More taxis on Abu Dhabi roads as two-shift system launched

Taxi passengers will find more cabs available in the city by the end of the year when 10 per cent of the 7,804 drivers adopt two shifts, Abu Dhabi's taxi regulator, TransAD, said.

TransAD aims to get your taxi to you within seven minutes. Silvia Razgova/The National
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ABU DHABI // More cabs will be available in the city by the end of the year when 10 per cent of the 7,804 drivers adopt two shifts, said an official at Abu Dhabi’s taxi regulator, TransAD.

“We’ll have two drivers per taxi to maximise efficiency,” said Yousef Al Madani, director of the call centre and customer service at TransAD. “We don’t want one driver working 24 hours.”

Booked taxis are expected to arrive within seven minutes. When TransAD launched the call service in November 2008, a year after silver taxis took to the streets, the reaction time was about nine minutes.

Customers can book taxis on 600 53 53 53 from the call centre, manned by 32-multi-lingual staff 24 hours day. The agents receive taxi bookings, complaints and lost and found inquiries.

Dispatchers use GPS technology to find a taxi nearest to a caller’s address. At the moment, the six franchise taxi companies operate 7,149 cabs.

“The response rate of taxi drivers to the call centre jobs in 2009 and 2010 was 15 to 16 per cent. It has risen to 70 to 75 per cent since 2012,” Mr Al Madani said.

Every month, 18 taxi drivers with the highest response rate are awarded Dh500.

“It fostered a friendly competition among the drivers,” he said. “Some drivers had a 96 response rate, while I particularly remember one driver who had a 99 per cent rate.”

Earlier this month, the regulator received the Service Olympian Award for Best Customer Service Innovation at the UAE Customer Service Week in Dubai. The awards, which have 12 categories, recognise organisations that have implemented successful customer service.

Abu Dhabi’s taxis are linked and monitored electronically through a GPS, enabling TransAD to track and locate all taxis when needed.

“We’ve implemented a lot of innovative strategies to boost customer satisfaction,” Mr Al Madani said. “All taxis are equipped with an MDT, or a mobile data terminal, so when a call centre agent receives a complaint, the driver is alerted and asked to report to TransAD within 48 hours.”

The investigation unit at TransAD reviews complaints against the drivers and issues a warning, suspension or slaps a driver with a fine.

“Speed monitoring is a priority,” he said. “We don’t want our drivers to go beyond the speed limit. They cannot go beyond 120kph.”

TransAD has an automated fining system and speed limits, monitored through the tracking and dispatch centre.

The driver gets a first and second warning, and on the third offence, receives a Dh100 fine.

Subsequent speeding offences will result in an automatic fine of Dh200, Dh500 and then a suspension.

TransAD also has a black points system, with a maximum of 24 points accumulated in a year. Each fine has a corresponding black point.

Drivers who accumulate between 18 and 24 black points will not be able to renew their permits, while those who rack up more than 24 can no longer work as cabbies.

“We will provide training for those with fewer than 18 black points,” Mr Al Madani said.

By next month, TransAD will implement a unified training policy for taxi drivers employed by the six franchisees. It will be a 125-hour course with 26 subjects for all drivers, Mr Al Madani said.

“We will conduct audits in the franchise companies and taxi drivers are required to take and pass the tests.”

Specialised training was provided for drivers of special needs taxis launched in June.

Six specially built vans went into service on June 25, four in Abu Dhabi, one in Al Ain and one in the Western Region.

The special needs taxis in Abu Dhabi are based at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, the Ministry of Social Affairs, Al Noor Hospital on Airport Road and Mafraq Hospital.

From an initial demand for five or six daily trips, requests have increased to between 30 to 40 a day.

“There are customers who are sometimes rude to our taxi drivers,” Mr Al Madani said. “They should understand that our drivers work long hours to achieve their target. These drivers are under immense pressure and try their best to serve the community.”