Road Transport in India: Advantageous or Disadvantageous?

Railways, roadways, airways, and waterways are modes of transportation of goods from one place to another. Transportation of goods and people plays a crucial role in defining a country’s development. The transport system acts as a base for any setting’s economic structure. Therefore, transportation aids in the following:

  • Developing the arenas of trade, commerce, and industry
  • Mitigating immobility
  • Discarding regional discrepancies

As the most used mode of transport in India, the roadways play an essential hand in the country’s growth. Road transport in India is crucial for economic development and is speculated to be the second-largest road network worldwide.

Road transport in India: Classification

As per Section 12 of the Highways Act, 1980, roads in India are classified as follows:

Roads based on traffic:

  • Very heavy traffic roads
  • Heavy traffic roads
  • Medium traffic roads
  • Light traffic roads

Roads based on location and function:

  • Expressways
  • National highways
  • State highways
  • District roads
  • Major district roads
  • Other district roads
  • Rural roads
  • Border roads

Roads based on materials used:

  • Earthen roads
  • Water macadam roads
  • Cement/concrete roads
  • Bituminous roads
  • Gravel roads
  • Murrum roads

Roads based on economy:

  • Low-cost roads
  • Medium-cost roads
  • High-cost roads

Roads based on rigidity:

  • Flexible roads
  • Rigid roads

Roads based on topography:

  • Roads around plain areas
  • Roads around hilly areas

Means of road transport in India

Road transport is of two types in India

Non-motorised transport:

  • The primary mode of transportation in the villages of India is the bullock cart.
  • Approximately two crore bullock carts are in use in India

Motor vehicles:

  • Approximately 296 million motor vehicles are in use in India
  • Over 60% of the population uses motorised vehicles
  • The motor vehicles act of 1988 helps in regulating proper control over this means of transport

Advantages of road transport in India

Less capital investment

Compared with other modes of transport such as railways, water and air, developing a road network costs less.

From construction to maintenance, because road transport falls under the jurisdiction of the government and local authorities, the amount spent on the growth of these pathways is minimal.

Direct service

Road transport provides direct contact between people. Be it warehouse to warehouse, source to destination or customer to seller, road networks are the most flexible mode of transport. Road transport in India reduces cartage expenses, loading/unloading, and all other costs related to feeder transport.

Transportation of perishable goods

Road transport connects the source to the destination and serves as an ultimate means to transport goods that can wear out quickly. As per the Road and Reorganisation Committees report, the sales of goods such as vegetables, fruits, milk, butter, chocolates has tremendously increased post the development of the road system.

Rural areas

As the road networks are highly flexible, tapping into remote regions has been made easy and more efficient than other modes such as railways, airways, and waterways. Transporting cargo between cities and villages is only possible because of road transport in India.

Reduced risk of damage in transit

With loading and maintaining goods out of the picture, the risk of damaging the products is highly reduced when transporting them through roads. From chinaware to glassware, the development of road networks is truly angelic for all the fragile products, marking it as an ideal mode for their transportation.

Less investment in packaging cost

When exporting via waterways, airways and railways, the goods should be thoroughly packed to avoid any damage caused in transit or by loading/unloading. This risk is mitigated in road transportation. The investment in the packaging sector for the goods is also decreased.

Usage of small units

Small units such as trucks, tempos, rickshaws taking over the road networks are a convenient means to transport goods and require limited capital investment. Compared with railways that use heavy machinery in their box-long trains, these vehicles are the most compact means of transportation of goods and are effective and efficient.

Disadvantages of road transport in India

Some of the disadvantages of road transport in India include:

Non-supporting roads

Be it the number of roads or the conditions the roads are found in, road networks in India are inferior to those in China, Japan, and Germany. India only has 34 km long roads of 100 square feet, which is very low considering that road transport is used the most.

The roads are not well structured or maintained because of late repair. It causes a tremendous delay in the product delivery/pickup business and is the primary source of vehicle depreciation.

Driving accidents

Untrained drivers are appointed daily in India, which leads to inefficiency and a high risk of causing accidents. Though restricted, drivers engage in heavy drinking before beginning their driving journey, which makes motor vehicles unsafe and unpredictable.

The Motor Vehicle Act of 1988 regulates the rules regarding road safety. From punishments for causing the accidents to compensation provided to the victims, the statute is a highly beneficial act. The act also deals with filing claims such as:

  • Hit and run cases:
    • Can be filed under Section 161 of the motor vehicles act
  • Structured formula based cases
    • Can be filed under 163A of the act

Not well structured or organised

Compared with other modes of transport such as railways, airways, and waterways, the organisation and structure of the road network in India is haphazard and random. Be it the rates for transportation or the safety of the drivers and vehicles, the rules of this industry are not well maintained, and render the mode to be unreliable.

Not suitable for long-distance transport

For heavy cargo, road transportation in India may not be as helpful and pocket friendly. Despite the cargo being not very expensive, the weight that it holds may damage the vehicle. Renting the vehicles for carrying huge goods may cost more than the cargo itself.


Be it for convenience or pocket-friendly prices, road transport in India is a tremendous help for all the businesses. With every mode of transport having distinct advantages and disadvantages, road transport, despite its flaws, has truly taken businesses in India to another level. With numerous types of roads, a wide variety of motor vehicles ridden on these pathways, the transportation of goods has become easy.

FAQs on road transport in India

Can an NRI drive a vehicle in India with a foreign licence?

No. The driver should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) from the home country, which must be a signatory to the Geneva convention of 1949. If the IDP is obtained, the driver is authorised to drive a vehicle.

Can an international driving permit be issued to a foreigner?

No. In India, an IDP can only be issued to Indian Citizens.

How is the central government involved with regards to the introduction of high-security registration plates?

The government is limited to:

  • Notifying the standards and specifications of the HSRP
  • Notifying agencies who are to test the plates and give type approval to vendors
  • Notifying the implementation date

Does the central government grant licences, appoint distributors, and give franchises?

No. The central government does not provide these services.

How many vendors have received the type approval?

To date, 18 vendors have received type approval.

Accidents & Injuries