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Truck speed and food 'batta' - interesting relationship in India!

This is one of the best insights I have heard for a very long time, and it came through a very unexpected conversation. I was travelling from Delhi to Chennai last month, and my flight was late by more than an hour. And on top of that, there was huge traffic jam just outside the airport. The journey took me nearly an hour to cover a distance of 6 kilometer.

But it provided me an opportunity to start a conversation with the taxi driver (I forgot his name now). When asked why he choose to drive car in city traffic instead of a truck. He said the lorry schedule is very demanding and he wants to stay close to the city. Its another thing that taxi drivers are made to work for very  long hours (it's for another time).

I started asking questions on where he used to drive the truck, what he used to carry, and how the roads are etc., (the answer for the curious ones- to Pune, auto components from Tamil Nadu, and roads have improved tremendously). Then just to reinforce my understanding of why good roads don't necessarily speed up travel time, I asked him whether he used to wait for a long time to pay toll and that there were too many toll booths.

He says its true that they waste time at the toll booths, but the phenomena is mostly restricted to toll booths near the cities. Elsewhere, the problem is not that much. His reply made me more curious because we were taught through various presentations by all interested parties as to how toll booths and entry tax posts slow down the movement.

Then I asked if roads are good and toll booths don't take that much time, then why do trucks take long time to reach a destination? His reply was, "If we drive slow, we get better mileage. And we can use the saved money for food"

To be frank, I never expected this reply. He says they would save at least 10-15% on fuel if they drive at 40-50 kmph, and whatever savings would pay for their food bill. This means they could save more from their earnings. I think truck owners approximately know that it takes so much of fuel for a distance between two places, and they are fine so long as it does not exceed the pre-determined amount.

I am not sure how time critical the components are for the customers (both who supply and buy) and the turn around time for truck owners, but if they look at incentives for truck drivers, they could be looking at huge productivity gains!

Of course, my sample is one. The taxi driver could be lying, or that he might be an outlier. Not all are like him! 


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