Transportation firms ask for help from government

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Local truck companies have asked the government to roll back a recent decision requiring commercial drivers to upgrade their licenses. The companies say the measure has brought Vietnam's ports to a standstill.

Starting July 1, all container truck drivers holding class C, D, and E licenses were supposed to have upgraded theirs to class FC. Most drivers do not qualify to even apply for an FC license, trade representatives have said.

Penalties for those caught driving without an FC license are steep.

The Ho Chi Minh City Goods Transportation Association said only 30 percent of its drivers have successfully obtained the new license so far.

In the association's plea to the government, deputy chairman Dinh Nam Dinh pointed out that there will be a big shortage of the drivers while the companies attempt to get their people caught up. That shortage, Dinh said, could deal a huge blow to the economy.

Dinh said truck drivers should be given one more year to get their licenses and fines should not be imposed until July 2011.

Thai Van Chung, the association's secretary general, told Thanh Nien Weekly that the government should suspend fines until the end of this year or 60 percent of drivers will be unable to bring the city's goods to ports.

Chung said HCMC's qualified drivers won't be able to cover the massive loss of manpower. The decision would affect economic growth and the whole country, he said.

Chung was not aware of any drivers who had been fined for lacking an FC license since July 1.

Under the regulation, truckers caught without an FC license can be fined VND2-3 million (US$105- 157) and have their trucks and licenses confiscated for ten to 60 days. Moreover, those who assign trucks to disqualified drivers will be held criminally responsible in the event of an accident.

The regulation, issued by the Ministry of Transportation, was supposed to take effect during July of last year but it was delayed until this month.

The association said the new regulation was so strict that only drivers with three-years of experience and 50,000 accident-free kilometers are allowed to even apply for an FC license. According to Chung, most drivers with 50,000 kilometers under their belts have only five or six months of experience.

Chung said the association suggested the ministry get rid of the qualifications altogether.

Trucking firms across the country are facing a similar predicament. Nguyen Manh Hung, chairman of the Vietnam Automobile Transport Association cited preliminary surveys that showed 60 percent of container truck drivers lack FC driving licenses, in Ho Chi Minh City, the northern city of Hai Phong, and the central city of Da Nang.

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