Truck driving, once aspirational for illiterate and semi-literate youth — a way to make a living and see a bit of the world — is no longer attractive. Even truck drivers don’t want their sons to join the profession.

There are also now more options for the demographic from which the profession drew its manpower, according to Ravindra Pisharody, former executive director, Commercial Vehicles, Tata Motors. Finance is easier to get, he says, so many drivers are buying light commercial vehicles that operate in small circles, closer home. The booming taxi aggregation business, which has similar low entry barriers, has also lured many away as an easier option.

Over Loaded Truck toppled on Highway in Tamil Nadu – VIDEO

Consequently, while there are around 20 lakh truck drivers in India, there aren’t enough of them. The All India Transporters Welfare Association data says the driver to truck ratio is now below 750 per 1000. In 1982, that number was 1,300 drivers, which dropped to 890 by 2012. This means approximately 25% to 30% of India’s trucks are idle at any given point of time.

Road transport is on average 50% more expensive than rail and 600% more than water transport. It also leaves a larger environmental footprint. But it still rules because roads reach every corner of the country, covering 32,00,000 km as per NHAI data, with 17 km being added every day.

By contrast, the Railways has just over a lakh kilometres of track. It will take time and investment to strengthen rail corridors and open up inland waterways for freight. Until then, India’s growing economy needs trucks — and truckers.