Bal Malkit Singh, the owner of Mumbai-headquartered Bal Roadlines, is facing a new challenge. Many of his customers, serviced by his fleet of 400 trucks, want him to share benefits of the much talked-about reduction in travel time post introduction of the Goods and Services Tax in July.

“I have one answer for such customers,” said Singh. “I invite them to travel with our trucks and find out for themselves if any efficiency has come in the transportation industry.”

Various claims have been made pegging the reduction of time taken by trucks to travel and deliver goods. A reduction of as much as 30% in travel time of trucks has been indicated by the government as a result of the removal of inter-state check posts.

The government has said the transportation system has become efficient. But the industry thinks otherwise. “Not much has changed at the ground level,” said Singh. “There are RTO check posts in every state. Physical checking of goods continues. Our unofficial expenses have not come down. Time taken at the toll plazas also remain high. All these consume time.” Trucks form a critical mode of transporting good from production to consumption centres. Scrutiny of compliances at state borders result in delays in delivery of goods and cause environmental pollution as well as fuel wastage.

‘A nuisance’

Vipul Nanda, director at Mercurio Pallia Logistics, a Gurgaon-based company that owns 400 trailers engaged in moving cars from car factories to various markets in the country, said that technically, there are no borders after the implementation of GST. “Things looked smooth in the initial few days when GST was implemented,” he said. “Now states have placed flying squads from RTOs at different points at highways and this is a nuisance. Challans are imposed without any reason. The situation is especially difficult in states like Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Andhra Pradesh. There is no significant drop in journey time,” said Nanda, who is also the president of Car Carrier Association, a body representing 15,000 car carriers. He said states are not ready to listen as they are more concerned about the revenue from such challans.

RC Bhargava, chairman at Maruti Suzuki, however, said that trucks carrying the company’s cars are able to cover the same distance in 10%-15% lower time duration. “Stoppage at various inter-state barriers have come down,” he said.

Transportation industry experts say the strong double-digit growth in sales of medium and heavy trucks in recent months should not be taking place in an environment of improvement in the efficiencies of the existing fleet of trucks. “The sales increase should not have been happening at this pace,” said SP Singh, a senior fellow at the Indian Foundation of Transport Research and Training. Medium and heavy commercial vehicle sales have zoomed 20% in the domestic market during the first quarter (July-September) of GST. Last month, sales had surged 25% to 31,086 units.

Singh said a truck used to do three to three and a half Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi trips in a month before GST came into being. “There is no marked change in this. A saving of four-five hours in a round trip does not make a difference. The actual transit time from loading to unloading is same as before.”

This article first appeared on Business Standard.