When I first started to work in India, I immediately saw how much potential the country had, and how it will easily surpass China's economy by 2020. However, I was quite struck by some aspects of Indian transport. I imagined how India would look 10 years down the line, with roads projects entirely finished, road transport regulated, traffic decongested and so on.
Five years have gone by since I started my activities in India and I have to say that the country has really moved forward on many projects. But one question remains: How long will India still support overloaded trucks on its roads?
In 2011, overloaded trucks accounted for 20% of road accidents. In 2013, 38,370 people were killed because of these vehicles. With the new government pushing for zero tolerance in this matter, will we succeed in making this number close to zero?
Indeed, some measures have been taken. A high penalty has been proposed in the Road Transport and Safety Bill for those who fail to comply with the new rules, with a suspension of permits for one month upon first offence and a cancellation of permits if the offence is repeated. Also, the Bill will include much higher fines.
In my opinion, restrictive measures are not enough to solve the problem. Indeed, two overloaded trucks recently overturned on the Bareilly-Haridwar NH30 30 near Nisra Village in Pilibhit district.
No matter what legal actions have been taken before, truck operators continue to overload. There is a clear lack of will from transport companies to make things right. What fleet owners and drivers need is a real change of attitude and behaviours. And what we all need is to define what it really means to overload trucks.
• Overloading trucks means destroying roads and highways.
• Overloading trucks means causing road accidents.
• Overloading trucks means killing people.
There is one part of the revised draft of the Road Transport and Safety Bill which I really believe in. The list of people who can now be held responsible include not only the driver but the vehicle's owner (for allowing their vehicles to ply), common carriers, good transport agents and consignees. Even road toll operators can be held responsible. This is a great improvement as responsibility is distributed among all parties.
I suppose many people think that all these efforts towards more regulation are useless, but I don't believe so. I am convinced that India is on the right path. What seems insignificant today will slowly be effective.
The other way to improve the situation is keep to on educating people, especially the youth, on the importance of road safety. Initiatives such as introducing road safety lessons into the state board curriculum like the Maharashtra government did last January are examples to follow.
India raises many hopes all around the world. As all eyes are on India, the country needs to keep enforcing laws and educating people on road safety issues.
The predicted growth in the economy will increase the demand for trucks, and the increase in trucking fleets. This growth will be possible only if the menace of overloaded trucks is curbed -- in others words if transport companies comply with rules and regulations and join in the collective efforts.
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