The State Federation of Lorry Owners Associations – Tamil Nadu (SFLOATN) has threatened to stop transporting copper sheets from Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin to Gujarat if an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation is not ordered into the murder of drivers.

Eight drivers from Tamil Nadu were found murdered between 2009 and 2011, after they left Tuticorin for Silvassa in Gujarat. “All of them were murdered in Bagalkot District (Karnataka) while the fate of 10 other drivers who went missing during the same period remains unknown,” federation president K. Nallathambi told The Hindu on Monday.

The latest such incident was reported on November 25 this year at Ilukal in Bagalkot District, he said. Drivers Nallathambi (54) and Govindaraj (40) – of Thuraiyur in Tiruchi District – were found murdered and copper sheets weighing 16 tonnes and valued at Rs.73.37 lakh and the truck were missing.

“Since the previous incident on November 29, 2010, we advised drivers not to drive at night and this averted such incidents for about a year,” he said. But the drivers were back on the road at night as the company announced an incentive of Rs.1,000 for reaching copper plates to the destination in less than 72 hours, he alleged.

Every day, 20 to 36 trucks from Tamil Nadu carried copper plates weighing 16 to 21 tonnes and valued at Rs.73 lakh to Rs.1 crore from Tuticorin to Silvassa. These trucks would not carry the consignment till a CBI probe was conducted, he asserted.

Petitions seeking government intervention had been sent to the Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, Karnataka's Director General of Police and to the Home Ministry and Surface Transport Ministry of the Union Government, he said.

Copper and trucks were insured. But, innocent lives were lost and their families suffered, drivers at Namakkal said.