India Approves Draft Notice Requiring Air-Conditioned Trucks; OEMs welcome the move

Trucks are divided into three categories based on their gross vehicle weight (GVW). N1 trucks have a GVW of 3.5 tons or less, N2 trucks have a GVW of 3.5 to 12 tons and N3 trucks have a GVW of 12 tons or more.

Gadkari said the decision marks a “significant milestone” in creating comfortable working conditions for truck drivers, which will help improve their efficiency and address driver fatigue. He also said he would like working hours for drivers to be set soon like other countries. The government has not yet announced a timetable for the implementation of the new regulation, but it is expected to come into force in the coming months.

India’s decision to make air conditioning mandatory in truck cabins is a welcome step given the country’s high accident rate. In 2021, India recorded over 1.53 lakh road fatalities, the highest number in the world. Over 15,000 of these deaths were attributed to truck and truck drivers, and trucks and trucks were involved in over 57,000 accidents.

A study by the Save LIFE Foundation provides this perspective, suggesting that driver fatigue is a major risk factor for road accidents in India. The study found that truck drivers often work long hours, averaging 11.9 hours a day – a significant amount of time in sweltering heat and dust. This can lead to fatigue, which can affect judgment and reaction time. In addition, the study found that 49% of truck drivers said they drive even when they feel tired or sleepy.

The same study shows that around 9 out of 10 truck drivers drive trucks without air conditioning. The remaining 1 in 10 truck drivers have trucks with air conditioning. Truck drivers say they don’t use air conditioning because it uses more fuel. That means they have to buy more fuel, which costs them more money. Truck drivers therefore prefer to drive trucks without air conditioning, or if their truck has air conditioning, they refrain from using it. Instead, they use small fans to keep cool. It’s important to note that most drivers are charged a fixed amount for their trip, which includes the cost of fuel, tolls, meals, and other expenses.

Drivers are the backbone of the transport sector

The development can also be seen in the context of the transport sector, which is the backbone of the Indian economy. Road transport controls 90% of passenger traffic and 67% of freight traffic in the country. Truck drivers play an important role in moving the goods in India but the disorganized nature of trucking prevents them from getting their due share compared to their industry peers.

There is a shortage of truck drivers in India. There are currently 20,000 truck drivers and the driver to truck ratio is below 750 per 1000. This means that at any given time around 25-30% of trucks in India are stationary. Workers in this sector are overworked and often have to complete long journeys with irregular shifts without relief. Truck drivers often suffer from harsh working conditions, health problems and extra hours that lead to traffic accidents and fatalities.

OEMs give it a thumbs up

According to Vinod Aggarwal, Managing Director and CEO of Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles, the development reflects an advanced approach to improving driver ergonomics and comfort, enabling improved road safety and efficient logistics. He added that air-conditioned cabs provide much-needed rest for truck drivers who keep the country’s economy running in tough working conditions and extreme temperatures during long hours on the road. Aggarwal went on to say that the implementation of air-conditioned cabins could result in additional costs, with estimates ranging from Rs 30,000 to 50,000 depending on vehicle size. Additionally, on some models, particularly light commercial vehicles, OEMs may need to consider powertrain modifications and increased engine power to accommodate AC cabs.

“Together with improvements in highway infrastructure and vehicle emissions and safety, this order is another positive step in transforming the trucking industry in India by addressing one of the key stakeholders in the logistics system: truck drivers. This will also encourage more people to take up truck driving as a career.” Aggarwal noted.

Satyakam Arya, Managing Director and CEO of Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (DICV), said, “I believe that with the air conditioner now there will be no hood,” adding that the second point where more concerted effort is needed be, the security be of huts. He added that DICV never allowed bonnet trucks and offered cabs that even passed European crash safety tests.

Commenting on the development, a Tata Motors spokesman said: “India’s growing truck industry faces challenges in attracting and retaining skilled truck drivers. This decision will benefit driver health and safety as long hours of truck driving become more comfortable.”

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