On December 9, 2015, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari inaugurated 76th conference of Indian Road Congress in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. During the inaugural speech he said, “Every year around 1.5 lakh people die and three lakh people get injured in road accidents in the country. Around 5 lakh accidents take place every year and we want to curtail this number by at least 50 per cent. The Govt have identified accident prone spots in Indian highways and is planning to spend the Rs.12,000/- Crore to improve the road safety in India”. He also mentioned that Govt is planning to make Air conditioning in trucks a mandatory feature. Inline with that Govt on 23rd Nov 2016, announced its intention to make air conditioning mandatory in trucks above 3.5T.
Air condition in Indian Trucks
On Indian trucks, providing air-conditioners was unheard of until Volvo entered India. All Volvo trucks come with a factory fitted AC for the drivers. Since then Asia Motor Works, Ashok Leyland and Tata’s too have begun offering Driver-Cabin ACs as an option in their trucks. Though other brands did offer AC, it was AMW who shown to Indian veteran manufactures, how AC cabs has sound business and how productivity can get be improved.
Productivity , Safety
A truck in India does anything between 300kms and 400kms a day. Compare this to 600kms-1000kms in west. The reason for this low mileage were many – poor road conditions, overloading, long waits at multiple checkpoints and driver fatigue.
As road conditions have improved one bottleneck has been removed. Also governments have begun improving the efficiency of checkpoints- by a proposal to implement GST. With this the primary bottle neck is the driver fatigue and Govt. is trying to mitigate this by making AC a mandatory feature.
Air conditioned cabs and ergonomically designed cabs become important to reduce driver fatigue . As driver tiredness and stress is reduced, the necessity for stops is reduced enabling longer distances to be covered. More importantly, it improves safety. Thus with AC cabins, trucks can cover ~600kms per day.
Though we welcome this move, the correlation between Air Conditioned truck and reducing road accidents is not fully justified. This is going to change the driving condition of drivers in a larger way until and otherwise the driver prefers to use the AC.
Higher power to weight ratio
All the manufactures offers AC as an option in current models, this means, they are limited to higher power trucks. By making it mandatory, we may see an impact in power to weight ratio of Indian trucks.
It’s to be noted that Indian trucks have lowest power to weight ratio of around 0.2 to 0.3. this is very less in comparison to trucks in Europe and rest of developed markets at around 0.7 to 0.9.By making AC mandatory, truck manufacturers in order to retain the current gradeability performance of trucks, will increase the horse power of trucks by min 15% to 25%, which is a welcome move.