The Truckers’ Committee Members of Bhutan have submitted a request to the economic affairs ministry seeking the government’s intervention to lift a ban that Druk Holding and Investments (DHI) has imposed on trucks and drivers.

In two separate incidents, one at Natural Resources Development Corporation Limited (NRDCL) in Thimphu and another at Dungsam Cement Corporation Limited (DCCL) in Nganglam, truckers had confronted the company officials.

After an investigation into the incidents, DHI on March 30 asked all DHI owned and controlled companies (DOCs and DCCs) to blacklist the truckers involved in the incidents indefinitely. This means that the truckers will not get any works from any of the DHI companies.

Following the blanket ban, the truckers’ committee wrote to economic affairs minister Lekey Dorji last week, requesting him to intervene. “The news that the truckers have been blacklisted has come as a shock and has affected us mentally,” the committee’s chairman, BB Tamang, wrote.

He told Kuensel that in the case of DCCL, the truckers had resented a change in transportation costs. According to him, about 45 to 80 trucks and drivers, including the 26 blacklisted by NRDCL, have been blacklisted.

“If the trucks and truckers continue to be blacklisted, the livelihood of their family and children will be affected.

The trucks we own are only on paper, as we had to take loans to procure them,” he wrote.

DHI companies, he told Kuensel, have been one of the main clients for truckers.

“We have laws in the country. If someone violates any law, he or she should be penalised but blacklisting and denying people the right to earn a living is not a right thing to do,” he told Kuensel. The truckers’ committee represents about 1,500 trucks, he said.

DHI CEO Dasho Karma Yezer Raydi said it was important that such a decision was taken in the interest of security although the decision may look harsh.

He said DHI has taken the decision based on the recommendation of the two companies. “We thought that it should be applied across the board for the rule to make sense,” Dasho Karma Yezer Raydi said.

Confirming the receipt of the truckers’ grievance, the economic affairs minister said the department of industries is studying the matter.

Associate Director of DHI, Dorji Nima, on March 30 wrote to the managing directors and chief executive officers of all DOCs and DCCs, asking the subsidiary companies not to give any works to the drivers and trucks.

“As per the directives received, kindly be informed that companies, particularly DOCs and DCCs, are to strictly refrain from awarding works to any of these truckers and drivers from the day of receipt of this letter,” states DHI’s directive to the CEOs.

Dorji Nima stated that the directive was issued after a detailed investigation of the issue. The holding company has distributed a list of blacklisted drivers and trucks to all the DHI companies.

In February this year, NRDCL blacklisted truckers after they temporarily stopped ferrying sand from the Wangdue region to express their frustration against a new sand supply system that came into effect on January 1.

Reportedly, police took some truckers for questioning after the incident.

The new system requires any transaction of sand to be routed through NRDCL, which means that the buyer must deposit the money to NRDCL, which will then pay the transporter who places order with the company and not directly with the transporter.

The transportation cost was also reduced following the revised fuel price.

However, NRDCL insists that the new system would protect consumers and address the issue of price escalation. It would also help regulate transportation charge.

DCCL blacklisted the truckers a year ago on May 1, 2017.

According to DCCL, the truckers had violated the contractual agreement creating a ruckus. The company claims that the truckers’ misbehaviour not only inflicted a commercial loss but also brought a bad reputation to the company.

A letter handed out to the blacklisted truckers by DCCL states that the contract agreement allowed the company to blacklist truckers if they exhibit misbehaviour at the time of loading or unloading at the clients’ sites. Misbehaviour as defined in the agreement included creating unwanted nuisance, verbal abuses, groupies or disturbance among truckers.

“The transporters shall ensure that truck drivers and handy boys behave in the DCCL premise in a decent manner and not resort to shouting, yelling, passing of lewd gestures, salacious jokes etc.,” one of the clauses in the agreement states.

Further, DCCL informed the truckers that the involved truckers and not the truck would be blacklisted in the event he misbehaves but does not own the truck. If the driver owns the truck, both the truck and the driver shall be blacklisted.

If a truck owner and not the driver is involved, all the trucks owned by him shall be blacklisted. The drivers shall, however, be allowed to work for another truck owner if he is not involved.

MB Subba