Why does Ministry of Transport want to divide drivers into amateurs and professionals?

Lorry drivers will receive additional training, while ordinary car owners will have a simplified training programme

Why does Ministry of Transport want to divide drivers into amateurs and professionals?

Public debates of the Federal Ministry of Transport’s bill, which, in fact, will divide car drivers into professionals and amateurs in case of adoption, were to end in Russia on 6 May. Lorry, taxi, public transport drivers will have to upgrade their skills once in five years, while specialised companies will be obliged to hire drivers only after receiving such additional training. However, it will become simpler for others to get a driving licence – several disciplines will be excluded from their training programme. More is in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Taxi, bus, freight

The Russian Ministry of Transport created a bill with which it is intending to improve “the professional skills of drivers who provide commercial transportation or are employed”.

The Ministry of Transport has been developing the project since as early as 2017 (while the passport reads the date of creation is 17 July 2017). The first draft of the presupposed reforms, by the Ministry of Economy’s estimates, was assessed at 13 billion rubles. A new draft was expounded for public hearings after polishing it, which ended on 6 May. If this project doesn't stop this time, after writing a summary of the assessment procedure regulating the impact, it will be sent to the government for consideration where the new document’s final text will be created.

As Realnoe Vremya was explained in the Ministry of Transport of Russia, the changes will touch taxi, bus, lorry and commercial car drivers who transport on request or work for juridical persons and sole proprietors. Apart from driving licences, such drivers will have to have a document about their qualification.

The ministry is convinced that drivers have an insufficient level of training for professional activity and cite an opinion of the Russian Car Union as a representative of employers. According to them, the union “notes the necessity to reconsider professional drivers’ training programme particularly to focus on practical driving lessons in emergency cases, complementing programmes to master the driving of articulated buses and double-deckers, units to provide transport safety when transporting passengers and freight”.

The ministry is convinced that drivers have an insufficient level of training for professional activity. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

“Formal” risks

“Nowadays employers have to additionally train drivers who graduated from a driving school but who don’t have experience as car drivers,” reads the ministry’s comment; this explains the initiative of introducing the competency development system.

There is a risk that training will be formal, thinks director of the Kazan School of Higher Driving Skills Oleg Shatov. According to him, organisers can be negligent about the issue:

“As a result, training will be worse, it's highly likely that there won’t be any training at all, while some people who aren’t very honest, so to speak, will get these licences for money. And the cart will reappear there – nothing will change until the attitude to drivers’ training, advanced training change. We constantly face it: “We don’t need this training, we just need the licences”.

As we were explained in the Ministry of Transport, driving schools will also deal with drivers’ additional training. “The bill doesn’t include provisions about some tenders for organisations giving lessons (driving schools),” our interlocutors in the ministry stressed. It’s early to talk about some fines or another kind of responsibility for not meeting the requirements, the ministry specified.

Shatov agrees that the current level of teaching in driving schools is insufficient for those who deal with any kinds of commercial transportation. Photo: glikon.ru

Ordinary car drivers

Undoubtedly, it will be simpler for those who will want to get a driving licence without the intention of working in transportation. Some topics and disciplines will be excluded from the educational programme for them, which aren’t linked with road traffic safety, Realnoe Vremya was explained in the Ministry of Transport:

“For instance, regulatory support of passenger transportation by car, dispatcher manual for working in a taxi, principles of organisation of transportation of mass bulk and loose cargo, transportation of cargo in containers and in packages, technical performance of lorries and others (which nowadays are studied by candidates for B category drivers). It takes from 14 to 18 hours to master such subjects depending on the category of vehicle (approximately 7% of total duration).

Shatov agrees that the current level of teaching in driving schools is insufficient for those who deal with any kinds of commercial transportation: “Doctors upgrade their skills regularly, why can’t a driver who graduated from a driving school in a slipshod manner 30 years ago do it when everything has changed, cars, road traffic, why should 30-year-old knowledge must be enough? Again, the lessons given in transport enterprises are often for show.”

The ministry notes that driving schools aren’t paid due attention, that’s to say, “the quality of knowledge of candidates” for becoming professional drivers reduces, “while candidates who don’t plan to work as a driver and become an entrepreneur ineffectively use the time given to study”.

Ramil Khairullin admitted that he didn’t understand the motives for the initiative. Photo: kazanfirst.ru

“Same rules for everyone”

According to Shatov, good-quality training can be compensated in the future by reducing costs on repair in road accidents. “This training is done not accidentally – to increase the safety of passengers and freight. And in the end, in fact, this should save money because it’s possible to reduce the accident rate 2-4 times in an enterprise but by means of real training,” he adds.

On the contrary, regional representative of the Russian Federation of Car Owners Ramil Khairullin admitted that he didn’t understand the motives for the initiative:

“It seems to me that we don’t have to do this: a driver doesn’t have to be an amateur on a public road, he or she anyway must be a professional driver not to pose a threat to others.”

An upgrade of skills for those who deal with commercial transportation is another thing, the interlocutor goes on. “This must be applied for lorry drivers and so on because different novelties appear. But at the employers’ expense,” he adds.

Vladimir Kapitonov, the director of Agromir PLC that maintains the Bus 62, agrees with him: “The traffic code is the same for everyone. Car is a high-risk vehicle. The driving licence is one without depending on whether it’s amateur or professional.”

“Safety on roads is equally true for all drivers. The road code is the same for everyone. There is no sense in dividing drivers into amateurs and professionals. One improves with time – drivers should have better training in driving schools, and roads should be safer,” Stennikov adds. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Costs on taxi

The taxis we surveyed welcomed the information about the potential necessity to retrain their drivers with bafflement.

“All this looks like the next scheme with a corruptogenic factor that nobody but driving schools – payment for another paper,” says press secretary of Maxim taxi Pavel Stennikov. He is sure that the measure won’t increase the safety level and “complications and additional charges from taxi drivers will negatively affect the market’s legality”.

“Safety on roads is equally true for all drivers. The road code is the same for everyone. There is no sense in dividing drivers into amateurs and professionals. One's skills improve with time – drivers should have better training in driving schools, and roads should be safer,” Stennikov adds.

Such an initiative becomes an additional barrier to enter the sphere of transportation, believes head of the press service of Vezyot taxi Zoya Avstriyskaya.

The newspaper’s interlocutor noted that taxi aggregators make additional requirements for the quality of service, while additional costs on special licences will just reduce the number of drivers. “The lack of supply (drivers who are ready to accept orders), by market rules, increases the service’s price,” thinks Avstriyskaya. In her opinion, there is no practical foundation of advantages of dividing drivers into the categories, any road users must obey the traffic code.

Representative of Yandex.Taxi Natalia Rogozhina noted it’s early to be talking about the bill until it becomes a law.

By Leysan Nabiyeva
Tatarstan