Truckers are refusing to transport cement following a downward revision in the carrying rate 

Following a reduction in the transportation rate, about 300 truckers have refused to transport Dungsam Cement Corporation Ltd’s (DCCL) Dragon Cement from Nganglam to hydropower project sites in Punakha and Trongsa since April 16.

The truckers have decided to load the cement from the DCCL plant only if the agents pay them the same rate they were paid last year. Negotiations are ongoing.

Almost all the trucks are idle and parked near the factory. Their drivers await a positive response from the agents.

The issue rose after the corporation revised the rate, which is revised every year. However, the rate was reduced by Nu 50 per metric tonne for different destinations this year.

This, according to the truckers, is the third time a rate has been reduced instead of being increased. The truckers said that the transporters have always made the truckers bear losses and this time they decided to refuse to accept the rate.

The truckers said that the transporters should bear the loss this year, since they have already borne it twice.

The transporters have already agreed to the revised rate with DCCL. While they attempting to negotiate a 50-50 sharing of the loss, the truckers declined the proposal.

The truckers questioned how the rate was reduced when  the cost of fuel and maintenance escalates every year.

One of the truckers, Samten Wangchuk, said that if the revised rate for transporting cement from Nganglam to the Mangdechu hydropower dam site was Nu 2,300 per metric tonne, the transporters would pay them only Nu 2,125 instead of Nu 2,150 like last year.

“The revised rate has no impact on their commission while it is difficult for us,” he said. “This is why most of the truckers have to over load to earn a little bit extra to make ends meet. But this time we’ll not carry cement unless they agree with our request.”

Another trucker, Tshering Wangdi said the truckers were already running into losses with the previous rate because they have to repay loans, support families and pay fines, among others. He added that even if DCCL had reduced the rate because their initial rate was high or because they are running at a loss, it is still not fair to place the burden on the truckers.

“They should question their own finance people and should have foreseen such an issue. Who is going to bear our loss or where are we supposed to share our grievances?,” he said.

Many expressed that they are not consulted or called when such decisions are made.

Meanwhile, most of the transporters in Nganglam said that  they appealed twice to the corporation to reconsider the revised rate, which did not come through and to save the business they had to accept the rate.

One of the transporters, Jigme, said they do agree that earlier the loss was borne only by the truckers and that this time they decided to bear the loss equally so that they can continue working with DCCL and to recover their investments.

“But the truckers found it unfair and refused to load the cement until we bear the entire loss,” he said. However, he added that a few truckers agreed to transport the cement.

If borne equally the truckers would be facing a loss of about Nu 300 per trip a month. The truckers make almost eight trips on average every month.

Another transporter, Langa, said they have to meet various costs like taxes, loans and staff salaries, which is why they cannot bear the entire loss. He added they are still in negotiations with the truckers to find alternatives.

Langa was able to transport cement using only 10 trucks instead of the 25 trucks he used daily earlier.

The transporters are expecting to resolve the issue soon. There are 10 transporters in Nganglam on contract with the company.

However, the dispute between the truckers and transporters is crippling DCCL and dispatch of cement, according to its deputy managing director (DMD) Karma Gayleg.

He said the issue arose exactly at the time when demand for cement from the Punatsangchhu project increased for major concreting work that has just begun. The project requires about 5,000 metric tonnes of cement.

The company has been receiving inquiries for not providing the required cement. The same issue also occurred last year and in 2015 as well but Karma Gayleg said it had not been as serious as the current problem.

He said that the management decides on the rate revision and it is a part of cutting costs.

“We’re observing and waiting for them to solve the issue but if it prolongs then we cannot wait longer because continuing supply is important,” he said. “We need to supply the cement demanded or we may have to opt for other alternatives.”

Some of the alternatives planned are supplying cement through Indian railway racks, which is cheaper than road transportation or hiring Indian transporters, among others.

Karma Gayleg said the company cannot consider the revised rate.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Nganglam