NEW DELHI: The road transport ministry on Thursday urged all state transport secretaries to carry out “special vaccination drive” for Liquid Oxygen tanker drivers. It also asked the states to give priority in admission and treatment to such drivers in hospitals, if they get infected with Covid-19 virus.
The advisory to states to take these up as “top priority” gains importance considering that the oxygen tanker drivers are now in high demand to transport the key medical aid from different parts of the country to hospitals. Only drivers with adequate training and having the “hazardous cargo” licence are allowed to operate the Liquid Oxygen trucks. The demand of such drivers is expected to be high for a few more months for oxygen management.
The ministry has also said the government’s immediate focus is to make available around 500 drivers in the next few weeks and keep the pool ready for use at any given point of time. It has said the numbers will be increased gradually to 2,500 in the next two months.
It has asked the states to quickly skill the drivers with training in handling of hazardous chemicals and liquid medical oxygen through short programmes and apprenticeships. Secondly, they have been asked to skill heavy motor vehicle licence holders in the same manner.
Sources said the government is also contemplating a proposal to give financial incentive of around Rs 15,000 to each oxygen tanker driver for their service. But no decision has been taken yet.
Meanwhile, trucking industry sources said the government should also consider giving priority to drivers of commercial vehicles engaged in transport of essential supplies including pharmaceuticals, medical aids and other necessary items to ensure there is no shortage of these items in the market.