Star on truck found in Alappuzha Kerala, India
GPS 9°30'00.8"N 76°20'12.0"E

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Painted ladies of the highway

Truck ornamentations are a reflection of the drivers’ religious beliefs, caste, region, and personality. For drivers, their trucks are like second homes. They spend all day and night in them; they eat, sleep, and drive across the country in them. Needless to say, trucks are objects of constant care and attention. Many of the decorations on the trucks are meant to bring luck and ensure safe passage.
Tata is the biggest truck constructor in India. About 80% of India’s freight is transported by truck.
An Indian truck is referred to as “the painted lady” of the highway. 


Indian roads: enter at own risk

Ancient records trace the history of the first roads in India back to 4000 BC when a succession of emperors ordered the construction of brick street paving. Nowadays India has one of the largest road networks in the world covering more than 2.059 million miles or 4.42 million kilometers. About 65% of all freight and 80% of passenger traffic is carried by road. The National Highways represent only about 2% of the road network but carry around 40% of the total road traffic.

Most highways in India are narrow and congested and it is estimated that 40 percent of India’s villages do not have access to all-weather roads. India unfortunately leads the rest of the world when it comes to the number of accidents per year with the number of road accidents officially having passed the 1, 35,000 mark. This translates into an average of 15 accidents per hour every day and the number of accidents is growing slowly but steadily, year after year. Trucks and two-wheelers are involved in more than 40% deaths, while the afternoon and evening rush hours constitute the period with the maximum rate of accident every day.


Blow Horn!

What’s all this ‘Blow Horn’ in India? There are only two rules on Indian roads:

  1. The biggest vehicle has right of way
  2. Honk the horn wherever possible

The request: “Blow Horn” is commonly painted on trucks, buses or local taxis in India. Consequently the horn is an automotive tool with a multifunctional purpose as it serves as: 

  • headlights: two short taps
  • orange side indicators: tap a few times as other vehicles part
  • brake: hold down until in the clear
  • rear- and side-view mirrors: tap sporadically until required maneuver executed
  • Western-style emergency horn as above: hold down with gusto for ten seconds, yelling of expletives optional


The signs on the Indian trucks are a for typographic afficionado's (like us). Below read some fantastic sources of inspiration:

Project Horn Please
20 Hilarious Pieces Of Wisdom Seen Behind Indian Trucks
The Decorated trucks of India


Thank you

Curated and shot by Jay Orlino

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