Demand for cargo transportation by road has plummeted by at least 30% after fuel prices recently jumped to the historic high, leaving freight workers in trouble amid spiking commodity prices, according to truckers.
Hundreds of trucks and covered vans on Monday were found sitting idle at Tejgaon truck stand – one of the key freight hubs in the capital. The parked vehicles swamped nearby streets and lanes, as the hapless transport workers were worried about the upcoming months.
"The stand has 8,000-9,000 trucks and covered vans. Our trips fell 30% after the fuel price hike," Harun Ur Rashid, former vice-president of the Bangladesh truck and Covered Van Drivers' Union, told The Business Standard.
On Dhaka-Chattogram route, Harun said a covered van – which usually carries 13 tonnes of cargo – now costs Tk4,420 more alone for pricier diesel.
"After the fuel hike, the demand for apparel cargo carrying on the route has fallen. Farmers, who used to send vegetables to Dhaka from different parts of the country, are also selling most of the agro items in local markets," he added.
According to the Bangladesh Passengers' Welfare Association, there are at least 70 lakh drivers and transport workers across the country. With the rise in fuel prices in the first week of August, prices of almost all daily essentials have increased – compounding the sufferings of these limited income people.
Monir Hossain, a worker at Tejgaon truck stand, said he did not get any work for the past three days.
He said he had to send his family from Dhaka to the ancestral village early this year. His ninth grader son recently started working, as the family's financial situation clouds his academic career.
"My income has fallen, but the cost of living is rising every day. I am struggling to afford rice, lentils and potatoes, let alone meat or fish," Monir told TBS.
Around ten transport workers, who were hanging out nearby, also echoed the same.
"A minister claimed people in Bangladesh are living in paradise compared to other countries during the global recession. They can claim so, but we are not faring well," another worker Mohammad Farhad said.
"I sent my family to the village last month as I could not afford running the family in the capital. Now I can't visit them regularly thanks to the launch fare hike," he added.
Mohammad Akash works at a motor workshop at Tejgaon. He said the plummeting cargo transport has also put him in a tight spot. Akash said the government should provide them with subsidised food items.
Consumer Association of Bangladesh President Ghulam Rahman said, "The government needs to improve the supply chain to ease pressure in the local market. If the price of a commodity surges in the international market, the authorities should cushion it by adjusting import duty."
He said the government should widen the social safety net to provide some relief to the low and middle-income people who are under a huge pressure due to the fuel price hike.