The shortage of drivers has made it hard for the Kerala State Police Department to manage its vehicles. The department owns 5,722 vehicles comprising recovery vans, ambulances, cranes, water cannons and other vehicles, equipped to help nab robbers and disperse agitating mobs. However, there are only 2,187 drivers to man all these vehicles. Driving being a none too easy task, fatigue is inevitable among the driving staff after two or three consecutive shifts, thereby leading to resentment among them. According to the schedule, one vehicle requires three drivers. But at 40:100, the driver-vehicle ratio in the department is totally skewed.
A police driver said on condition of anonymity that drivers have been working overtime at most of the stations. “According to the rules, a driver can work for a maximum of eight hours at a stretch. This was later increased to 18 and 24 hours. Each control room vehicle, ambulance or emergency vehicle must have three designated drivers. Instead, one man has to manage each vehicle. Most of the drivers in the police stations leave the office after 9 or 10 pm. We have to report to work the next day at 8 am. This has become our regular schedule,” he said.
He added that the department buys new vehicles every year. “Nearly 160 vehicles are expected to be bought this year. Officials above the rank of the Superintendent of Police need full-time drivers. So they have been deploying three drivers on a shift-basis. As a result, the pressure has mounted on drivers appointed at police stations. During special assignments, we work for two or three days at a stretch, when unpredictable incidents occur,” he said.
Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan has concurred that the number of police drivers is less compared to the number of vehicles.
“The department should examine the situation and take measures to reduce the workload of the existing drivers,” the Minister said.