India truckers' strike over diesel costs delays northwest freight

A truck travels on a road in India.

As in Brazil, a segment of India’s truck sector is protesting a rise in diesel prices, and the truckers argue India’s government can take steps to strengthen their business model. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

A nationwide, indefinite strike by a section of Indian truck operators, which entered its eighth day Friday, has started to affect freight to and from key ports serving the country’s northwest container markets, according to local trade sources.

Truckers, under the aegis of the All India Motor Transport Congress, are essentially protesting rising diesel prices that they argue can be mitigated by streamlining taxes under the simplified/integrated Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. These truckers also want the government to address their concerns regarding insurance premium costs, toll systems, and the awarding of contracts for direct port delivery services — a concern that led to a four-day truck boycott at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) in May.

Trade sources told JOC.com that the impact has been particularly pronounced on the Adani Group-owned ports of Mundra and Hazira, as well as APM Terminals Pipavav. At Mundra and Hazira, with drayage services providers taking vehicles off the roads, container hauling between terminals and off-site storage yards is in disarray. However, terminal quayside and intermodal rail operations continue to be smooth, sources said.

At APM Terminals Pipavav, the strike has taken a toll on the movement of hinterland freight, cramping export intake and import deliveries. Sources said terminal operations are running smoothly, and so are local truck hauling and intermodal train operations.

Officials at Adani Group and APM Terminals Pipavav did not return JOC.com’s requests for comment regarding the strike impact.

JNPT freight transport not affected, so far

At JNPT, which represents the majority of Indian containerized freight, the striking group has not received support from local trucker unions and, as such, freight transportation has remained by and large normal there, barring a mild slowdown in local moves. All terminal quayside and yardside operations have also been at their normal speed, according to sources.

That said, with shippers at northern hinterland markets scrambling to find trucks for the movement of goods to and from inland container depots, there is bound to be an impact on volumes handled at these ports, including JNPT, in the coming days.

Additionally, empty equipment repositioning from surplus locations to deficit points is also reportedly suffering, due to the chassis crunch.

On the east coast side — at Chennai, Tuticorin, Kolkata, and Cochin — truckers have not joined the protest, and there is no disruption reported from these port locations.

Sources also said trucker representatives and government agencies failed to reach an agreement during talks held on July 25 in New Delhi, as both sides were unwilling to budge on their respective positions. If the impasse continues longer, that will be bad news for Indian supply chains, especially at a time when the government is working harder than ever to reduce logistics costs and rev up growth.

One example: the government has implemented a wave of economic reforms to eliminate trade barriers and to that effect, GST — in place for a year now — is seen as the biggest driving force. That view was highlighted by many of the prominent third-party logistics players, when contacted by JOC.com.

 

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