Abu Dhabi: Users of taxis in the capital have raised concerns about some drivers falling asleep during their rides.
Despite several campaigns carried out by the Abu Dhabi Police and numerous calls to motorists to refrain from driving while tired, taxi drivers are still endangering their passengers' lives and their own, complained a reader.
"Officials should pay attention to the taxi companies in Abu Dhabi. I have personally seen taxi drivers falling asleep while driving. First I thought I should complain but hearing a driver's sad life story made me reconsider. They are over stressed by working day and night and hardly earning sufficient money," a reader, who asked not to be named, told Gulf News.
Driving many hours a day is physically demanding on drivers, but taxi drivers who Gulf News spoke to said they have to meet assigned quotas to remain employed.
MS, a 33-year-old Sri Lankan taxi driver said: "I work 16 to 17 hours to meet the target set for me daily. I must earn Dh400."
"I work from 7am until midnight and sometimes longer, all this for Dh800 my basic salary and a poor commission," MS added.
Mohammad, a 42-year-old Bangladeshi taxi driver agreed saying: "I can't meet my target in eight hours [of] work like anyone else or even in ten."
"The number of taxis has increased. I used to make Dh300 in ten hours, now I struggle to make Dh200 or 250 in this time," he added.
"The taxi operators do not enforce fixed time schedules for drivers, instead drivers choose their own working hours. Since drivers work on salary and commission basis, they are allowed to keep the vehicles with them on a 24-hour basis," Eman Al Ali, senior communication officer at TransAD said.
She added: "Setting clearly defined standard guidelines to the franchised taxi operators regarding the working hours," should have prevented problems.
"On average drivers work between eight to 12 hours per day however this varies from one driver to another," she added.
Two of the most common complaints include drivers' experience and hygiene. When asked why a large number of taxi drivers didn't know the roads in Abu Dhabi, Eman said: "Franchised taxi operators provide approximately 21 days training on traffic rules and regulations, TransAD taxi regulations, customer service, safe driving, locations and meter functionalities."
"Following the training taxi drivers sit for an exam at TransAD," she added.
On the driver's hygiene issue, Eman said: "TransAD inspectors conduct random inspections and issue violations tickets to drivers who fail to keep their vehicles neat, clean and bad odour free."
Colonel Hamad Al Beloushi, head of traffic police for the external Abu Dhabi regions said: "Driving a vehicle is a huge responsibility that must be taken seriously. Motorists, of all description, are strongly advised to manage their sleep needs and are certainly expected to get off the road and rest when feeling tired, drowsy or sleepy while driving."
Gulf News spoke to Kasim Jameel, director of the guidance department at the Municipality, to get his legal opinion.
"UAE federal laws limit the working hours to eight hours daily and for some professions nine. It is against the law for companies to ask any employee to work more than two hours of overtime per day," Jameel said.
"Every employee is entitled to 30 days annual leave. As for the minimum wage, it depends on the work contract that may vary from one organisation to the other," Jameel added. Help is available for employees who feel they are being mistreated.
"Employees can either call 800665, toll free, to file a confidential complaint or seek help at the workers' unit at the ministry of labour. Upon receipt of a complaint, an investigation will take place and SMS messages will be sent to the complainant to keep him informed of the action taken," he said.