This file photo shows an accident involving a container truck in Ho Chi Minh City in November 2014. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre
Faced with a shortage of container-truck drivers, many transport companies in Ho Chi Minh City have been ignoring the fact that most of their employees are unqualified with some even using fake licenses, according to media reports.
The crisis, which came to light at a recent meeting between companies and the Ministry of Transport, is believed to have been brewing since April last year when authorities started cracking down on overloaded trucks, forcing them to switch from trucks with a capacity of 11-18 tons to large vehicles that can carry containers of 30-40 tons.
The change meant businesses needed drivers with FC licenses which are specific for container-truck driving, while most only have truck driver’s licenses.
Lam Dai Vinh, owner of Lam Vinh Company, was quoted as saying at the meeting that his company had 50 container trucks but only 40 drivers with FC licenses, and so was forced to use unqualified drivers, and even those with fake licenses.
He blamed the ministry's "unreasonable" rules for issuing an FC license for many drivers’ refusal to apply for one.
Only those who have licenses for driving other kinds of vehicles, have three years' experience and a record of safely driving at least 50,000 kilometers (31,069 miles) can apply for an FC license, according to the rules.
In response, Deputy Minister of Transport Le Dinh Tho announced that the ministry has recently ordered the rules to be eased, reducing the number of years’ experience required to one.
Some transport businesses told news website Saigon Times Online that they also hire drivers with FC licenses issued in other places, meaning they did not know the city's roads well enough, and those with licenses but without much experience.
Even though they are aware such drivers could cause accidents, they have little choice since they would have to pay compensation to customers for delays, an unnamed company executive was quoted as saying.
Bui Van Quan, chairman of the HCMC Container Transport Association, said transport companies have been facing a "serious" dearth of qualified drivers.
The situation is worsening since fleets are being expanded to meet the rising demand due to Vietnam's increased trade, he said.
Nguyen Van Thanh, chairman of the Vietnam Automobile Transportation Association, blamed businesses’ ignorance about their drivers' lack of qualifications for the higher incidence of road accidents involving container trucks in HCMC than elsewhere.
The country saw 22 accidents involving trucks in the first five months of this year, nearly half of them in HCMC, in which eight people died and five others were injured, according to the National Traffic Safety Committee.
Last year only nine cases were reported.
"If businesses continue to be lax about drivers, accidents will continue to happen," Nguyen Thanh Chung, director of the city transport department said.
Speaking to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Khuat Viet Hung, vice chairman of the traffic safety committee, criticized transport businesses for failing to take care of their drivers, leading to a high risk of accidents.
Many paid drivers VND20 million ($916) a month but made them work 18 hours a day and 30 days a month, he said.