Trained drivers who practise eco-driving principles help lowering fuel consumption and fatality rates
Logistics sector is one of the major contributors to India’s economy. The demand for logistics is growing faster, considering the rising quantum of trade and commerce.
The road freight sector occupies about 70 per cent share of the total flow of goods, according to government think tank NITI Aayog’s Transforming Trucking in India - Pathways to Zero Emission Truck Deployment’ 2022 report.
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It is estimated that the road freight sector will dominate in the upcoming years, where truck movements will more than quadruple, from four million in 2022 to roughly 17 million by 2050. The enormous demand for drivers will certainly arise in pursuit of meeting the requirements for businesses and vehicular growth.
The report on the Status of Truck Drivers in India by automobile manufacturer Mahindra throws light on the shortage of truck drivers in the transportation industry. There are two million truck drivers at present and the driver-to-truck ratio stands below 750 per 1,000.
While meeting the demand for driver shortage, producing well-trained drivers in the industry is also pertinent. Trained drivers who practise eco-driving principles help lowering fuel consumption and fatality rates.
Accidents in the country currently stand at 142,163 people per year, according to 2021 estimates and around 78 per cent of road crashes are caused due to the faults of drivers, according to Overview of Road Accidents in India report.
The eco-driving principles include immediate measures like regular vehicle maintenance, fuel-efficient driving and avoiding overloading and rash driving. It is an important subset of best practices in the most successful green freight programme, SmartWay, implemented in the United States and Canada.
During the 12th five-year plan, the Centre renamed the nationwide scheme to set up driving training institutes. The scheme was renamed the Institute of Driving Training and Research (IDTR) with an additional component of establishing Regional Driving Training Centres (RDTCs).
The purpose was to strengthen driver training and licensing. Further, the financial implication was revised for the establishment of IDTRs during 2017-18 to 2019-20.
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The revised scheme includes a two-tier system of driving training and research institutes — Model Institutes of Driving Training and Research (MIDTR) and RDTCs.
The RDTCs are constructed and operated under public-private partnerships (PPP). At the same time, MIDTR has provision for private collaboration with 100 per cent capital investment by the central government, which is up to Rs 18.5 crore.
Under the scheme, the Union government provides financial assistance for the faster development of 100 driving training institutes, among which 37 institutes have been sanctioned. Another scheme allows for establishing driving training centres at the district-level. District-level driving training centres are developed in collaboration with the central government, state government and private sector.
As of July 19, 2021, Centre has sanctioned 31 IDTRs and six RDTCs across all major states. IDTRs were opened broadly in every state while RDTCs were opened in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Kolkata.
A map showing locations of government-run driving training institutes in the country. The map is created by the authors, using information from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Several private driving institutes are built to support the government in providing training. But there is a rare practice of teaching eco-driving principles as part of the training module.
The training module is not uniform and accounts for different topics and approaches at respective training centres. Drivers are unaware of them and receive training certificates before applying for a driving license, due to which the practice of overloading, speed driving and irregular maintenance has remained unchanged.
A driving license for truck drivers requires drivers to undergo mandatory training for six months. Although, a poor regulatory system allows drivers to receive a driving license without undergoing any training.
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Central/state governments do not keep any record of the total number of truck drivers trained each year, which could be used by big companies to hire well-trained drivers. All the training institutes keep their records individually, which remains incompetent for the industry.
Lack of awareness of IT-enabled eco-driving techniques and fuel-efficient practices among truck drivers results in the wastage of fuel and increased emission of greenhouse gases.
There are no criteria mandating the number of diving training institutes as against the total drivers in the country. Shortage in multi-axle vehicle driving training needs attention from the government side.
The existing training modules do not mention the quality of training and practice of theoretical applications. A uniform training module and approach should be adopted to rectify this.
For better truck driving behaviour, it is important to look at the areas of intervention listed below:
Tanya Mittal is the transport and infrastructure advisor and Subhadeep Nayak is a consultant at the Climate Friendly Freight Transport in India project.
Views expressed are the authors’ own and don’t necessarily reflect those of Down To Earth
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