Home >politics >policy >Government move to increase truck axle load raises concerns

New Delhi/Mumbai: A Union transport ministry decision permitting trucks to carry up to 25% more weight than before will have implications for commodity prices, road traffic and safety, besides truck sales and freight rates, industry stakeholders and experts said.

Under new norms—which the government claims will reduce logistics costs by 2%—gross vehicle weight (GVW) for a two-axle truck (two wheels in the front axle and four wheels in the rear) has been raised from 16.2 tonnes to 18.5 tonnes; for three-axle trucks from 25 tonnes to 28.5 tonnes; and for five-axle trucks from 37 tonnes to 43.5 tonnes.

Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari said the move will help reduce transportation cost and consequently, commodity prices. Overloading is very rampant and the move will help to stop it.

Gadkari said the move will help bring down corruption and overloading. “We will now enforce overloading rules very strictly. We are also requesting states to enforce provisions against overloading and not allow any overloaded vehicle to move till excess load is removed."

He said axle loads were last notified in 1983 and no change has been made in last 35 years despite India’s progress.

He added that an advisory will be issued soon to address various queries. “We have taken the decision with consultation from all stakeholders," Gadkari said.

“Freight rates will come down, although not immediately, but subsequently for sure," said P.C. Sharma, chief executive of logistics company TCI Express.

According to Sharma, normal trucking will have an immediate impact while truck trailers will take time to show effect. “Allowing more weight on same size of truck for containerized cargo movement won’t have an impact till the government notifies new sizes for containers," said Sharma.

He pointed out that the notification has some ambiguity, primarily on fitness certificates. “Fitness certificate is obtained once in a year. The notification doesn’t clarify if the new certificate is to be obtained following order date i.e. 16 July or the one obtained earlier will be considered till there expiry," said Sharma, adding the government needs to come up with clarification on it soon.

Central Road Research Institute director Satish Chandra pointed out that increasing load will reduce the life of roads. “Indian roads are made keeping standard axle loads in mind. The new national and state highways along with expressways can be built by using new norms, but for the existing roads, the life will be reduced on average by one year. For example, if a road requires re-carpeting (laying of surface) in five years, with new norms, it will be reduced to four years."

A senior government official on condition of anonymity agreed with Chandra. He said, “60% of roads will develop cracks or would wear out if the new axle loads are allowed to ply on them".

He added that move will raise safety concerns for road commuters as Indian drivers are not trained to carry huge load trucks.

A Tata Motors spokesperson said the company is “studying" the notification “with respect to engineering and certification implications".

Vinod Dasari, managing director (MD) and chief executive officer (CEO) at Ashok Leyland Ltd, the country’s second largest commercial vehicle maker said the decision is “confusing" at this point, adding that “it might be better to implement this preferably with the BS-VI norms". Another hindrance is the absence of suitably-engineered tyres “which will take at least a year to develop".

“I am told that the logic to doing this is that the vehicles were overloading anyway, and the penalties will be far more stringent once this is implemented. If that’s the case, then there should be no impact on volumes. In fact, there might be an upside in volumes as customers who were sitting on the fence will now see a legal way of making profits".

“The industry could have been given a time frame for adhering to the new norms. At present, none of the manufacturers have trucks with a capacity of 55 tonnes," said Vinod Aggarwal, MD and CEO at Volvo Eicher Commercial Vehicles Pvt. Ltd.

Malyaban Ghosh from New Delhi contributed to this story.

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