Monday, January 11, 2016

5 things that are wrong with trucks in India

Main Nikla, o Gaddi leke,
O raste par, wo sadak pe,
Ek mod aaya,
Mai utthe truck chhod aaya.

What? Something’s wrong, isn’t it?

Well, this is what most truckers go through quite often in their life.

We all curse those laggards occupying the fast lane, crawling along the tarmac at sub-zero speeds. We shout at them for slowing us down when we are out on a leisurely drive in our air-conditioned cabins replete with touch-screen systems playing the music of our taste through the iPods. We despise them for ruining our triple-digit speeds as we sip on the Starbucks coffee that we proudly shared over social media for the red cup!

Well, I am not making a white-collar uber-rich and largely liberal and tolerant demon out of you. What I am going to bring to you is the plight of those truckers that bring to you that red cup, that iPod, the fuel that you tanked up in the morning. I am still one of you, albeit a little bit changed, after my brother handed me over the keys of our brand new 40ft trailer truck, the first one for our logistics start-up. Though I still curse them under my breath, I feel their pain. The pain the tablet wielding generation would feel when they are given a Nokia 3310 as their first phone instead of the iPhone 6S.

Truckers drive the economy yet are the people that have been conveniently excluded from the benefits of a growing economy. They drive our roads, bad roads, no roads or whatever to bring to you your daily supplies. Trucks, almost till the last decade, were being built on the designs drawn before independence. Even the driving seat was not any more comfortable than the most basic bar-stool.  

We need trucks that drive well. Yes, we do. They should have better pulling power. While I am a crusader against over-loading, better pulling power of the truck will improve the in-traffic behaviour of truckers. Even the travel times may come down or at least offer more time for the poor truckers to rest.
Which brings me to the in-cab convenience. These truckers travel millions of miles an year, living in the cabin more often than not. A nice spacious cabin that would take in their fatigued backs would be welcome. Bottle holders to store their water, an entertainment system to keep them cheered up and a fully functional dashboard that tells them much more than the speed they are doing. The cabin has to be nice cozy home for them.
The law of averages is a bitch and catches up with you every time. With the number of miles these truckers clock, they are much more prone to mishaps and accidents. Though they are sitting high up there, with so much of metal around them, they do get injured quite a bit. A lot of trucks do nto even have a proper driving seat with a seat-belt! Driver safety has to be one of the most important points for the Indian companies that build trucks.
When I drove that 40ft trailer truck within a yard for ten minutes, I knew how difficult it was to get this thing around. Also, being perched up so high, it is humanly impossible to keep an eye out for anything that may come perilously close to these humongous machines. You need to have mirrors or cameras around the truck to aid the manoeuvrability of the mammoth in tight places especially with people ready sneak in right under your nose.
Maintenance! The sword that is always dangling in the truck driver or the owner! With so many miles to churn out to make ends meet, you cannot afford your machine to break down often or to be taken out of the churn for service. Modernity in automobiles these days means more electronics and gadgetry. The essence here is to keep your equipment as crude as possible while making it as useful and modern as possible for the trucker or the road side mechanic to mend it in case of a breakdown.

I think I just went overboard with my automobile engineering, my frustrations of the ten-minute truck drive and the plight of the truckers. But being the people whose opinions may count, it is our collective responsibility to create a better tomorrow and we all know who is going to drive us into the tomorrow – the greasy old trucks. Not.

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