India is the second largest populated country in the world and it is a market for 1.2 billion consumers which indicates that it is one of the faster-growing economies in the world and thus it requires efficient transportations and logistics industry.
Around 60% of goods are transported by roads in comparison with other modes of transportation. There has been a significant increase in the commercial vehicles on the road in the recent times. Increase in commercial vehicles is a reflection of increasing demand for the movement of goods.
In order to meet the market demand or to increase their margins, many truck owners are permitting overloading of their trucks risking the consequences of in-transit issues as well as its negative impact on the infrastructure. Overloaded trucks destroy roads and highways, they result in causing road accidents and killing many people. There is also a significant negative impact in terms of casualties, road blockages and negative productivity of the transport operations due to incidents involving vehicle overloading.
According to surveys by the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training, one in every three trucks in the country is overloaded and they are to blame for 50% of road accidents. In 2011, overloaded trucks accounted for 20% of road accidents and in 2013, around 38,370 people were killed because of these overloaded vehicles.
It's a fact that when a truck is overloaded, the control on the steering and brake are reduced. In addition, frequent overloading reduces the productive life of the truck as well as the productive life of the road.
In order to reduce the overloading of trucks and accidents, Government has taken some major steps. For instance, 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 the first offense and a cancellation of permits if the offense is repeated.
But these measurements are not enough to solve the problem as the truck owners or operators are still continuing to load their trucks beyond the permissible axle load to maximize each vehicle's earnings. Similarly, the consignors of bulk commodities, like fertilizers, steel, and cement, overload the vehicles in order to save on the freight cost. Considering the trip economics, they are willing to pay higher prices to enter the city. In fact, there are a few states that have almost legalized overloading by issuing formal permits; illicit payments mostly clear the way for the vehicles.
Recently, a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) was filed by a local resident of Nainital stating that many heavy vehicles (more than their capacity) are ferrying into the city by damaging the roads and bridges in the hills. It was further stated that heavy vehicles are creating more pollution in the area and damaging the wildlife and affecting the lifeline of villagers.
According to a report in Times of India, Nagpur where the RTO is ignoring overloaded trucks and allowing the vehicles to enter into the city, because of this, the state is losing Crores of rupees of revenue and directly or indirectly it's affecting the Indian economy.
While there are weighing stations on the highways, it is surprising that many states or cities in India don't even have check-posts to stop overloaded trucks from entering into the city or a dedicate area such as bridges.
So, it appears that the main solution to overloading may lie in the proper implementation and enforcement of the Motor Vehicles Act.
In order to curb overloading, government or transport officers should more aggressively follow the Motor Vehicles Act and take strict actions against the rules violators. With such enforcement of the regulation, we can expect to see lower accidents, a lesser number of casualties and less damage on the Indian roads. All these will lead to higher productivity of the transport companies and that of the logistics sector.