Himachal Pradesh industry minister Harshwardhan Chauhan today held a meeting with cement company managements and truck operators’ unions to find a way out of the 35-day-long impasse created after transporters stopped plying trucks following cement industry’s demand for reduction in freight rates.
Sources said, the cement companies have proposed timebound measures for resolving the deadlock by (1) fixing optimum kilometre per annum for calculation of freight, for a period of three years, with 40,000 km for first year, 45,000 km for second year and 50,000 km for third year, (2) phasing out of excess trucks within a timeframe of three years, and (3) immediate moratorium on adding new trucks. The cement companies require less number of multi-axle trucks compared to more than 3,000 small trucks that have been plying in Darlaghat and Barmana.
Sources also disclosed that the cement companies have told the state government that all operational decisions regarding transportation should be decided by the companies, as is the practice in other states. This includes deployment, route, etc. to be decided by companies based on market principles. Apart from this, capacity and type of trucks should be left to the companies to decide as per their transportation needs.
The cement companies have said that they continue to have a strong commitment towards the growth and prosperity of Himachal Pradesh, but the ‘gatta’ charges of Rs 35 lakh per transfer for truck union members are highly exorbitant. The transportation market in Himachal Pradesh is completely controlled by truck unions, who not only decide the freight rates, but also the deployment of trucks, the material that should be transported, and even the destination for each truck.
Industry sources pointed out that since the freight rate is controlled by truck unions, they have artificially kept it a a very high level, and this has led to oversupply of trucks, thus creating a huge imbalance between demand and supply. The number of trucks in Himachal Pradesh is presently thrice the actual demand. Because of this excess umber, the kilometre-distance travelled by trucks in HP is just one-fourth of the national average which is between 80,000 to 1 lakh km per annum.
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