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A little while ago, the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways – Nitin Gadkari – announced that he has passed the order for fitting truck cabins with air conditioners in order to improve, at least partially, the working conditions of the drivers. “Our drivers operate vehicles in harsh temperatures of 43-47 degrees and we must imagine the condition of drivers,” a part of his statement said as he spoke at a book launch. It is expected that with initiatives to improve the working conditions of truckers, the government can also attract more workforce towards the sector, thereby decreasing the gap between supply and demand.
However, soon after, experts from the industry said that even though the operational environment of the truckers will improve considerably with these AC cabins, it would also mean added costs for the truck operators. With air conditioners coming pre-installed from manufacturers, the cost of the trucks can see a hike of at least INR 10,000 to 20,000. Moreover, with ACs running, the operational/fuel costs will also increase.
Considering that fuel contributes to almost 60% of a truck’s operating costs, the increased expenses of running the trucks with ACs will ultimately be transferred to and borne by the customers. Truck idling and significantly reduced mileage are the two major problems that come with the installation of AC, and they significantly add to the overall logistics cost
Sources say Gadkari’s intended change will also bring challenges for the manufacturers. To start with, they will need to retrofit the existing trucks with the air conditioning systems. Apart from there, there will be such as cabin design, insulation, and ventilation. Technology add-ons such as fuel sensors, AC usage trackers etc., which are currently absent in trucks will become more prevalent, giving a push to technology companies offering these solutions.
Experts are calling Gadkari’s decision to be one of the biggest in the trucking industry, pushing it further towards its international counterparts. At present, trucks in India are either cowl trucks or are available with a company-built cabin and body.