India : Road Transport Service Efficiency Study

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This study reviews the long-distance road transport industry in India, in order to identify inefficiencies that could reduce the benefits to be derived from the large investments now being made by the Government in the nation's highway infrastructure. It has been undertaken to assess the present policy regime, and identify measures which may be considered to improve the functioning of road transport, in particular long-distance road transport, and, enhance its already enormous contribution (3.9 percent of GDP) to the workings of the Indian economy. While the road transport sector encompasses a wide variety of activities, this study has focused on three aspects which were considered the most relevant to the investments in highway infrastructure - the trucking industry, inter-city buses, and in view of its very important, but largely unfulfilled role in enhancing road safety, the motor insurance industry. The key findings and recommendations of the study are summarized below. India has achieved a highly competitive, low-cost road freight transport industry for basic services, with highway freight rates among the lowest in the world. In fact, trucking freight rates are so low that the industry is suffering an intense period of low profits, or rather, even losses. In this context, actions by the Government that increase costs, or reduce the efficiency of operators, will soon find their way into higher freight rates. Introduction of tractor-trailer, multi-axle vehicles would reduce not only transport costs, but also road damage caused by the higher axle-loadings of 2- and 3-axle rigid trucks, and, incentives proposed for introduction of multi-axle trucks include reduced tax and highway toll rates. Regarding inter-city bus services, the private sector has won back a rapidly increasing share of the inter-city road passenger market, and now about 80 percent of the bus fleet is privately operated. The report stipulates the appropriate focus of regulatory policy, in the case of road passenger transport, should be qualitative standards related to the safety of services, and the minimization of negative environmental impacts. As per the motor insurance industry, removing tariff controls and allowing a free market to develop will enable the industry to turn into a viable business, to invest in the kinds of enhancements needed, e.g., a system to maintain, and access driver records in order to properly assess risk, and charge premiums that reflect the risk profile of individual drivers.
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World Bank. 2005. India : Road Transport Service Efficiency Study. © Washington, DC. License: CC BY 3.0 IGO.
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