Submitted by Areeba Masroor on 02/12/2019
As the author Dan Eckstein said about Indian trucks – “On a purely aesthetic level, the trucks intrigue the eye”.
Indian trucks are known for their beauty and strength at the same time. The truck drivers who spend most of their time driving them across the country consider these trucks to be their second home, away from their own families – the main reason why they decorate it with their idols and images representing their beliefs. India is a land of superstitions, that is why many of the decorations inside and on the exterior of these trucks signify safety and good luck during long journeys. For instance, hanging shoes near the front headlights or hanging onion and green chili is believed to safeguard from the evil and road accidents. They care for the trucks like their own homes; cleaning and decorating them regularly while giving them their constant attention.
The paintings seen on the trucks are called “Kitsch Art”. One can easily find beautiful and attractive Indian kitsch art images, on the internet, depicting the colourful and much impressively decorated trucks in India. Hindi phrases such as “Awaaz do” meaning- horn please are often found painted in bold alphabets at the rear of trucks. Most of these paintings depict river and mountain scenes of the villages from where the truck drivers belong. Some of the paintings describe the life of tribal people and villagers, for instance, village women carrying water in pots from the village well.
Some might illustrate the farmlands of sugarcane and wheat crop farming, mostly practiced in the northern part of India. Some of the common words one can find written in bold block alphabets, at the back of almost every truck are “Horn OK” and “Use Dipper at Night” which is basically asking other drivers on the road to maintain safety by blowing the horn on sharp turns and while changing the lanes and also to use low intensity headlights during the night time as it strikes the eyes and affects the eyesight of truck drivers.
In India, often long distant transportation is carried out by trains, for instance- transporting heavy goods like motorbikes and bulk grains. However, trucks play an important role especially in remote areas like the alleys of south India or the hilltops of the Himalayas where it is impossible to transport goods by luggage trains.
Heavy vehicles such as trucks form an indispensable part of the Indian Automobile industry. Major truck manufacturing companies in India are Ashok Leyland, Mahindra and Mahindra, Volvo trucks, Swaraj Mazda, Tata Motors and Eicher Motors that claim to manufacture heavy duty vehicles keeping in mind the comfort and safety of the truck drivers. Trucks are considered the lifeline of all major commerce and trade activities. From transporting raw food materials to the food processing industries; to shifting of finished products to warehouses, trucks are the main vehicles used. The same trend follows in most of the businesses and commercial works in India.
Most of the trucks cover 500 kilometres during the day and 500 kilometres during the night time. Indian subcontinent contains a variety of terrains ranging from- the roads lining the beautiful beaches of south India to the dangerous peaks of the Himalayas. But traffic rules on these roads are yet to be implemented strictly. A lot of animals fall asleep on the roadside during the night and certain vehicles such as tractors and rickshaws drive without headlights.
Due to this reason, finding flipped over trucks the next morning is a common sight. Roads in this country are not always in good shape, because of which there are high chances of accidents involving trucks which usually move during the night when visibility is low. Several factors contribute to highway accidents, but sleep deprivation is a key cause. “Do you know truck drivers can sleep only two and a half an hour in any 24-hour cycle?” Sleep disorder or lack of sleep is a major cause for fatigue, studies across the world confirm. When
commercial drivers become fatigued from excessive daily and weekly work hours, they substantially increase the risk of crashes that result in death or serious injuries. Despite all these common incidents, truck drivers risk their lives while contributing a huge part of the economy. Not only do they serve their families and the country by contributing to the GDP, but these truck drivers also take a lot of pride in their work. To curb these accidents, several laws have been implemented in India allowing truck drivers to drive for only 10 hours in 24 hours before taking an 8-hour rest between subsequent trips.
One can often find trucks lined on roadside near an on-road restaurant, popularly known as “dhabas”. The hapless drivers are exposed to all kinds of weather, eat the most unhygienic food on roadside “dhabas” and sleep in the most uncomfortable beds inside the cabins. Where there are no Dhabas on the road, the truck drivers can be seen preparing their meal on make-shift kettles and stoves.
Highways in India are hectic. Indians are habitual of passing through bikes with a family of 3 people, ox-drawn carts and bullock carts with loads of bricks, and sugarcane (if travelling in autumn) and sometimes even men, women and children travelling in them. Some of the things these trucks carry are- you may find these trucks carrying cows, buffaloes, and goats or even chicken from farms to other places, one may find them carrying the home furniture that someone has bought and needs to be delivered or getting stuff shifted from place to place. The bigger trucks on the roads are used for carrying automobiles- motorbikes and cars.
One can easily notice tractors, pedestrians and herd of animals, but even among the clutter, it’s hard to miss the trucks. On road journeys, especially on north Indian road one can find that there is little use of rear-view mirrors and the vehicle approaching is often guessed by the kind of horn blown from behind. The trucks have the most distinctive and loud horns amongst all the vehicles plying on Indian roads and highways.
As these are huge vehicles, the trucks are expensive and their large tires cost a lot of money to the truck drivers and their employers. So, if they get a flat tire, it often halts their journey and increases the transportation time, sometimes even causing subtraction of their reward money due to delayed delivery.
One of the main disadvantages of the trucks as an automobile transport vehicle is that they are the bulkiest vehicles on the roads and cause maximum damage to the roadways due to their heavyweight and large tires. One big truck is supported by 12 tires.
Despite living a rough life away from their families and villages, the drivers have the most amazing attitude towards life and their work. Thanks to the Indian belief which says “work is worship”. There’s a saying that goes if you have the expertise of driving on Indian roads, then you can drive anywhere in this whole wide world.