaborate with manufacturing companies to provide enhanced facilities to ease their life on the road. For instance, manufacturers can set up bunk beds and eateries at their warehouses and factories so that they can be used by truck drivers who have just come in with a delivery.
Installing dashboard cameras can monitor each driver’s attentiveness and send out notifications if a driver appears fatigued, allowing a replacement to be dispatched. The set-up of quality truck terminals having toilets, rest and food facilities on transport routes and at rest stops will further help truck drivers to get ample amounts of rest during their journeys. Investing in telematics technology can boost the well-being of the drivers and vehicles, reducing the driving stress and breakdown of the fleets.
While private initiatives are important, government buy-in is vital for a big and lasting impact. Logistics companies should work with transport authorities to implement new initiatives that will safeguard drivers’ well-being. For instance, Mandates, which restrict the number of hours a truck driver can spend on the road at a stretch, will help companies design shipping schedules that give each driver adequate rest while ensuring that goods are still delivered on time.
The government should also make sure that truck companies are regularly audited and monitored to ensure there is no breach of law. The audits will help officials understand truck drivers’ voices and make sure they are not suppressed by big corporations.
At the end of the day, there are many hazards on the roadways and it is important to remember that the biggest threats to health and safety are still some of the well-known ones. It is important not to underestimate their importance and employers, as well as drivers, should work together to address specific health needs and concerns as they arise. Since truck drivers are the pillars of the Indian transport economy, their health and safety are of paramount importance as they strive toward the smooth operation of our manufacturing chains.
Through judicious Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives, manufacturers can ensure their basic needs are met and supply schedules are flexible enough to give each driver enough time off to recuperate. Public-private partnerships can also improve the current condition of the freight and transport economy, resulting in a safer and healthier environment for truck drivers.