Transportation & Logistics Sector at the Cusp of Transformation

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India, a $2 trillion economy now, is estimated to double by 2023-24. (NITI Aayog, CMIE). At the going rate of growth India is marching ahead to be a developed nation by 2025~30. The Median Age in India is at 29. A country with a young population and demographic dividend will propel the country to be the largest consumer market by 2025.

Logistics market size in India is US$ 150 billion and forecasted to grow to US$ 300 billion by 2020. There are about 89 lakhs commercial goods vehicles; 700 million trips p.a; growing at 8.4%. Logistics contributed close to 5-6 % to GDP and the sector has been growing at a CAGR of 12-13%. Logistics grows at 1.5 to 2 times of GDP growth and the real spend on Logistics in India is to the tune of is 14.4% of GDP which is high when relatively compared to developed economies which are in the tune of 7-8%.

There is a direct co-relation of economic activity in any country and the logistics and transportation infrastructure. Therefore, modernizing the transportation infrastructure along with bringing trade friendly policies becomes inherent to developmental goals.

Amongst all the modes, road and rail transport are the most significant. The modal share between these two has changed over the years, from the 80% rail share in 1950-51, to the road share becoming 65% in 2011-12.

Road overtook rail in the early 90’s .This shift was a consequence of the inability of the Indian Railways to provide the required capacity or respond with expected customer service, while road transport could provide door to door service. Further, during the last two decades, road infrastructure expanded rapidly on account of focused policies and investments. India has the second largest road network in the world with a road length of 4,320,000 kilometres.

Measured in billion tonne kilometres, rail and road account for 86% of the freight transport while the other modes account for 14%. Though extensive, but the road network is still inadequate and suffers from a number of deficiencies like inability to handle high traffic density, tolls, lack of travel infrastructure, poor conditions of roads etc. The average productivity of a truck in India is 280kms/day in comparison to about 800kms/day in the developed countries. A concerted focus on the outages could easily enhance this output to 350-400 km just by reducing congestion.

Roads in India account for more than 51% of the total freight traffic consisting of 3.2 million heavy duty trucks and 2.6 million light duties. The road freight movement is expected to increase at a Compounded Annual Growth rate CAGR of 15 percent. Driven by growth in Indian FMCG, ecommerce, retail and pharmaceutical sectors, which have large freight transport requirements across the country and are generally done by road transportation.

To handle this ever growing pressure, massive highway development projects have been undertaken under the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) over the last decade.

The first phase of the project saw the widening and completion of the Golden Quadrilateral (GQ) – a highway network connecting four major metros, Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Chennai as it passes through major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres of India. Other metropolises also connected by the network are Ahmadabad, Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Jaipur, Kanpur, Pune, Surat, Nellore, Guntur, Vijayawada, and Visakhapatnam. In order to ensure smooth flow of traffic, many sections on the highways of the Golden Quadrilateral would be extended to six lanes to make it expressways.

The NHDP has six phases in total that represents 49,260 kilometre of roads and highways work and construction in order to boost economic development of the country.

Another ambitious infrastructure programmer is the planned industrial development project between Delhi to Mumbai that has been conceptualized in partnership and collaboration with the Government of Japan. The Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project is one of the world’s biggest infrastructure projects with an estimated investment of $90 billion aimed at constructing a hi-tech industrial zone spread across seven states along the 1,500 kilometre long Western Dedicated Freight Corridor which serves as its backbone. The programme will provide a major impetus to planned urbanization in India with manufacturing as the key driver. In addition to new industrial cities, the programmer envisages development of infrastructure linkages like high capacity transportation and logistics facilities. The work is progressing at a rapid pace, with the dedicated freight corridor expected to be completed by December 2019.With such ambitious projects, many completed and more in pipeline, road logistics will surely get a boost. However, growth in road lengths will not be commensurate with the growth in freight and vehicular traffic and therefore, shifting the excessive dependence from road to other modes of transportation is imperative.

The burgeoning demand for freight transport led to the conception of the dedicated rail freight corridors along the Eastern and Western Routes in India. Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited (DFCCIL), a government enterprise under the administrative control of the Ministry of Railways, is at present carrying out construction of 3,342 km eastern and western freight corridors for exclusive movement of goods trains. By encouraging users to adopt railways as the most environment friendly mode for their transport requirements, IR is supporting the government’s initiative towards ecological sustainability while guaranteeing efficient, reliable, safe and cheaper options for mobility to its customers.

Further to ease the acute pressure, multimodal corridors are being developed that connect highways, railways, airports and ports.

Steps in that direction for e.g., a drastic reduction in the number of container trucks on the Bengaluru-Chennai highways was noticed as soon as Container Corporation of India (Concor) introduced Krishnapatnam-Whitefield rail connectivity and started shipping 80 containers a trip in April this year. This meant at least 80 huge trailer trucks that used to ply on the Bengaluru-Chennai highways had now been removed. It was a strategic move made by Concur to beat the burgeoning traffic in Bengaluru as well as the port city of Chennai.

Similarly, a 126 kilometre long Virar-Alibaug Multi Modal Corridor is being developed in Maharashtra that will connect national highways and expressways with proposed Navi Mumbai International Airport, JNPT and Dedicated Freight Corridor. This Corridor will carry all the traffic from JNPT to places outside the main city of Mumbai and will reduce traffic congestion.

Also most of the containers coming from Gujarat side are coming via city roads, which disturb the city traffic. With Virar-Alibaug corridor in place, all the containers or tractor trailers will be connected directly to the Mumbai Agra road, without touching the city roads. This corridor will bring down the travel time to 50 percent. The share of container traffic is expected to progressively increase and reach a level of about 80 percent by next five years, and the rail traffic is slated to increase to 6.2 million TEUs in 2022 from the current 0.69 million TEUs. JNPT has already taken various ‘ease of doing business’ initiatives to control the congestion which has come down drastically in the last one year. The upcoming 4th Container Terminal, multi-product SEZ and various infrastructure plans would give rise to rise in EXIM trade on JNPT roads, such corridors will bring transport efficiency,” said a JNPT source.

However, it is not just the infrastructure but the interplay of infrastructure, technology and pro- trade policies that would eliminate inefficiencies in the sector in a sustainable manner.

Today, the UN-organized trucking business in India is getting a tough competition from new age players who are using technology to streamline the segment. Tracking systems enable fleet managers to monitor fuel purchases, vehicle speed, idle time and emissions and thus make changes accordingly in order to achieve optimum results. Real time connectivity while eluding traffic jams and long hauls with the help of GPS and other advanced technologies are helping fleet managers reach their sustainability goals by minimizing fuel and maintenance costs.

Also with the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST), efficiency in the transportation section is expected to improve manifold besides reduction in the logistics cost. The existing taxation system had forced companies to create and maintain warehouses in each state, which used to make the supply chain longer and largely inefficient. With this complex structure, the logistics industry used to spend nearly 50-60 percent of its time in tax compliance, interstate check points manoeuvring, scrutiny and tracking of interstate sales tax. With the implementation of the new policy, there would be lesser interstate compliance and reduced paper work that will result in faster turnaround time for trucks.

With such sea changes in logistics sector, India’s transportation industry will see more consolidation that would sequentially bring revolutionary economic improvements.

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