Making sense of the truck ban

Lack of adequate truck terminals, multiplicity of wholesale markets within the City and mounting road traffic could render the recent restrictions on

Making sense of the truck ban

Hopelessly trapped in a mile-long traffic gridlock, Pradeep Kumar cursed his stars. A monstrous concrete mixer had just joined the queue from a side road. Spewing dust, the construction vehicle’s entry was nowhere near illegal.

It had an off peak-hour, official go-ahead! It was half past five on Old Madras road. Stuffed with commodities of every hue, a long line of trucks awaited the traffic police nod to enter the rambling city roads. A few hours on, and they would be criss-crossing Bengaluru, heading straight into a city exploding with 52 lakh vehicles.

This scenario got even more intense from December 16, when the police ban on entry of heavy vehicles beyond three tonnes came into effect. Broadly, the ban is from 6 am to 10 pm on several roads specified, particularly on the city’s outskirts. But within the city proper, prohibition of all heavy vehicles barring those in five categories is actually during the peak hours.

The city police have specified these hours as between 8 am and 11 am, and from 4 pm and 8 pm. The five categories exempted are water tankers, conservancy vans, police and military vehicles, and hearses.

Off peak-hour exceptions

Heavy vehicles could still come in during the off-peak hours between 11 am and 4 pm. They would need a permit from the Traffic Management Centre on Infantry road, available on applying through a single window counter.

Invariably, construction vehicles and heavy concrete / cement mixers are also given this option. Commuters are convinced that the new rule will not bring any revolutionary changes to the city’s notoriously chaotic traffic scene.

They fear it could actually get worse, since the options available for heavy duty trucks during off peak hours would effectively increase traffic congestion.

But the truckers say there is still no clarity on the available options. Off peak-hour permits, they contend, are unlikely to be issued in a hurry. Besides, the definition of peak hours itself has become hazy, with dynamic work hours in different industries.

Total ban questioned

However, they question the rationale behind the move to totally ban entry of heavy trucks on many outlying roads leading to the city. “The new rule has nothing in it to ease traffic. Heavy trucks are already restricted from entering the core areas, with over 2,000 of them taking the NICE road,” reasons B Channa Reddy, president, Federation of Karnataka Lorry Owners Associations.

Inevitably, the heavy trucks will need to enter the city since the APMC Yard in Yeswanthapur is right within the city limits. “As long as the Yard and the major vegetable market in Kalasipalya remain here, it is impossible to restrict these trucks from plying during working hours,” Reddy contends. Expecting the markets to remain open beyond 10 pm is out of question.

APMC Yard loaders

The APMC Yard receives an estimated 500 trucks laden with vegetables and food grains every day. Many of them carry perishable goods. Even if the trucks reach the Yard after the prohibited hours, it would get tough to find loaders and unloaders.

About 40 per cent of the produce is headed outside, to Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The implication is clear: The option to ply during off peak hours, available as an exception to these trucks if they apply to the Traffic Management Centre will need to become a general rule. If not, it is feared the supplies to the city will be paralysed.

Truck terminals

The lack of adequate truck terminals on the city’s outskirts has only complicated matters for all stake-holders including truckers, commuters and the traffic police. Bengaluru has only one terminal, all of 38 acres, in Yeshwantpur.

This too has been acutely starved of space, leading to highway parking and further congestion. Going by current freight movements in and out of the city, Bengaluru requires at least half a dozen truck terminals along its arterial roads. Of immediate need are two terminals with an area of at least 25 acres on Mysuru Road and Old Madras Road, feel seasoned truck operators.

Lack of even dedicated truck bays has meant the parked trucks invading into space otherwise meant for smooth flow of traffic on highways. Recent entry restrictions will mean these lines will only get longer. Night time traffic is expected to mount substantially as a result.

The Outer Ring Road (ORR) circling the city once provided easy bypass route for trucks which don’t need to stop over in Bengaluru. But the city’s explosive growth in recent years has swallowed the ORR within its limits, making it a public road. Trucks are now being eased off.

Bypass roads

Despite the high toll, many truckers find the NICE road adequate to bypass the intra-city traffic with minimum fuss. The seamless transfer of vehicles from this road -- extending like a semi circle around the city – to arterial roads heading outside has helped resolve the problems of truckers passing through the city.
The Peripheral Ring Road, whenever it is completed, is expected to ease this commute even further.

This will be a far cry from the situation till 1990, when about 5,000 trucks used to pass through the city without a stop-over, mounting pressure on the inner city roads.

However, for trucks that need to enter the city, the bypass roads offer no respite. For, the heavy vehicles that unload goods will have to load other material meant for outside States, to be economically viable. And this business, as truck drivers reiterate, cannot happen in the hours specified by the traffic police.

The crying need, then, is for a holistic approach: Bypass roads that offer seamless transfer of trucks not headed for stopover in Bengaluru; more truck terminals on the city’s outskirts; truck corridors to markets within the city that are designed after a thorough, scientific reading of traffic patterns; and more.

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