07 July 2017 07:56:19 IST

Check-posts are gone, but truckers face barriers

Mobile squads being set up by States; ‘payouts’ to transport officials still in force

Six days after the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), inter-State movement of goods is down, but truck operators are rejoicing in their liberation from the tyranny of inter-State check-posts run by commercial tax departments, and in the reduction in their travel time.

“The Walayar check-post is gone,” exults KS Kaliyaperumal, President, Coimbatore Lorry Owners Association. Located on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, Walayar was India’s most dreaded check-post: truckers were often forced to unload and reload goods in the name of checking.

The truckers’ relief, however, may be temporary; many States may set up mobile or roaming squads till the e-way bill mechanism is in place, tentatively by January. The e-way bill, which provides details of the goods, the consignee and the consignor, is the primary document for inter-State movement and tax compliance.

“The commercial tax departments of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat have set up flying squads, and Bihar and Madhya Pradesh may do so soon. In the next few weeks, almost all the States may enforce some kind of monitoring of inter-State goods movement,” said a source in an MNC logistics company.

No one knows how the mobile squads will operate, but truck operators, like Ramesh Lakhotia of Lakhotia Transport Corporation, reckon that since the erstwhile check-posts filled many pockets, the establishment will strike back.

He alleges that while check-posts have been phased out, State transport officials continue to collect ‘fees’ and delay goods movement. The payout of bribes on the Kolkata-Mumbai route is estimated at Rs. 10,000-12,000 per trip.

Vineet Kanaujia, Vice-President - Marketing, Safexpress, sees things getting better from here. According to him, most States have removed check-posts and otherwise simplified procedures.

Ramesh Agarwal, Chairman of All India Transporter’s Welfare Association, points out that the average travel time on the Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai routes is down by 36 hours or more.

Goods bookings down

Lower transit time means lower operational cost and higher revenue for both truck-owner and transport operator. But Agarwal, who is mentor of the Agarwal Movers Group, says bookings are down to a third as the SME segment, a major customer, is yet to understand the nuances of GST.

Truck operators across the country confirm that roads are deserted as most customers are yet to incorporate GST into their systems. “Check-posts are gone, but there is no cargo to move,” rued a trucker in Namakkal in Tamil Nadu.

“We expect bookings to improve next week,” Agarwal said.