Vietnamese trucking companies are complaining that a new liscensing regulation has crippled Vietnam's economy.
According to the Ministry of Transport's decision No.997, all container truck drivers holding class C, D, and E liscences must upgrade to class FC by July 1.
Penalties, under the new law, are steep.
Drivers who fail to abide by the rule will be fined VND2-3 million (US$105-157) and have their trucks and liscenses confiscated for between ten and 60 days. Moreover, those who assign trucks to disqualifed drivers will be held criminally responsible in the event of an accident.
Nguyen Manh Hung, chairman of the Vietnam Automobile Transport Association cited preliminary surveys that showed 60 percent of container truck drivers don't have FC driving licenses, mainly in Ho Chi Minh City, the northern city of Hai Phong, and the central city of Danang.
On the first day that the new law went into effect, trucking in HCMC came to a halt, Dang Duc Tiep, director of the southern city-based Dang Tien Transport Company, said.
Tran Viet Hung, transport department manager from Cong Thanh Company, said some 70 percent of the company's drivers don't have FC licenses, so they only transported some 20 percent of 200 scheduled containers on Thursday.
A representative for the Kim Loi Minh Transport Company said they have stopped receiving orders since the end of June. The company estimates it has lost some VND700,000 ($36.80) per truck every day ever since then.
Nguyen Phu Khanh, representative from ICD Tanamexco Company, said over 100 containers were left at a seaport Thursday, as they didn't have enough drivers with FC licenses to transport them.
Container trucks transport around 80 percent of import-export goods nationwide said Thai Van Chung, secretary general of the Ho Chi Minh City Goods Transport Association. He estimates lots of goods will simply be left at port.
The whole economy will inevitably suffer, Chung said, when contracts and orders related to transport and import-export are delayed or canceled.
Asked why many drivers didn't upgrade their licenses during one-year extension of the regulation, Chung said it's partly because requirements for drivers to apply for an FC driving test are too strict.
Under the regulation, only drivers with three-years of experience and 50,000 kilometers without incident are allowed to apply for the driving test. Most drivers with 50,000 kilometers under their belts only five or six months of experience, he said.
Those who fail to meet the requirements have to take courses in theory and practice before taking the driving test, according to decision No.977.
Chung added that Drivers with C, D and E licenses who drive every day have no time to study theory and practice. Companies don't dare to force them to do so for fear that the drivers will quit, Chung said.
Tran Viet Hoe, chairman of Danang Goods Road Transport Association, said the ministry should allow all drivers to apply for the FC driving test, and should only ask them to take courses again after they fail the test.
In response to the uproar, the transport ministry has ordered the Directorate for Roads of Vietnam to appoint specialized teams to help these hard-hit urban centers deal with difficulties related to the regulation.
Chung said that the move comes too late. The Ho Chi Minh City Goods Transport Association has been sending written requests for help to related agencies for months.