Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Truckers stopped ferrying gypsum from March 19 as the State Mining Corporation Limited (SMCL) refused their plea to increase the transportation charges due to the increased fuel price.

More than 120 trucks are ferrying gypsum from Khothakpa in Pemagatshel to Samdrupjongkhar for the SMCL today.

The truck drivers last week reportedly requested the SMCL to revise and increase the current transportation rate because of the increase in the price of fuel, especially diesel. Diesel price in Samdrupjongkhar has reached Nu 98.86 a litre.

However, the SMCL issued a notification to truckers on March 17 stating that the company would not be able to increase the rate besides the increase in fuel price.

According to a notification, with the announcement of a surge in fuel price, the company will not be able to absorb the escalated cost on the transportation and that as a remedial action, the transport rate shall remain the same.

The drivers said they have decided to stop ferrying the gypsum until the SMCL increases the transportation rate as they cannot afford to fuel their trucks. Truckers said they need 110 litres of diesel a day.

They said they had transported the gypsum at less than Nu 500 per MT when the fuel price was Nu 40 a litre. “All the truckers have agreed to stop transporting, and nobody has influenced us.”

“The SMCL does not abide by the transportation agreement. The company has to increase and reduce the rate as per the fuel price fluctuations. The SMCL takes no time to reduce the rate but refuses to increase the rate,” one of the drivers said.

A truck driver who asked not to be named fearing reaction from SMCL said they get Nu 964 per MT if they could transport 15 truckloads a month and Nu 874 an MT if they do not ferry at least 15 truckloads a month.

He said they do not have a profit if they ferry gypsum at the current rate because they face difficulties to meet maintenance costs and fueling the trucks. “We also have to repay loans.”

He also claimed they requested the SMCL to reduce the requirement of 15 truckloads a month to 12 truckloads and the rate of Nu 964 per MT, but they denied it. “The company told us to leave the work and that they would give us the security deposit.”

 On March 19, truckers had appealed to SMCL requesting to increase the transportation rate.

Truckers wrote that the SMCL management notifying the unrevised transportation rate and continuous checking of overload by traffic police during the pandemic made it difficult for all the permanent gypsum transporters to meet the maintenance costs. They said that they will stop transporting gypsum until the situation becomes favourable to them.

The letter stated that the price for the tires have increased by about Nu 3,000 and the spare parts by about 15 to 20 percent while the essential items have also increased beside the fuel.

“It would help the permanent gypsum transporters to resume work at the earliest if SMCL could look into the matters and revise the transportation rate as per the transport agreement,” the letter stated.