Abu Dhabi taxi driver takes pride in a job well done

Nawraj Shrestha, a taxi driver in Abu Dhabi who works 13 hours a day, shares some of his safe driving habits.
Nawraj Shrethra was last year named one of Abu Dhabi’s safest taxi drivers. Lee Hoagland / The National
Nawraj Shrethra was last year named one of Abu Dhabi’s safest taxi drivers. Lee Hoagland / The National

ABU DHABI // Nawraj Shrestha takes great pride in his work despite being behind the wheel for 13 hours every day, seven days a week.

The 48-year-old cabbie from Nepal has worked in the ranks of Abu Dhabi’s silver taxis since they were launched in November 2007.

He first joined QLink, one of the franchises of the Centre for Regulation of Transport by Hire Cars, or TransAD. But QLink shut down in February 2011, reportedly because it could not meet the minimum 1,021-vehicle quota. He then transferred to Emirates Taxi.

Taxi drivers are often under immense pressure to meet their targets, so they work long hours and neglect to have regular rest periods.

Mr Shrestha, who works from 9am to 10pm, often manages to exceed his Dh450 daily target to earn about Dh4,000 a month. Last month, he was paid Dh4,067.

“I can work up to 18 hours, but we also need to take a break,” he said, while enjoying a cup of tea outside Abu Faizal restaurant on the junction of Hazza bin Zayed and Mubarak bin Mohammed streets.

“If we follow the traffic rules, we will not have any problems.”

Tailgaiting, swerving, not giving way at pedestrian crossings, making turns or U-turns from the wrong lane, and stopping at undesignated pick-up areas are some of the common driving infractions among Abu Dhabi’s taxi drivers.

“I think the new taxi drivers commit these mistakes,” Mr Shrestha said. “I respect the speed limits, keep a two-metre distance between my taxi and the vehicle in front of me, and I always wear my seat belt.”

He uses his indicators before changing lanes, and also gives way for other drivers who wish to change lanes.

Purna Jang Rai, 45, a Nepalese taxi driver at National Taxi, said he was proud of his friend’s clean driving record. “We can all learn from him,” he said. “I also don’t have any fines.”

“I can proudly say that I’m the best driver in Abu Dhabi,” Mr Shrestha said, smiling.

“I received a certificate and Dh1,000 cash from TransAD last year for being a safe driver. So far I have not been involved in a traffic accident this year.”

Last November, the taxi regulator honoured Nure Alam, a Bangladeshi driver at Al Ghazal Taxi, for returning Dh88,500 to a passenger. At the ceremony, 75 taxi drivers with the highest response rate to booking requests each received Dh500.

“We are happy,” Mr Shrestha said. “Many drivers are now asking when they will also get an award.”

Despite working long hours and the risk of accidents, he plans to stay on the job for a few more years.

“Taxi driving has changed my life,” said the father of two, Nabin and Nabina, who are 26 and 16. “Before, my house was in a remote place. After working here for about seven years, I now have a house in the city.”

rruiz@thenational.ae

Published: May 26, 2014 04:00 AM

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