AFTER receiving several complaints about the operations at driving schools, Transport Commissioner Clive Clarke says he is looking at introducing standardised protocols every driving school must follow in order to ensure optimum quality in the service provided by these schools.
In an interview with Newsday, Clarke said, “I am having discussions right now with our legal department to see if we can bring a system whereby we can have these driving schools basically enrolled with the organisation in the context of meeting certain criteria, certain conditions in order for us to monitor them similar to what we do for the inspection.
"They have to be able to reach a particular standard as well as be able to ensure that what they do is according to international best practice and it's something we are looking at very carefully."
He assured that any new protocol or system won't be introduced without proper consultation first with all stakeholders including instructors and the owners/operators of various driving schools. “Driving schools play a critical role in our environment and in fact, the licensing officer cannot do everything.
"We don't have time to go out and train students on how to drive et etcetera, but we have to be mindful that when these driving schools hand over the students to us, they must be ready to take the test to get certified to operate vehicles in the public space.”
Clarke is hoping that by June, the transport division would have a draft paper on what the new measures are to enhance the service by these schools.
“I want to say one thing however, the ministry (of Transport) is exploring the possibility of having its own student driver vehicles. As it is, if you come to do your driving test, you have to pay a fee somewhere between $300 and $400 to use private vehicles provided by driving schools to not only use during the learning process but to also use during the the actual test involving the trainee driver and a licensing officer.
"We are currently looking at a possible lease arrangement where we can go out for public tender and bring that responsibility (the use and control of vehicles used to train drivers and conduct driving tests) within the ministry's purview."
He said once this comes into effect, the transport division can ensure that all vehicles used in the tests aren’t defective which in turn can lead to a student driver failing the driving test.
“Once we get that under us, it means those vehicles are under our conditions with proper insurance and so forth. And it's easy for us to implement monitoring mechanisms such as GPS sensors to ensure the driving tests are done properly.”
Clarke has already begun work to introduce new driving and regulation tests. In the coming months, the division will also introduce a new regulations test for Class Three vehicles and new driving tests for first-issue permits.
He said once the division has control of the fleet used for driving tests, they will have more control over the quality of these tests to ensure only capable drivers are on the roads.
“The intent from the Licensing Division's point of view is to bring licensing to a level where we can achieve maximum customer satisfaction. That is the objective and in doing so, we need to be mindful that there is a need for a level of transformation of systems.”
He applauded staff at all divisions, particularly at the Caroni licensing office for their commitment and contribution in making the system run smoothly.
He said during the lockdown, employees came out to work, even though the division’s permanent secretary had the approval to allow them to stay at home.
“We were able to digitise much more records, we were able to do a number of data clean-ups including the clearing of several duplicate records during the national lockdown caused by the pandemic," Clarke said. In thanking the diligence of Licensing Office staffers who came out to work when they could have stayed home, Clarke said, "we are now seeing the benefits daily of the workers' commitment.”