The limited exit from lockdown and resumption of economic activity in parts of the country have not sparked a needed corollary—the movement of trucks, which has barely picked up.

Transporters put it down to an uneven spread of rules.

While some states and local authorities have allowed opening up of some offices and factories, rules vary across districts and states, keeping things on the ground almost unchanged and the movement of vehicles limited, transport associations pointed out.

“Things are happening in isolation. Since there is no uniformity in rules across states and districts for opening up industries, movement of vehicles did not immediately see a massive rise. Movement of essential goods has been going on as usual in most of the places,” said Naveen Kumar Gupta, secretary general of the All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), India’s largest association of transporters.

Around 1.2 million trucks have national road permits and usually ply on highways at any given point of time. Since the 25 March lockdown, only 10% or 120,000 trucks have been on the road.

With the easing of restrictions from Monday in non-containment zones, the uptick in traffic has been limited to empty, stranded trucks moving on highways, along with those carrying essential goods as earlier, a senior government official said.

“Almost all the toll booths at national highways have become operational from Monday, barring some areas, which are likely in the red zones. Movement of vehicles, however, remained subdued,” the official said.

Gupta said there is another future challenge.

“Now that the stranded trucks (on highways) are allowed to move, most of the drivers now want to go home and not resume work immediately,” he said.

This in turn may exacerbate a shortage of drivers due to the lockdown. AlMTC president Kultaran Singh Atwal was critical of the government resuming toll collection amid a lockdown. “This will not only put truckers and their owners under financial pressure, but also affect the common man as it will make essential commodities more expensive,” said Atwal.

More than 500 toll booths were made operational across the country from Monday, after a gap of 26 days.

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