Starting from 2025, all truck cabins will be required to have air conditioning as a mandatory feature. This development aims to address the pressing issue of driver discomfort, as truck drivers often spend long hours, approximately 11 to 12 hours, in their cabins under sweaty conditions. The arduous working conditions and extended periods on the road have been identified as significant factors contributing to driver fatigue and accidents.
While renowned global truck manufacturers such as Volvo and Scania already equip their high-end trucks with air-conditioned cabins, most Indian manufacturers have yet to adopt this upgrade, despite ongoing debates on the matter for several years.
On Monday, Union Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari announced his approval of a proposal mandating air-conditioned cabins, with officials indicating the need for an 18-month transition period to allow the industry to implement the necessary upgrades.
Minister Gadkari emphasized the stark contrast between the working conditions of Indian drivers, who operate vehicles in temperatures ranging from 43 to 47 degrees Celsius, and their counterparts in other countries where restrictions are imposed on the number of hours bus and truck drivers can be on duty.
The minister shared his keenness to introduce air-conditioned cabins since assuming his role but encountered opposition from individuals citing increased costs. Nevertheless, he stated that he has now signed the directive making air-conditioned cabins mandatory for all trucks.
The Road Transport Ministry initially proposed this move in 2016. Industry representatives had requested that the provision be optional, raising concerns about drivers potentially feeling drowsy in air-conditioned cabins. The ministry official, however, drew parallels with the initial perception of non-air-conditioned cabins for bus drivers, which changed with the introduction of Volvo buses. Luxury buses now universally feature air-conditioned cabins for drivers, debunking the notion that it induces sleepiness.
According to estimates, the additional expense for equipping trucks with air-conditioned cabins is projected to range between Rs 10,000 and Rs 20,000 per truck. This investment serves as an important step toward ensuring the comfort and well-being of truck drivers, potentially alleviating fatigue-related issues and contributing to enhanced road safety.