The Chennai Bypass from Red Hills to Tambaram — which has helped reduce travel time and save fuel for hundreds of trucks — has also had a negative impact.

Oil companies are now asking oil tanker owners to refund the money they have saved over two years by using the 32-km road. Protesting this move, oil tankers on contract with Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd — who supply products from the company’s terminal in north Chennai to areas including Villupuram, Kallakurichi, Ulundurpet and Thiruvannamalai — went on a strike on Monday.

The strike was called off on Tuesday, after the oil company and truckers came to an understanding.

HPCL sources said the company had raised bills stating that the tankers were saving considerable amounts by taking the Bypass. It had asked them to pay an amount excess to what had been decided in the contract for the past two years. The company had argued that the charges fixed in the contract were for a longer route.

However, the company agreed to the oil tanker owners’ plea that they be allowed to pay the excess amount in instalments. This was necessary since the amount involved in many cases was substantial.

According to A. Naser, president of the HPCL Tanker Lorry Owners Association, the company was asking the 250-odd tankers to return around Rs. 700/ load each for a period of two years.

“There are tanker owners who have to pay back as much as Rs. 40 lakh to the company. Last month, HPCL deducted 20 per cent of our dues towards this. We are wondering what the company was doing for two years before deciding to deduct the money. We did not receive any formal notice or prior information about this. The amount that the company is asking us runs into crores of rupees,” he said.

The tanker owners had also sought an increase in the amount for allocated for maintenance of the vehicle. However, supplies to HPCL outlets were not affected as the company had pumped in more than the usual quantum to dealers in view of the end of the financial year, a source in HPCL said.

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