The Public Transport Authority (PTA), in cooperation with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH), has started to implement qualitative changes in the Kingdom’s taxi sector. Taxis will be obliged to use a regulated fare system for inner-city and inter-cities travel, meters, as well as electronic payment facilities. Vehicles will also be linked to modern tracking technologies and maps, as well as green exterior to be clearly identifiable.
The minimum rate would be fixed for short-distance travel, the distance travel would determine the rates for long trips, and this is also applied to bus and train tickets. The PTA proposed that the cost of daily commute should not exceed 5% of a family’s daily average income and it should not exceed 10% of income when travelling long distances in trips from small cities and suburban areas.
Training program for taxi drivers has also been started by the PTA in all regions of the Kingdom. This also includes major airports and contains specialized training courses, focusing to develop the skills of drivers in serving tourists and visitors, raise the level of professional competence of drivers in dealing with customers and enrich the experience of visitors to the Kingdom in general.
As stated by the vice president of the PTA land transport sector, the program has been supported by taxi companies, and more than 10,000 taxi drivers have benefited thus far. In addition, the PTA has made the courses available in three languages — Arabic, English and Urdu — to assist as many drivers as possible.
Director general of Small Vehicle Transport, Majed bin Salem Al-Zahrani, also mentioned that the training course focuses on the importance of customer service, and highlights the importance of maintaining the vehicle’s cleanliness and operational efficiency to improve the passengers’ experience. The course, conducted in partnership with the SCTH and Saudi airports, was said to be part of a comprehensive training program that also includes bus drivers as well as the employees of car rental offices. Furthermore, it also offers a professional accreditation program for drivers.
Around 20,000 Saudi drivers, women are especially welcome, are wanted to be recruited under the recently launched campaign by Saudi transport chiefs. The campaign specifically aims to replace expatriates working as drivers for Uber, Careem and the Kingdom’s other taxi-app services.
Good income and safe work environment have made the profession popular, with the number of female Saudi drivers working at taxi app companies has reached 2,000, according to the PTA. The job had become especially popular among women since the ban on them driving in the Kingdom was lifted in June 2018. According to some experiences from Careem’s drivers, the presence of women taxi drivers is also a growing need across the Kingdom, as Saudi families constantly request women drivers.
The overall number of Saudis driving taxis had risen from 100,000 to more than 600,000 since 2016, and the authority stated that the sector is now ready for Saudization. Together with the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, the PTA will work to ensure the implementation of the Saudization regulations. Any driver found to be working illegally will be fined SR5,000.