New restrictions on heavy lorry operators in Dubai have created a shortage of licenced drivers and affected the land transport industry, according to sources.
In 2007, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) stopped accepting driving licences issued by other GCC countries and said it would no longer automatically convert them into UAE licences. The RTA also made stricter the driver training criteria, driving practice requirements and tests for lorry drivers.
Previously, any driver with a licence could train for a heavy lorry licence.
Under the new regulations, a driver can qualify for training only after a transport company registers the truck it will operate. In addition, if the driver fails the driving test on the first try, they must wait two months before they can retake it.
Nanoo Viswanathan, general manager of Nashwan Land Transport, said a glance at the many advertisements for lorry drivers in the media is all that is needed to understand how acute the shortage is.
He said the number of drivers is restricted further by the fact that the Ministry of Labour will only provide driver visas based on the number of trucks registered by the company with the traffic department.
Khalid Abdulla Ali, Chairman of the Land Transport Association, said the delays are not only costly, they are also dangerous.
“The main reason for accidents involving heavy trucks is extended working hours. Drivers work for more than 18 hours under tremendous pressure. They are always tense due to traffic jams and time restrictions. The cargo owner is chasing and pressuring the driver on his mobile phone about the money he is losing on labourers, fork lifts and cranes kept idle while waiting for cargo.”
Training to operate a heavy lorry takes a minimum of six months.
During that period, the transport firm that sponsored the driver must pay his salary as well as paying for the lorry that sits idle. Drivers with GCC lorry operating licences must also take the mandatory six-month training and cannot immediately apply for a UAE heavy driving licence.
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