Govt to start course for O2 tanker drivers
- Liquid oxygen is considered a hazardous material to transport (one reason why it can’t be transported by air), and requires drivers to undergo special training.
The Covid-19 pandemic is set to add a new syllabus in the Union government’s skill development programme, with an agency that operates under the skill ministry preparing a training module for Liquid Medical Oxygen (LMO) tanker drivers, with supply of medical oxygen increasing, and many states acquiring tankers.
Documents available with HT show that the Chennai-based Logistics Sector Skill Council (LSSC), a society set up by the ministry of skill development and entrepreneurship, has prepared a module for this and already trained a few drivers.
The society said a sub-committee has been constituted to focus on training liquid medical oxygen tanker drivers as it requires “niche skills”.
Liquid oxygen is considered a hazardous material to transport (one reason why it can’t be transported by air), and requires drivers to undergo special training.
Autonomous industry body All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers’ Association said it welcomes the move, but raised concerns about who will conduct the training.
“To meet immediate requirement, hazardous material certified drivers (Haz-Mat Drivers) who are with Transporters who are Members of the Indian Chemical Council will be given a tutored online training module. Drivers will also be provided a structured apprenticeship wherein the driver will be assessed after undertaking two return trips (empty tanker),” a letter from LSSC to the top brass of the skill development ministry said.
The proposal also includes physical training for such drivers at skill centres near LMO manufacturing premises by certified master trainers under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) format followed by apprenticeship.
India has about 1,200 tankers that are presently deployed to ferry the LMO across the country. The country faced an acute oxygen crisis in April and May as Covid cases surged during the second wave.
More oxygen tankers were pressed into action.
The communication further said, as most of these vehicles are continuously on the move and hence need to be deployed with two drivers: “The drivers for LMO Tankers (cryogenic tankers) are especially trained and are in short supply. Covid pandemic is further fast depleting available human resource.”
The skill development programme is an ambitious project of the Union government to train young people in several sectors such as construction, telecom, logistics, handicrafts, and jewellery. After the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, many migrant workers who returned home were encouraged to take up some of these training programmes.
But this is the first time a training programme for oxygen tanker drivers has been planned.
Under the skill mission, apprenticeship of commercial vehicle drivers is for six months.
As the requirement is to have drivers available as soon as possible , the drivers will be deemed to have completed the apprenticeship once they are assessed as competent by the local skill centres and the employer.
The documents also said that “there is a need to create a ‘bench strength’ of 2,400 drivers allowing for attrition due to Covid and other factors and it is intended to focus on the manufacturing locations of the oxygen plants. The driver distribution geography and the physical locations of the manufacturing plants.”
“We, AIIGMA, supply 95% of all gases required in the country. It is good if the skills ministry decides to train drivers. But the key issue is who will be the trainers? Cryogenic tanker driving requires specialised training. AIIGMA with the support of PESO (Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation) have been conducting training programmes and organising workshops on safe handling of liquid cryogenics and on safety while filling, storing and transporting compressed gas in cylinders,” said Saket Tiku, president of All India Industrial Gases Manufacturers Association.