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Ashok Leyland's continued thrust on
driver training

In order to improve the standard of driving in the country, the Government had announced a scheme in October 2010 to grant 16 crores to companies for setting up training institutes. The amount would be used to build the needed infrastructure while the vehicle manufacturer uses its vehicles and manpower for training and also takes care of the revenue and expenditure of the institute. The Company is in discussion with the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu governments, and is all set to have eight driver training institutes up and running by 2013.

K C Balasubramanian, Assistant General Manager, Sales & Marketing, a veteran in the field, revealed some interesting statistics in related to driver shortage. Since 1980, when carrying goods in a 35-tonne truck needed permission from the Government, the transportation sector has undergone revolutionary changes. With greater focus on road infrastructure development, in keeping with the higher number of advanced vehicles plying on roads, the automotive industry seems to be facing severe shortage of drivers, particularly in the commercial vehicle segment. Says Balasubramanian, "A driver is the most important person for transportation but also the most neglected. Drivers should be trained to handle sophisticated vehicles, and two to three driver training institutes per State is the order of the day." Another important reason for poor availability of commercial drivers is the switch-over of truck and bus drivers to passenger vehicles where they enjoy better amenities. Yet another key aspect is the driving challenges associated with the commercial vehicles segment.

Currently around 10 per cent of the commercial vehicles are lying idle due to paucity of drivers. Statistics reveal that nearly two lakh drivers would be needed from 2012, and the figure is expected to jump to 2.4 lakh in 2015. Another discomforting feature is that close to 80 per cent of road accidents are due to driver fault, necessitating more driver training initiatives.

Customer perspective

K Nallusamy, owner of Thenpandiyan Transport, has a fleet of 250 LPG tankers in Namakkal. His affinity to Ashok Leyland is seen from the fact that all his 250 vehicles are from the Company. He says, "The transport industry is severely affected by manpower shortage. Drivers and cleaners are not easily available as everybody is looking for a white-collar job. The industry is worried about the issue and unless there are drivers, vehicles cannot be sold. All the vehicle manufacturers should involve more in creating more drivers."

"Ashok Leyland and we are almost inseparable and we have not tried any other vehicle since the vehicle performance is excellent. The resale value for the vehicles is also very good. Other advantages of sticking to one Company are the interchangeability of drivers and spares, lesser inventory and easier maintenance by our trained mechanics, while the operational costs are also kept low."

- K Nallusamy, Owner, Thenpandiyan Transport

An Ashok Leyland customer for many years, he lauded the Company's efforts towards driver training. "There has been tremendous improvement in the driver standard after the opening of the Driver Training Institute. When new vehicles were launched, drivers were updated with knowledge about new technology", he remarked. He also stresses the need for more such driving institutes across the country to tap the huge resources of manpower, especially in the Northern states.

According to him, over the last few years, the percentage of accidents has come down considerably, which is an encouraging sign. If a few more issues are taken care of, the number of accidents could also be reduced further. With the better standard of vehicles and with advanced technology and safety features, it primarily lies in the hands of the driver community to reduce accidents. "NGOs should take up the issue and spread awareness among the public to follow traffic rules properly. The Government, NGOs, transport associations and other clubs have to take steps in this regard."

His LPG transportation business is doing very well, and there is always scope for fleet expansion. However, the driver shortage issue has curbed his fleet expansion plans and for the past couple of years, despite his growing business, the fleet size has remained the same.

For LPG tankers, 35 tonnes is the highest allowed payload. Vehicles of over 40 tonnes are not allowed as an accident with such vehicles would cause heavier damage. There is no hard and fast rule in this aspect, but the Government does not permit such higher tonne vehicles due to safety standards. The Health, Safety, Environment and Quality (HSEQ) department is concerned about accidents, especially those related to LPG tankers, and conducts transport meetings once every six months for drivers and fleet owners to discuss relevant issues.

Expressing his views on the growing commercial vehicle segment in India, he says there is huge potential in the Indian market, and volumes would increase. The introduction of 50-tonne and 60-tonne vehicles will reduce the manpower cost. At the same time, the LCV segment will continue to grow.

Courtesy: Motor India, July 2012


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