Tamil Nadu

In Namakkal, a lifeline is fabricated 

Workshops that specialise in electrical work, painting and repairs dot
Namakkal, besides dealers who
salvage older trucks for scrap.

Workshops that specialise in electrical work, painting and repairs dot Namakkal, besides dealers who salvage older trucks for scrap. | Photo Credit: E. LAKSHMI NARAYANAN

In one of the numerous lorry-fabrication workshops in Namakkal, a fabricator hammers away at one of a fleet of trucks he and his team of workmen is building to transport poultry across the State. Taking a break from his shift, R. Raghu, the workman, says he comes from a long line of truck builders, dating back to a century.

“Most of the [truck-body] builders from the area have descended from workers who used to build bullock carts before mechanised transport services came in,” he says.

Namakkal, the lorry fabrication and building capital of the south, is believed to have over 5,000 builders directly employed by around 90 fabricators building specialised trucks for a variety of purposes, including the transport of petroleum, water, edible oil, coal, poultry and other goods. “These trucks are the lifeline of many industries, ensuring that goods are transported across the country,” says P. Thiyagarajan, proprietor of Shree Gowriamman Industries, one of the largest truck-body fabricators in the district.

Fabricators like Mr. Thiyagarajan and his team of builders custom-build lorries. “The customers buy the lorry chassis from the manufacturers and give them to us, with a brief about what kind of goods they expect to transport,” he adds. The builders, who each have unique designs for different kinds of cargo and freight, can expect to spend up to a month on each truck to be fully built from the chassis up.

Around Namakkal, workshops which specialise in electrical work, painting and repairs dot the town, apart from the scrap dealers who salvage older trucks for scrap metal.

Builders have to ensure the lorries they build keep to safety standards, carefully ensuring that the “bodies” they build for the trucks do not put stress on the chassis and the suspension systems of the trucks. “The key is to make the body lightweight, but incredibly strong,” says Saravanan, another builder at a workshop. He adds builders take great pride in producing trucks that go on to have a good safety record. “If there are a string of failures in trucks produced by a workshop, word quickly spreads and that particular workshop can expect to see a drop in business. So, it is imperative for all the trucks to be built to the highest of standards, with many workshops even having systems to test whether water is leaking into the driver’s cabin or into other key parts of the trucks,” he explains.

While the bigger fabricators are capable of producing multiple builds in a month, smaller workshops produce one or two lorries every month. The cost of fabrication of each body, due to specificity, can vary greatly, from ₹4.5 lakh to more than ₹12 lakh per truck, say builders.

“Namakkal is famous in southern India for the quality of builders. Workshops receive chassis from clients in Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and even Maharashtra, apart from regular clients within Tamil Nadu,” says R. Vangili, president of the Namakkal Lorry Owners’ Association.

Mr. Vangili adds that Namakkal has gained a reputation for lorry-building due to the quality of its workmen. “As there are few opportunities for youngsters without education in Namakkal, many youths become apprentices at workshops, where they learn the trade from more experienced workers,” he says.

According to him, while there are workshops in other parts of India that also fabricate and build trucks, Namakkal is unique because of the quality of the mechanical and electrical work. “Painters and welders, too, are known to be excellent at their jobs, while the workshops charge fairly for their work. This has made Namakkal’s lorry-building business famous throughout India,” he concludes.

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2022 7:56:37 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/in-namakkal-a-lifeline-is-fabricated/article65532846.ece