When MoRTH notified the increase in axle load on heavy commercial vehicles by 20-25 percent last month, there was considerable buzz in the Indian CV sector. As is known, the CV industry is currently on a high and has clocked over 50 percent YoY growth in the first quarter of FY2019. While the CV industry views the increase in new axle load norms as a welcome move, a sense of skepticism prevails on the safety front.
Earlier today, in a new notification, the government said the increase in axle load may not be as high as announced earlier but in the range of 12 to 15 percent, and that the vehicles that have been homologated up to July 16, 2018 will be exempted.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Mahindra’s Q1 FY2019 results in Mumbai today, Dr Pawan Goenka, managing director, Mahindra & Mahindra, said, “From a long-term perspective, it is a good thing for the industry as it will help reduce the cost of movement of goods on per kilometre-tonne basis. Trucks with higher capacity will obviously cost more, but the cost per tonne for the truck will come down and the per tonne fuel consumption will also reduce. Therefore, this will bring down the turnaround costs, which will reduce the freight cost.”
On another note, Dr Goenka expressed his concern on whether this move would impact vehicle safety. He said, “The concern for me is two-fold: what happens retrospectively if all the older trucks are moved to higher capacity, who will take responsibility of the truck’s performance on higher loads? The OEMs have designed the trucks on older GVW; now with the higher capacity, we cannot be sure (as regards safety).”
Elaborating on his comment, he said that with the vehicles designed for older GVW the aggregates for the axle system like tyres and suspension have been designed to meet the previous load norms. So, in view of the new norms, on whom does one put the onus in the event of any major failure, he queried.
“I don’t think there is any guarantee with the new GVW that trucks won’t get overloaded beyond that. So even though we build vehicles with a 10-15 percent overloading cushion, what happens if it is overloaded beyond that – who takes the responsibility for safety?”
“My second concern is that with the entire auto industry at the moment gearing up to meet BS VI norms, how do we combine this work because this will require work in axles, tyres, brakes and steering system? How do we realign that? It would have been better if it came into effect from April 1, 2020.”
“We will now work towards meeting the new requirements as soon as we can, and that is what will happen to the whole industry. In terms of time, my biggest concern is tyres because in India there are no tyres that are available with the higher-load capacity that is required to meet the new axle capacity. And I do not know how quickly the tyre industry will be able to supply these, as it takes typically at least 12 months if not 18 months. In the current situation, we don’t know if they can do it faster,” concluded Dr Goenka.