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Back to school, drivers fail to make the cut

Out of 2,572, including 1,200 school bus drivers, only one gets above 60 pc in refresher test

Gopal Sathe

New Delhi, January 9: A test for heavy vehicle drivers conducted by the Automobile Association of Upper India (AAUI) ahead of a Transport Department-ordered refresher course has thrown up a disconcerting fact —— the driver who takes your kid to school may not know his job too well.

Of 2,572 who took the test —— 1,200 of them drivers of school buses —— between September and December, only one got more than 60 per cent marks. And almost 300 failed the test altogether.

‘‘We try and ensure the quality of our drivers by putting teachers in buses but clearly this isn’t enough,’’ Air Force Bal Bharati School, Principal D Goel said, adding that the refresher courses are a good move.

Since 2003, the refresher course, conducted by the AAUI at the Indian Driver Training and Research (IDTR) facility run in collaboration with Maruti, is mandatory for all heavy vehicle drivers.

‘‘We made the course mandatory in response to fears that the drivers were unsafe. The results show that such a step was required,’’ Delhi Transport Minister Haroon Yusuf said.

AAUI President T.K. Malhotra said the problem lies in the lack of proper training in small driving schools, and the relative ease in getting a license.

‘‘Since 1999, we have been carrying out training with simulators to help drivers experience all sorts of traffic conditions. The small schools just put you straight into traffic and then help you get your license before you’ve even fully understood the basics,’’ he said.

DCP Traffic (North) H P S Virk, while clarifying that it is not so easy to get a license, said that transporters have been facing a shortage of trained drivers in Delhi.

‘‘It’s not so bad here, but people can get licenses in neighbouring states like Haryana which are valid throughout the country, and this can lead to a number of problems,’’ he said.

Delhi Public School Principal, RK Puram, Shyama Chona said school authorities need to be careful while hiring drivers. ‘‘They should hire drivers directly, not go through an agency. Teachers get refresher course to do better at work, it’s good that drivers also receive such training now,’’ she said