Bangalore: A truckers’ strike in Karnataka could disrupt the movement of goods across large parts of south India from midnight Friday as transporters from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh join peers in the neighbouring state and decline to ply their vehicles to Karnataka.
Truck owners in Karnataka are protesting against a government rule aimed at reducing accidents by limiting the speed of commercial vehicles to 60km an hour through a speed governor or limiter, a device that either restricts fuel supply to a vehicle’s engine or controls its acceleration. They say such devices, priced around Rs15,000 apiece, are too expensive and will affect fuel efficiency and performance, leading to loss of business.
Though the truckers struck work for two days in January on the same issue, this time the state government cannot step in and resolve the matter because the Karnataka high court has ruled that vehicles have to fix the speed governors by 30 June. The court passed the order on a public interest litigation.
“We tried to tell them (truck owners) that we cannot withdraw the rule at this stage because the court has disposed of the matter,” said Karnataka’s transport commissioner M. Lakshmi Narayana. As other transport vehicles such as cabs and mini-buses too are expected to keep off the road, he added, the department has appealed to them to ensure that essential services are not affected.
“We have asked the government to try and settle it once and for all,” said S.S. Patil, president of the Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry, adding prices of vegetables went up 40% during the January strike.
“We are protesting because the state government has not guided the court properly,” said G.R. Shanmugappa, president of the Federation of Karnataka State Lorry Owners and Agents Associations. Transporters from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and some northern states will support the strike because the speed governor rule applies to all the 150,000 commercial vehicles that pass through Karnataka, he added.
At present, states can decide on such rules individually, just as they can decide on whether helmets are mandatory for two-wheeler riders or not.
A second industry body, the Federation of Karnataka Lorry Owners Associations, said its members would not participate in the strike. “The only option is to challenge the high court order through an appeal in the Supreme Court,” said Channa Reddy, the industry body’s president.
Karnataka has over 700,000 commercial vehicles ranging from cabs and mini-buses to trucks. Already, the state is refusing fitness certificates to vehicles without speed governors. Shanmugappa said these devices are in short supply.
But transport commissioner Narayana says there are 11 firms manufacturing or selling speed governors that have been approved by the Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India, a testing authority for roadworthiness.
“We are ready to meet the requirement and we have enough stocks,” says D. Ranganathan, vice-president of Coimbatore-based Pricol Ltd, which manufactures automotive components including speed limiters. Ranganathan said that they would increase production after assessing the demand.