Drivers holding licenses issued prior to August 2008 will be required to upgrade their licenses, as of September 2013, in accordance with the current permit classification system. A regulation with this requirement is to be issued in the coming weeks.
The upgrade will be conducted in line with either one of two approaches: on a scheduled timetable or whenever drivers with old permits seek to renew their licenses, according to Meheretab Teklu, head of the Driver Competency Directorate at the Federal Transport Authority (FTA).
“The decision on which approach to take is yet to be made,’’ he added.
The regulation is to be issued, in order to standardise the driving license system of the country. It has been split into two after the ratification of the Drivers Qualification Certifications Licence Proclamation, by the Parliament, in 2008.
The 2008 Proclamation expanded the number of driving license categories, from five to seven. However, the Proclamation applied only to those getting their driving licenses after the issuance of the new rule, creating two types of driving license systems in the country. To date, older licenses, issued before 2008, are automatically renewed without updating their categories in line with the new system.
The new regulation, however, will bring the 1.6 million pre-2008 driving licenses in line with the new classification system, according to the regulation.
However, according to stakeholders, standardising the driving license system of the country requires much more effort than simply issuing the regulation.
Changing the old category to the new one will take more than updating paperwork, an instructor who operates a driver’s training school in Addis Abeba told Fortune.
“This is because the two sets of categories sometimes do not correspond,’’ he explained.
With the permits issued prior to 2008, a grade one classification is assigned for motorcycles, grade two for automobiles with no more than eight seats, grade three for vehicles with more than eight seats and belonging to businesses or government offices, grade four for trucks and grade five for vehicles with trailers.
The new category, however, is more detailed and the different classifications are given names instead of being numbered as grades.
One of the classes, for example, is “automobile”, which is similar to the previous grade two category. However, the current “automobile” classification is given to those who can drive up to 12-seater vehicles. Those with old grade two licenses, however, are not qualified to operate such vehicles.
The new classification gets even broader when it comes to larger vehicles. Previously, public transport buses and dump trucks were included in the grade four categories. They have now been changed into the public transport vehicle driver’s qualification and truck driver’s qualification permit, respectively.
Furthermore, these classes are divided into two or three sub-categories.
It will be hard to decide which old grades will fit into the new categories, unless those upgrading their licenses take some training and get tested first, according to the instructor.
“It would be preferable to schedule a training and testing timetable for those whose permits are being updated, so that they can easily fit into the current categories,” he added.
Not all the updates, however, come with testing. Grade two licenses will automatically get updated into the automobile classification, according to Meheretab.
“If one can operate an eight-seater vehicle then he is relatively capable of handling twelve seaters,” he told Fortune.
Grade three and four licenses, however, will need to take an examination, since theirs is for public transportation vehicles and also because a lot of forged licenses exist throughout the two grades. Whether or not the old grade five license holders will have to pass through any testing is yet to be decided by the Ministry, says Meheretab.
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