Thukten Zangpo

Twenty truckers supplying fuel in the western region did not want to transport after the recent price hike increased diesel price by almost Nu 7 a litre from midnight of May 1.

However, they came to a consensus after an official from Tashi Bhutan Oil Distributor in Phuentsholing told them to wait until May 16 when a solution could emerge. The tankers arrived in Thimphu on May 3.

Transporters said that although the bus and taxi fares have been revised by the Road Safety and Transport Authority twice a year, the government has not revised their freight charges since 2017. They said that if their freight charge was not increased they would not be able to continue.

Transporters claimed that with a government rate of Nu 4.44 per kilometre, one-way trip for a tanker with a carrying capacity of 12 kilolitres (KL), they earn around Nu 16,197.

They fuel about 115 to 130 litres of diesel for a one-way trip from Phuentsholing to Thimphu, and fuel cost comes to around Nu 12,000 to Nu 14,000 after fueling at Nu 107.7 a litre of diesel in Phuentsholing.

Similar problems are faced by the private transporters with Druk Petroleum. Several tankers with the capacity of 10KL, 11KL, 12KL, and 18KL transport fuel.

One of the transporters, Samten Wangdi, who has been in the business for three years, said that refueling a tanker has been expensive and at the current price, they are not able to meet their daily expenses and other expenses like maintenance of the tankers.

He added that if there is fuel shrinkage, they lose additional Nu 4,000 to Nu 5,000.

Samten Wangdi said that when the diesel price was Nu 70 a litre they were able to adjust. “We would not be able to continue if the rate is not revised.”

Another transporter, Lama said that he has loans to repay, house rents to pay, and family to look after and he is worried about his current transportation business.

He argued that truckers carrying other consignments from Phuentsholing to Thimphu earn Nu 22,000.

Owner of Sonam Dhendup Transport, Sonam Dhendup said that the transporters asked for a revision of Nu 6 per kilometer from the government’s rate of Nu 4.44 per kilometer. At Nu 6 per kilometer, the freight charge would come to around Nu 21,888 for a 12KL tanker.

He said there is no issue with the State Trading Corporation Bhutan and Damchen agents because they have their own tankers.

Cheki Gyeltshen, transporters with Druk Petroleum said he has a loan of Nu 500,000 to repay and after the loan deferment ends, he would not be able to pay. “We do not have work if we do not transport fuel.”

This is not the first time the transporters have requested the trade department. They requested the department when the fuel price hiked to Nu 80 per litre.

Meanwhile, it was learned that the economic affairs ministry is aware of the issue and it is under review.

Regional Manager with Tashi Bhutan Oil Distributor in Thimphu, Dendup Tshering said that the company follows the government rate. “It is a genuine concern from the transporters, if the government revises the rate, we are ready to implement it.”

He also said that as per the contract agreement between the transporters and oil dealers, there was no provision to increase the freight charges when fuel goes up or vice-versa. Transporters have signed a contract for 16 months that ends in December this year.