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Times of Oman - 25.05.2014


Special to Times of Oman

It is widely accepted that anyone who is fortunate enough to be gainfully employed is trained and qualified to do the job for which they receive payment regardless of whether they are a low skilled worker or a company executive.

In the case of  those employed to provide a public service it is even more relevant to ensure that employees, including those who are self- employed, are trained to recognized standards and maintain their competence in that role.

Being a professional driver is a stressful and tiring job and the demands placed upon those that choose this profession are fraught with danger, particularly on, but not confined to, the roads in the Sultanate of Oman.

In a nation that does not yet have a rail or metro network, its people are almost entirely dependent on its roads for the continuity of their daily lives. Education, light and heavy industry, service provision, manufacturing, construction, tourism are heavily reliant upon professional drivers to keep their 
businesses and lives moving.

We already accept that anyone driving a heavy vehicle is required under the law to have a heavy good vehicle licence, and the rationale behind this is primarily down to the size and complexities of driving and transporting heavy goods, hazardous and large quantities of materials and goods so why shouldn't the law also require those who drive our children, friends and family members around the country to be appropriately certified?

In the United Kingdom, anyone who wishes to become a professional large goods vehicle (LGV) driver or a passenger carrying vehicle (PCV) driver, must undergo a full medical examination, government approved training and take a four part test including written theory tests, hazard perception tests, driving ability and driver competence tests to achieve a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC). 

This is done at the drivers own cost. Some companies provide financial assistance to their employees to gain this level of qualification or by means of personal development programmes.

Having a DCPC does not guarantee the safety of passengers or goods but it does mean that anyone being transported or who is having their goods transported is assured of one thing. Their driver has met all the standards required by the law and understands their responsibilities in terms of safety, professionalism and duty of care to their passengers and customers.

I recently witnessed a school bus driver playing with several children at the front of his bus whilst driving at 100km/h along the highway. Is that the behaviour of someone who understands their responsibilities or is demonstrating a duty of care? 

With a requirement under the law for that driver to undergo recognized and appropriate training and for that same legislation to make the wearing of seatbelts for all passengers in his bus mandatory, everyone stands to gain. 

The driver gains qualifications, confidence, self-respect, recognition and perhaps an increase in business. The passengers are safer and are also getting the level of service they should be allowed to expect from a professional driver.

I am fully conscious of the fact that our much needed taxi drivers work very hard to earn a living in order to provide for their families and that many supplement low incomes by driving a taxi part time and that having to pay for mandatory qualifications may be beyond them financially so with this in mind, perhaps a governmental subsidy for nationals seeking to become professional taxi drivers would encourage them to achieve and meet the standards required. 

The much reported and anticipated increase in tourism to Oman by foreign visitors means that the demand for taxis, bus and coach drivers will increase, which will in turn create jobs and provide much needed additional income for nationals, however, these same visitors will also expect a much safer service and a higher degree of professionalism than is currently available. 

Word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool and tourists who enjoy a safe and relaxing journey whilst in Oman will have a profound effect on this country's growing reputation as a must see place to visit and that not only does "Beauty have an address" but it's also safe!

The up skilling and development of nationals should be aimed at all levels of ability and educational back ground and encourage pride, self-respect and value.

We cannot eliminate accidents entirely but we can all do our best to mitigate them. The training and licensing of Oman's professional drivers will make a significant contribution towards a safer and more skilful nation.

The author is the Head of Training at Competence HR. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.
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