EghtesadOnline: A number of truckers across the country have taken industrial action over the past week.
Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi had a five-hour long meeting with the representatives of truck and bus drivers on Saturday.
“I believe in the right to protest; the protest by truck drivers was their natural and legal right and definitely not an unsettling experience,” he said.
The truckers partially blocked roadways by parking their rigs along main roads, asking their fellow truck drivers to join the protest by pulling their heavy vehicles to the side of the road and unloading their cargo, according to Financial Tribune.
"They have a whole slew of unsolved problems piled up over the past years that would definitely not go away overnight, Tin News quoted Ahmad Karimi, the secretary of Truckers Guild Association, as saying.
Setting new rental rates per ton-kilometer by taking into account fuel consumption, route profile, tire depreciation, driver’s salary, insurance and high road risk was the main demand put forward by the representatives of truckers in their meeting with the minister.
“I personally disapprove of the government’s engagement in pricing but there should be a criterion for determining the rental rates that can be worked on to build a consensus among truckers and the government,” Akhoundi said.
Effective supervision over transport companies was another demand made by truckers in their meeting with the minister.
According to a regulation of Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, transport companies are not allowed to demand more than 8% in commission on each consignment.
However, several truckers said some pay as much as 30% at major Iranian ports to corrupt officials to be able to receive cargo, especially when the market is slack and there is less demand for trucks.
“Drivers should also consider the interests of all parties in the transport business,” the official said.
Akhoundi called for the creation of a joint taskforce that will work to fix problems associated with insurance, such as retirement on a minimum-wage salary and removal of government subsidies on their insurance, as well as tax issues troubling the truckers “despite the fact that this issue comes within the purview of the Social Security Organization”.
According to the latest available data, there are 359,700 active heavy-duty vehicles in Iran’s cargo truck fleet. Over 125,000 (34%) are over 15 years old and almost 1,500 trucks are five decades old.
The Ministry of Industries, Mining and Trade estimates that about 140,000 commercial vehicles need to be replaced in the coming years–close to 56,000 of them in the next three to five years alone.
Trilateral deals have been reached between the Roads Ministry, Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization and the Iranian Fuel Conservation Company to renovate the dilapidated inter- and intra-city transport fleet. SIAPA Diesel, Mammut Diesel and other smaller local enterprises are to contribute to the schemes.
While the interest rate on the loans is relatively low (about 9%), the trucks are still not affordable for many and that is another concern voiced by the protesting truck drivers.
During the Saturday meeting, Akhoundi also signaled the ministry's readiness to support the import of truck parts by drivers themselves to help curtail the rising costs of maintenance and balance the market.
Earlier this week, Dariush Amani, the deputy head of Islamic Republic of Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, promised that the government will allocate foreign currency to import truck parts and tires.
At the end of the meeting, representatives of truck drivers were promised a 20% increase in rental rates in all provinces.