New Motor Vehicle Act - a nightmare for Indian truckers?

The new motor vehicle act 2019 came into effect since the first day of this month. The bill was passed by parliament last month. With the inception of new rules, the offense committed on road will attract 10 to 20 times more fines than what we had till August this year. While the fines were increased in order to ensure that the public takes the rules seriously, the people connected to the trucking sector are worried and they have a reason to be worried as well. Why? Let's see.

Trucking, an unorganized sector

Back in the days trucking used to be a business which was like the hen that laid golden eggs. This specific sector had no rules at all. A lot of unethical business tactics like overloading were very common even till 2015. In some places, they are still going on, even today. To earn more, the truckers got involved in more unethical ideas for a business like loading materials without a permit, materials from the black market and transportation of illegal goods. They earned enough money that if you ask a driver from the 80s or 90s, he will tell you that he has driven for truck owners who bought a new truck almost every month back then after buying the first one. Now, this created a belief among authorities on the highway that truckers are money-making machine and it's easy to extract a few bucks out of them. The system is still there. Just visit a state or district border and you will know that these people belonging to the authorities are earning millions in black money from these truckers.

Now the problem with trucking Industry is that many people back in the time who were illiterate or were very limited to education got into this business. They were not aware of road safety and rules at all and neither had they any idea about vehicle safety. They saw the money ball and jumped to catch it. Over 80% of the trucking industry in India is still like that. Now since the people related to this industry are unaware of most of the laws, it's easy for the authorities to exploit them.

Explaining one such experience of himself, a truck owner from Kanpur says "It was July last year. I received a call from my driver in the early morning. He told me that an officer is here and he is writing a ticket for improper tires on the vehicle. On further inquiry about the offense, the officer told the driver that he is having a radial tire on his truck which is not permitted on this truck. Now the officer offered me to either pay a fine of 5000 INR or pay 2000 as a bribe". The owner tells us about how he was surprised to know about the existence of such law because he is in the industry for the past 30 years and never heard anything like that.

Also, most of the drivers in the industry are those who unfortunately never had a shot at education and hence they are unaware of most of the laws. The problem even here lies with the government. For formality, there are various tests that you must pass to get a commercial driving license but the reality is that even today many brokers are standing outside RTO buildings who get the work done in exchange of some cash.

Current scenario

The era of unorganized business is moving past quicker than ever now. Thanks to strict policies of the current government, all the unethical business is being weeded out of the market and that has hit the trucking industry like an asteroid. The hen that laid the golden egg is now dead. Currently, the situation of truckers in India is so poor that they are defaulting on loans. Of late, some have committed suicide too. There's an oversupply of trucks in the market and the current economic disaster means there's nothing to haul. A big chunk of trucks are standing still. Companies like Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland are forced to sell their units at discounted prices and even then, there aren't enough buyers out there.

So how the new motor vehicle act will have an impact on truckers?

With their profits down to nothing and an industry full of people who have no idea about rules, these truckers are going to face a further nightmare of the new motor vehicle act. Authorities on the highway are likely to exploit them even more now with increased rates of fines.

Below are the penalties that are going to affect the truckers most-
Penalty for offenses where no penalty is specifically provided :
Under this law, you pay a penalty for an offense which is not listed in the law anywhere. In states like Bihar, this is one of the most misused laws against truckers because they have no way to prove that they did not commit the offense. Earlier the fine was INR 100 for the first offense and 300 for second/subsequent offenses. Now it's increased to 500-1500 INR.

Violation of road regulations:
It's a new fine which will range between 500-1000 INR and the truckers are going to be the primary victims because once again, they are not going to have a prof to defend themselves.

Disobedience of orders of Authority and refusal to share information :
If you own a truck which went to Bihar ever, you surely know about this one. One of the most misused laws against truckers on highways; this is now going to be a nightmare for them. The offense attracted a fine of 500 INR and under new regulations; the fine has been increased to 2000 INR.

Dangerous driving:
It's a fact that truckers are one of the rashest drivers not just in India but across the globe. Sometimes they are forced to do so (Like in the case of carrying fruits and veggies) and sometimes just for the heck of it. But once again, a driver has no way to prove whether he was driving normally or not. In the new motor vehicle act, the fine for this offense is imprisonment of 6 months to 1 year and/or fine of Rs. 1000- Rs. 5000 for first offense and imprisonment up to 2 years and/or fine up to Rs. 10000 for the second offense. Now since the driver has no way to prove anything in favor of him, he will be left with just one option, pay the bribe.

Seat belt:
The fine for not wearing a seat belt has been increased from INR 100 to INR 1000. Now what's funny here is that most of the trucks in India are carrying the cabin designs of the 1940s. I have not seen a seat belt in the cabin of a truck that was manufactured before 2010. Even if there were seat belts with the chassis, the one who builds the rest of the body probably removes it. So with stricter laws, the truckers are likely to be stopped for not wearing a seat belt, a non-existing seat belt.

Overloading :
Every truck in India that's carrying some construction material is most likely to be overloaded. We all know that overloading is dangerous but the trucks that are hauling construction materials have no other option than to overload. If they aren't overloading, they won't even recover the operating costs, In fact they have to pay from their own pockets. On the other hand, if all the trucks start loading things like sand within the permitted limits, the cost of these materials are going to skyrocket, making it unaffordable for middle-class people. Currently, there's no solution to this and if you visit a mine near a river you can spot a lot of trucks loading sand two/three times more than the permissible limits. To pass these trucks, the owners pay a hefty amount of bribes to the RTO. The fine for overloading was 2000 INR + 1000 INR per extra ton. Now it's been increased to 20000 INR + 2000 INR per extra ton. Now under current circumstances, the trucks that are playing in the construction material market are not going to start under loading suddenly. The only thing that's going to change is the rate of bribe at RTO offices to let these trucks pass and this is going to have an impact on the prices of these construction materials too. Apart from this dilemma, the reports of RTO having manipulated scales to extract bribe out of underloaded trucks are very common among truckers.

Are there solutions too?

Every problem has a solution if you are dedicated enough but unfortunately, the government probably isn't concerned enough about roadside corruption. The simple solution is to have the offense documented on a camera. Most of the developed countries are already doing that and isn't that too simple? The process might be a bit hectic but yes, that's why those officers are getting paid for right? This step won't just protect roadside corruption but also ensure more collection of fines because the culprits won't escape by paying a bribe. Also, the offender will have rights to challenge the decision. The step is simple, so what's preventing the government from taking such bold steps?


Author: Umesh18 Sep 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

The author's contention in this article that until the corruption is rooted out there is no point in increasing the fine and penalties has got merit and I also feel the same way. There is a dire need of improving the system and then only the point of raising the penalty comes. If the authorities use this increased fine structure only to create fear in the drivers and passengers then the main purpose of the scheme is lost. It is well known that they only create this fear to get some money underhand and earn some extra bucks in this process. So on one side, we welcome the move of the Govt to increase fines but what about the efforts for improvement in the system. Without that nothing fruitful is going to happen in this country. This is a very sorry state of affair that on the one hand the topmost leadership of the country is extremely honest but on the other hand, the machinery below is the same old one which has no other motive other than making money out of the new situation.

Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao20 Sep 2019 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

Yes. A good article from the author and his point that when the officials are corrupt the changed MV act will help the corrupt officers to earn more but not the government. Really a great point. There are two problems here. One is the corruption of the officers and the second issue is the drivers doing unsafe acts or going against the rules. Here the important point is the driver is having control on both the issues. But the officer is not having. I tell you as long as you are not deviating from the rule one need not pay even single paise as fine. Now the check posts problem is also not there as the interstate fee is fixed as per GST and there is no necessity of paying more or less there. So I feel the drivers should become conscious of rules and still if some officer tries to exploit, he can contest as he knows that there is no mistake from him. My opinion is that from our side there should not be any violation from our side.

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