In August the government relaxed until December 31 the requirement of experience for getting licences to drive medium and heavy vehicles. Now in the face of transport workers' demand, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority requested the road transport and bridges ministry to extend the period by another six months.
“We have written to the ministry as we are yet to get expected response [from the drivers] after relaxing the requirement in August. But it is required to bring discipline in the sector,” said Mahbub-E-Rabbani, spokesperson for BRTA.
The BRTA has not yet got any response from the ministry, he said.
Meanwhile, a road safety campaigner alleged that the BRTA made the move under pressure from transport workers, while a road safety expert termed the move “unfortunate”.
In August, the government had relaxed until December 31 the requirement of experience for getting licences to drive medium and heavy vehicles.
It made the decision to make up for the shortage of drivers with licences for those vehicles and following the request of leaders of transport owners and workers.
Under the current rule, motorists having light vehicle driving licence for three years can apply for the licence to drive medium vehicles. Similarly, the licensed drivers of medium vehicles can apply for heavy vehicle driving licence.
As per the relaxed requirement, light vehicle drivers can apply for medium vehicle driving licence if they have professional licence and one-year experience. Holders of medium vehicle driving licence can apply for heavy vehicle driving licence if they have the same experience.
Moreover, those having professional driving licence for light vehicles and one-year experience can now drive medium vehicles. Similarly, those with professional driving licence for medium vehicles can operate heavy vehicles until December 31, as per the previous order.
Osman Ali, general secretary of Bangladesh Road Transport Workers Federation, said they requested the BRTA to extend the time for one more year, as the authorities could not issue licence to all of their drivers.
“The time [August to December] the government has given was not sufficient to issue licences to drivers. So, we requested the BRTA to extend the time,” he told this correspondent yesterday.
“The BRTA has agreed to extend the time for six months, but I think it will not be enough.”
Amid huge protests for road safety following the death of two college students in a road accident in the capital on July 29, police and BRTA launched a crackdown on errant vehicles and drivers across the country.
During the drives, a large number of bus and truck drivers were caught with light vehicle driving licences. Against this backdrop, transport owners and worker leaders had urged the government to relax the requirements.
Contacted, Prof Moazzem Hossain, former director of Accident Research Institute of Buet, said the BRTA move was unfortunate and if allowed, it would increase risk of road accident.
He added that the government should have taken an initiative to train the drivers properly before issuing them licences for heavy vehicles.
“A driver of heavy vehicle needs to have knowledge about many things. So, giving licence without training will be very dangerous,” he told this newspaper last night.
Mozammel Hoque Chowdhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Jatri Kalyan Samity, said if the government allowed the move “under pressure” from a particular organisation, it would make the road more risky.
Licence should be given following due procedure and under the supervision of technical committees, he added.
There are some 35.36 lakh registered vehicles in the country till July this year. So far, the BRTA has issued 26.39 lakh driving licences till the same date.
Of them, 1.38 lakh holds heavy licences while 60,238 possess medium licences and 14.59 lakh holds light licence.