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Interactive knowledge test soon to check UAE driver's abilities

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Bahrozyan revealed the strategic plan the Licensing Agency has adopted to deal with the issue of driver's licence and the role of the agency to cope with the increasing demand for driving permits.

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We are now keeping track of examiners whose fail or pass ratios are doubtful. We will check them to see if they are too picky and failing people frequently says Ahmad Bahrozyan, CEO of RTA’s Licensing Agency.
Gulf News

Dubai: Getting a driving licence in Dubai has become a Herculean task since the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) started testing drivers from January 2007.

People intending to get driver's licence have to wait for months just to start training, while they have to suffer again for at least three months to get the date to take the driving test. Frequent failings in tests also leave the learners frustrated.

The situation has led to some people levelling accusations that RTA has the policy to deliberately fail new drivers to reduce traffic congestion, while others blame driving schools for poor training standards and term them "money minting" institutes which are exploiting people due to strict testing procedures adopted by the RTA examiners.

"There is no policy to deliberately fail drivers to reduce traffic congestion," said Ahmad Bahrozyan, Chief Executive Officer of the recently formed RTA's Licensing Agency.

He, however, said that there are some problems which they are trying to fix.

In an exclusive interview with Gulf News, Bahrozyan revealed the strategic plan the Licensing Agency has adopted to deal with the issue of driver's licence and the role of the agency to cope with the increasing demand for driving permits.

Bahrozyan, 38, is a graduate from University of Colorado, Denver, USA, and has served in many key positions during the last 16 years. He is also the winner of the Dubai Government Excellence award of "Distinguished Employee" in 2006.

Following are excepts from the interview:

People have been complaining of long waiting time and frequent failing in driving tests. Is it part of the policy to discourage people from getting driving licences?
No, it is not part of the policy to fail drivers. Those, who are not ready for the road fail. But I must admit that the current pass percentage of 18 to 20 is quite low compared to international standards.

We are addressing this issue very actively and I promise the results will be visible within the next few weeks. As part of our strategic plan we have started implementing some short- and long-term solutions.

The issue of people waiting for months to start their driving classes rests with the driving schools. We have told them to increase capacity at the existing institutes and open more branches. Also, we are looking at the possibility of permitting new driving schools in the emirate to cope with the increasing rush.

What measures are you taking to solve this issue of long waiting for taking driving tests?
We have increased the number of examiners and will recruit some 30 more by the end of this year. Currently we have 70 examiners.

We have already started afternoon shifts to test more drivers. We will soon start weekend shifts. Each examiner tests some 24 to 30 people and now he or she is also testing 15 to 20 drivers during the afternoon shifts.

Is there any standard procedure to test drivers?
There are certain standards available but they are not good enough. We are working to standardise the testing procedure so that every examiner follows the same procedure. We are working with our examiners and looking at possibilities to improve their skills.

We are in the process of starting a certificate programme both for trainers and examiners. Once in place, every examiner and trainer will have to pass the short course to qualify for the job. The course will be offered at a college or a university in Dubai.

How do you check that your examiners are doing justice with learner-drivers and do not fail them deliberately?
We are now keeping track of examiners whose fail or pass ratios are doubtful. We will check them to notice if they are too picky and failing people frequently.

We are working to improve their individual behaviour through training and lectures. This issue will be solved once a new testing procedure is in place.

What steps you are taking to streamline the procedure of getting a driving licence?
First of all, we are in the process of finalising the driving manuals for learner drivers, trainers and examiners. Every driving school will have to follow the driving manual which will be published in different languages.

There will be a new checklist for trainers and examiners to ensure that trainers provide training and the examiners test drivers following the book. There will be complete integration between training and testing of drivers.

We will also hold a trainer responsible if drivers he or she trains, fail frequently. We will approach the institute to complain against him and may bar him from providing training.

What is the pass ratio of drivers?
The pass percentage is just between 18 and 20 and our aim is to increase it to at least 40 per cent because it is putting a lot of pressure on our services.

What are the plans to have safe drivers on roads?
Our aim is to reduce accidents on roads and for this purpose we need safe drivers. We are introducing a new "knowledge test" soon because we feel that existing theoretical and road tests are not enough to produce safe drivers.

The new "knowledge test" will be a comprehensive interactive test to check a candidate's ability to drive during certain road conditions, traffic situations, and his understanding of traffic rules, tolerance level and capability to handle a vehicle.

What steps are being taken to reduce heavy rush at the offices of the licensing agency?
There has been huge rush at some of our offices due to increasing number of drivers and vehicles in the city. It was one of the reasons that the RTA has established a full fledged Licensing Agency.

We are not very happy with the level of existing customer services. There are various reasons for it and we are studying them. Right now main problem is the waiting time to get to the counter.

We are now focusing on diverting customers to our new customer service centres across the city. We are increasing the capacity at the centres. We want every counter to be manned all the time.

We are also opening new centre in different parts of the city especially in new areas. These will be small convenience centre to offer various services regarding traffic fines, vehicle registration and transfer and driving licences.

We also encourage people to use our online service. Motorists can pay fines online and very soon they will be able to get other online services such as opening of driving school files, get dates for driving tests and renew their driving licences. During the next few months, many centres will have afternoon shifts as well.

Authority to licence

Licensing Agency of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority is responsible for registering and licensing of drivers and vehicles as well as preparing policies, legislations and technical specification to ensure road worthiness of vehicles and proper qualification of drivers.

Such a process aims at materialising the RTA's key objectives of having the ability to handle, process and accommodate the increasing numbers of drivers and vehicles.

It will also contribute to minimising traffic accidents through providing appropriate qualification, training, education and guidance to drivers.

The licensing agency is also responsible for commercial licensing of companies operating in various forms of transport.

At a glance
Permits issued
Type of licences200620072008*
Light vehicle
Heavy vehicle
Light Bus
Heavy Bus
Light machines
Heavy machines
Special needs
*As of May31
©Gulf News

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Your comments

I think it is very important to address the issue of those transferring their existing licenses to a UAE one. For example, those who have a US license can transfer it right away with US Citizenship. I have a US license with an Indian passport and I cant transfer. My issue is, did I not go through the same process as any American did to get their license? RTA should do something about situations like mine.
Posted: June 15, 2008, 09:47

My indian friends who had been driving for years in the USA, South Africa, Canada, Germany, have been waiting to get a UAE licence since Jan 2008. They can not buy cars and have been paying a lot to drivining schools, taxies and on rental cars. A competency based driving assessment program (with 50 lessons in all road, traffic and weather conditions) with a recognised private and experienced driver, followed by a comprehensive test by the RTA/recognised instructor can be started ASAP.
Posted: June 15, 2008, 09:37

It will be very good if they increase the pass ratio t0 60 % instead of 40 %...
Posted: June 15, 2008, 09:02

This is a welcome sign from RTA. I think the CEO of RTA understood the problems clearly. Main problem is that there is no standard procedure for testing and training. The instructor trains one thing and the examiner looks for something else at the road test and there is always confusion. I suffer of this situation. Even after paying money two months in advance still I need to be at the mercy of the driving school to schedule class for me. Every time I need to plead them schedule classes little early. I am really frustrated. I was suppose to get a promotion after getting the driving test passed but I have lost because it is more than a year and company could not wait for me for a long.
Posted: June 15, 2008, 08:53

I have been trying to obtain a driver's license since 2005. I had 6 tests so far and they keep on failing me. Although I have been driving for 5 years in my home country!!
Posted: June 15, 2008, 08:36

Great move RTA!!!! Finally RTA agreed that there are "some" problems in the current licencing procedure and the passing percentage is much less than international standards. Anyway, this is going to be a pleasant news for learners in Dubai.
Posted: June 15, 2008, 07:52