Pandemic, Fuel Prices Almost Halt Bus Bodybuilding Industry

The sharp drop in demand for public transport modes in the wake of the pandemic and soaring fuel prices have led Kerala bus body companies to register negligible orders.

Kondody Motors, based in Kottayam, which is among the selected companies in India capable of manufacturing bus bodies conforming to AIS 052 (the new bus body code specified by the Center), received a total of 15 orders during fiscal year 2020-21. , in striking comparison to 400 in 2019-2020 and around 500 in 2018-19, according to Rahul Tom, the company’s chief executive.

Even of the 15 orders the company received, less than five were for public transport buses, with the remainder going to educational institutions and others. The negligible demand for new buses has in turn caused the loss of jobs for dozens of skilled and unskilled workers in the sector.

“The bus transport sector is among the hardest hit by the pandemic and also by the more than 15 increase in the price of diesel in the last fiscal year. Investors are therefore reluctant to invest in new buses which cost around 37 lakh for those with 50 seats and 26 lakh for those with up to 40 seats. Likewise, even the few investors who invest show a marked preference for four-cylinder buses with between 35 and 40 seats, than for six-cylinders which have more seats. This is aimed at reducing capital investments and reducing expenses such as taxes, fuel, operating and maintenance expenses, ”said Mr. Tom.

Motor Vehicle Inspector Bijulal Ram, who is an avid supporter of public transport buses to decongest the roads and reduce pollution, feared the pandemic and rising fuel prices would lower the number of private buses operating in the region. Kerala is currently around 12,500. Fifteen years ago, Kerala was proud to have more than 30,000 private buses crisscrossing the state.

“Locating the bodywork of buses in accordance with AIS-052 standards was expected to create employment opportunities and also improve the build quality, seating arrangement and ride comfort on the buses. The government could also benefit in the form of GST revenue. There is now widespread fear that cash-strapped bus operators may opt for bus body shops located outside Kerala, which compromise on quality and deliver buses at cheaper rates, ”Ram said. .

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