DUBAI //The bulk of the work in educating heavy vehicle drivers is left to driving schools.
Would-be lorry drivers must take a series of lessons at an accredited driving school before attempting the theory and practical test at the RTA in Dubai or Ministry of Interior in Abu Dhabi and Northern Emirates, where tests are usually conducted by the traffic police.
The minimum training requirement at driving schools is 40 lessons, or approximately 20 hours of training, but the institute can ask the student to complete more lessons if they feel they are not yet ready for the Government test.
The heavy vehicle operators said it took them between four and six months to complete the necessary training and some spent as much as Dh25,000 to do so.
In the capital, Emirates Driving Company (EDC) offers heavy vehicle theory classes and plans to introduce practical training in the next two months.
"Our curriculum has to be approved by the traffic department, but anytime soon we expect to launch the business of practical training," said Dino Kalivas, the director of training at EDC.
EDC has expanded its facilities at its headquarters in Mussaffah to offer the training. Students must be over 21 to enrol and a beginner will require at least 44 lessons of about 35 minutes each in practical training and eight theory lessons of about 70 minutes each.
Mr Kalivas said their training will include simulator lessons that prepare drivers for emergency situations, such as how to drive in dense fog.
"The more experience you get, the statistically safer you drive once you obtain your licence," Mr Kalivas said.
Exact training requirements at different driving schools may differ but, according to Ahmed Bahrozyan, chief executive of the RTA licensing agency, all institutes will soon follow a unified heavy vehicle driver training curriculum under pilot testing.
"We have a set of accreditation criteria [for driving schools], but they must primarily be equipped to deliver the RTA training curriculum, which is a combination of classroom sessions and on-road training," said Mr Bahrozyan. "They must have the necessary space within their premises to deliver the training curriculum because some of the training will happen inside the boundaries of the training centre and the rest is on the roads. They must also have certified instructions."
Once a driver has a licence, it is valid for 10 years and no retesting is required on renewal. However, the RTA plans to add a medical test for all professional drivers "before the middle of 2013", according to Mr Bahrozyan.