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Taxi training should be put in the fast lane

Beatrice Thomas drives home some ideas for better service

I’m not the first person to complain about taxis and I won’t be the last.

But, in the interests of “sharing is caring”, here are my brief observations since my arrival two months ago from Australia about the state of taxis in Dubai.

First up, I’ve found, for the most part, that taxis are pretty easy to find. That’s a major plus.

However, I am increasingly getting frustrated by the number of times a taxi driver has asked me for directions to my destination.

Now, I’m not talking some obscure, off-the-beaten-track nook on the outer edge of town. I’m talking major landmarks such as Al Fattan Towers in JBR (the driver in question actually asked where JBR was).

Although it’s hard enough for a newcomer to town, I have to feel for the tourists who come in their millions to this city.

Dubai has pitched itself as a tourist haven. It wants to host Expo 2020. And it is targeting 20 million international tourists annually by 2020.

While many of these visitors will be heading to major landmarks such as Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, how bad does it look if a taxi is unable to get them to somewhere else?

Training should be ramped up. I’m not talking the intensive, GPS-level knowledge asked of London cabbies, but some navigational and maps-based testing would be of help. It would get the customer to their destination faster (something, let’s face it, every cabbie tries to do, anyway) and it would improve drivers’ reputations.

If that isn’t achievable, why not have a centralised call centre as back up for drivers who need directions. Or, what about an actual GPS navigation device installed in the taxis?

For me, simply saying “I don’t know where that is” doesn’t cut it. Ask someone. Once, when I was in Tokyo -  another big tourist city - a taxi driver was completely lost. But he systematically got out of the cab three times to ask locals for directions.

The end result was that although we took a scenic route, he delivered his customer to her destination.

It’s not that hard.

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Posted by: Ryan

Drivers who know directions and speak good English/Arabic command a premium. The various taxi companies want one thing- profit. To keep costs down and margins high, they accept anything that breathes to get behind the wheel and drive. Who is willing to work for rock bottom salaries and long hours?- the usual suspects- Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Afghans.

Many drivers I speak to tell me of the minimum number of trips they have to make each day which is not always easy and the immense pressure they are under to perform. Some of them are even saddled with driving manual gear cars which only add to their frustration and accident prone behavior.

If you want change, it has to be service over profit to ensure good safe drivers who will not be hazard on the roads and promote Dubai as an even better tourist and business destination in the Gulf

Posted by: Neil

Well Beatrice, how is your Arabic these days? Or Urdu? Russian?Its oft forgotten that these taxi drivers are all (to a greater or less degree) multilingual and certainly if speaking English working in a second language.
No-doubt they should all know JBR...if they speak English well and know the abbreviation...

Posted by: UAEdriver

I hope something can be done about the taxi waiting area behind Sahara Mall (Qusais Dubai). It is a single lane 2-way street, and so many taxis wait half on the road and half on sandy area - in addition other taxis then drop and pick up passengers next to them in the middle of the road, causing traffic jams and irritating other cars behind. Ask taxis when you drive next to them why have you just stopped in the middle of the road (with space being next to them to go on the side of the road) - i am picking a passenger or dropping a passenger and replies rudely - as if its ok to do so. Taxi mentality honestly needs to be changed and starts with training - just stopping in the middle of the road to drop or pick passengers is dangerous to drivers behind.

Posted by: Moh

An even bigger problem with taxi drivers is that they import their domestic driving attitudes and actually put their passengers' lives in danger, without the slightest concern for anything else but the 2 extra dirhams they can make on a day by breaking all sorts of traffic rules. I find Dubai Police to be extremely lenient most of the time when major traffic violations (such as reversing on a highway) occur right in front of them and they don't do anything about them. More importantly than getting you there quickly, their major concern should be to get you there safely.

Posted by: Matt Williams

Two months you say!, well from someone who has been here for 10 years I here what you are saying however this will represent a cost to RTA ref the investement in GPS/Call centre. Its a good idea but after you have been here for a while you will just direct them yourself, remember those drivers that dont know say JBR or JLT are nearly always newbies themselves!

Posted by: Jenna

The fact that it's been an issue for 10 years indicates an immediate need for change - it's hardly acceptable to just "find your own way" when you've been here long enough. It's not exactly as though taxis are free, and with the amount of investment in infrastructure it would be a nominal cost to push better training.

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