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You Think American Truck Driving is Bad, Look at India

Jim McCormack

Truckers in this country just think its tough driving on the nation’s crowded highways.  They should look at driving a truck in India. According to one report, there are nearly five million truck drivers in India and it has one of the largest road networks in the world.

 

Rules of the road “test your instincts” where, as a rule, little attention is paid to any road rules.  “Just aim your truck in one direction and drive,” is standard practice.  Sometimes you will be driving on the right hand side of the road and sometimes on the left, whichever has the least traffic.

Another statement given is that “Truck drivers are the James Bonds of India and licensed to kill.”  According to reports, they often have a headlight out which often confuses trucks for motorbikes, resulting in fatal accidents with cars or other vehicles.   Since there are no shoulders on the roads in India, cars, motorbikes, and other type of transportation are advised to pull off the road into a field until the truck passes.   Drivers do not signal turns, which makes it difficult to determine where they are going so, if they are on the right hand side of the road, it is not a good idea to linger alongside them in the left lane.

 

The roads around a city are usually crowded with mopeds, buses, and auto rickshaws (also called Baby Taxis).  The rickshaw is a three-wheeled vehicle that runs on an engine filled with kerosene and creosote.  It often carries passengers or freight three times its weight.  Trucks and vehicles have the right-of- way and pedestrians are not allowed to cross a street unless there is slow or no traffic.

Mopeds run 30 miles on a minimal amount of gas and go very fast.  Because they tend to drive in the middle of the road, they are often involved in accidents with heavier vehicles, such as trucks.  Buses are another problem.   The majority or people receive free passes for buses and, as a result, it is not unusual to see them on the roof, hanging off the side, and in other locations.  As a result, trucks are advised to give them a wide berth.

It is also reported that no one pays any attention to one-way street signs so drivers take to the road at their own risk.  Police work between the hours of 8 pm and 11 am and it is stated that no one observes any speed limits during ‘off’ hours.  Many companies do not pay much attention to the driver’s credentials either.  In one accident, where a person was killed, the truck driver took off.  The truck owner was arrested for homicide, as he had nothing but the copy of a phony driver’s license.

One unique difference between US and India’s trucks is a hole in the floorboard that most of India’s trucks have.  This is known as the “Toilet-on-the-go” for use when they are on the road.  Additionally, a sad thing is that, due to brothels and hotels along the truck route, a large number of these drivers have contracted HIV.

In 2006 Gagan Global petitioned the Department of Labor to get H-2B visas to bring Indian drivers into the US, claiming that there were no American drivers who were willing to take long-haul truck driving jobs. They claimed they would be trained, speak English, and had 10 to 25 years of experience.  It would seem that their experience would hardly meet American standards.  This outsourcing petition was strongly fought by the Teamsters Union.