The number of vehicles in the country has tripled during the last one decade, but the number of skilled drivers has not increased compared to the number of vehicles. Unskilled drivers and unfit vehicles are two of the major reasons for a growing number of road accidents, experts said.
There is an acute shortage of skilled drivers of heavy vehicles including buses and trucks. As the number of accidents is increasing due to the shortage of skilled drivers, there are initiatives for road safety but the implementation is a far cry and it leaves much to be desired.
According to the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA), the number of registered vehicles across the country till September 30 is more than 45 lakh 64 thousand. And so far the number of registered drivers is 27 lakh 67 thousand. In other words, the number of drivers is less than the number of registered vehicles and the gap is more than 18 lakh.
Although, the number of legal drivers in the country is more than 27 lakh, the number of registered motorcycles has exceeded 30 lakh 62 thousand. Thus, the number of legal drivers is less than the number of registered motorcycles.
However, for more than a year, it has not been possible to print digital smart driving licence for drivers due to tender complications. BRTA authorities said more than nine lakh driving licences will be printed if the problems are solved. In all, there will be a shortage of about nine lakh drivers.
According to BRTA, about 434 vehicles are being registered in Dhaka every day. Of these, 272 are motorcycles and 41 are private cars.
Transport experts said it is mandatory to have more than one driver for long-distance passengers and freight transport as per government guidelines. According to the labour law, a driver can drive for five hours continuously. There must be at least twice the registered drivers of the total vehicles. But it is not seen. This is a major obstacle in ensuring road safety.
The experts said that in order to lure educated people in the driving profession, there is no alternative but to ensure various financial incentives from the employers including appointment letters, retirement benefits and festival bonuses. Although many of these issues are mentioned in the new road transport law, it is not possible to fully enforce the law. As a result, the number of drivers are not increasing and hence, it is difficult to say that the road crashes are coming under control.
In this regard, Mohammad Abdur Razzak, deputy director of BRTA, told the Bangladesh Post that a project has been officially taken up with BRTC to increase the number of drivers. If the project is implemented, there will be more than two lakh skilled drivers.
He said that ordinary people do not show much interest in this profession. Many people do not want to choose this profession as they do not get the necessary financial benefits and it does not upgrade their social status. Besides, many transport owners do not want to pay regular salaries to transport workers including drivers.
At a recent virtual event on road safety titled – “Road Safety Collaboration: Reducing road fatalities 50% by 2030” Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said all government efforts to build good roads and transport infrastructure will go in vain if the people do not feel safe on the roads.
He also said women should be trained in driving schools for professional driving as women tend to follow and respect traffic rules more than male drivers.