Test drive. Dr Yousif Mohammad Al Ali, CEO of Public Transport Agency at RTA oversees drivers as they take lessons at the RTA training centre Image Credit: Clint Egbert/XPRESS

DUBAI Familiarity with city roads is not enough. Aspiring cabbies in Dubai must take non-driving lessons in personal hygiene and interpersonal skills besides passing a general knowledge test to secure a taxi driving permit.

“Brush your teeth and take a bath daily, your uniform must be washed and ironed and your shoes polished everyday,” these are some instructions given at the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) Training Centre in Rawiyya where the hopefuls are put through their paces.

As XPRESS visited the Centre, several drivers said they have benefitted immensely from the programme.

“We learnt about the importance of hygiene and the proper way to greet and behave when a customer is in a car,” said Ahmad, 32, from north Pakistan.

S.K. from Bangladesh said the training would go a long way in winning the trust and approval of customers.

“Sometimes even small things matter, like asking passengers for their preferred radio channel or enquiring if they were comfortable with the air conditioning,” he said.

Gender sensitivity is a key area of the training.

Drivers are advised not to engage in unnecessary conversation with a woman passenger or watch her from the rear view mirror.

Dr Yousif Mohammad Al Ali, member of the board and chief executive officer, Public Transport Agency (PTA), RTA said the 22-day induction programme is mandatory for all new drivers.

At the end of the training, they are required to pass a comprehensive test with minimum 70 per cent marks.

“Drivers are given four attempts, failing which they have to undergo the training all over again,” said Ali.

Of the 2,329 drivers who enrolled for the programme in the last one year, 1,841 passed the test and secured driving permits.

The test is done on computers and covers a wide range of subjects including general knowledge questions like ‘Who was UAE’s first President?, ‘When will the Expo be hosted?’, etc.

Curriculm

The curriculum includes courses on customer satisfaction, safety and security, first aid and fire-fighting. Courses are taught in English, Urdu and Arabic, but the test is given in English.

Every three years RTA holds a three-day refresher course for existing cabbies. Drivers with frequent complaints and fines are recommended rehabilitation courses. There is also a psychiatrist cum counsellor who checks the mental fitness of cabbies.

After clearing the test, drivers need to get police clearance, previous job reference and pass a medical and psychological assessment before they become eligible for the taxi driver position.

“We want to serve our passengers to the best of our ability. And for this we have to ensure we are putting the right people out there,” said Ali.

“As a cosmopolitan city, Dubai is visited by tourists from all over the world. In 2014, over 108 million people rode taxis in Dubai. Considering that cabbies are dealing with customers on such a large scale everyday, we want to ensure they make a good first impression. From our part, we check every driver leaving the depot for the day’s work to see if they are following all the norms,” Ali explained.

YOUSPEAK: Are you satisfied with the conduct of city cabbies?