Abu Dhabi taxi driver shifts capped at 12 hours under new directive

Some drivers say they work 15 hours to meet targets or make extra cash

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Taxi drivers in Abu Dhabi must not work for more than 12 hours a day under a new directive brought into force this month.

The Department of Transport (DoT) said it was capping time spent behind the wheel to "ensure the safety" of drivers, passengers and other road users.

Taxi drivers across the emirate admitted to working marathon shifts of up to 15 hours to meet their monthly targets and earn a higher wage.

The DoT has installed an automated system in GPS software in its fleet of taxis to warn drivers that they are approaching the end of their 12-hour shift.

The maximum hours order was rolled out on May 1.

"In order to ensure the safety of drivers and users of public taxis and public road users, it was decided from May 1 to implement the decisions issued by the Ministry of Labour which specify the maximum hours of work for taxi drivers for no more than 12 hours per day," the DoT told The National in a statement.

In a survey of 12 taxi drivers in Abu Dhabi carried out by The National in 2015, six said they normally worked 14 to 15 hours a day; one 14 to 16 hours, two 16 to 18 hours; and three for 12 hours.

In Dubai, drivers are typically limited to a maximum 12-hour shift as many share the same vehicle with a colleague on a day or night shift.

When I first arrived in 2012, I used to work 14 or 15 hours

Aziz Ulhaque, from Bangladesh, welcomed the decision to cut back on working hours, saying it was "good for our health".

Despite failing to meet his monthly target, the 42-year-old driver stopped doing shifts in excess of 12 hours a number of years ago.

"First, I want to save my life, and second, my family.”

He said if he drives for more than 12 hours consecutively, he believes his health would pay the price.

“Your back will hurt because you are sitting in one place. You are on duty all the time and only have a few hours of sleep.”

He said that many colleagues regularly on the clock for more than 12 hours have suffered health problems as a result, and are liable to develop diabetes.

Chabi Khrel, a driver from Nepal, said he usually does not exceed 11 hours in a single shift but will occasionally stay in the driving seat for longer for financial rewards.

He said he imposes his own financial targets, and will often work less if he meets them in a short period of time.

“Sometimes when I want good commission I work for 15 hours,” he said.

“I set a target for myself, to make Dhs500 to Dhs600 a day. if I make it in three hours, I go home.

“When I first arrived in 2012, I used to work 14 or 15 hours to exceed the target.

“But of course driving for 15 hours makes me tired, as I am sitting in one place all the time,” said the 37-year-old.

Suhrab Ali, a driver from Bangladesh, said he stopped doing more than 12 hours a day four years ago.

“Sometimes I can make extra money by exceeding my target, and sometimes not.

“If I reach my daily target of 281 dirhams, my salary reaches Dh2,200. The basic salary is 800 dirhams, but if I reach 321 dirhams a day I could make 2,800 a month.”

Dr Marwan Al Assila, a consultant at Emirates Hospital, said driving for long periods of time caused exhaustion and fatigue.

“Drivers can also suffer headaches from concentrating for a long time, and back pain as a result of sitting in the same position with a slight bend forward - just like a person who sits on a computer for 12 hours.”

The driver could also suffer kidney problems if they don't drink enough water over 12 hours, he said.