Vehicles registered outside Dhaka city will not be allowed to enlist with any ride-sharing company operating in the city.

Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) has been directed to propose the highest ceiling for the number of vehicles to be enlisted with any particular ride-hailing company.

The decisions came at a meeting held in the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges on January 27, amid a sharp rise in vehicles, especially motorcycles, registered outside the capital hitting the city streets, exacerbating the traffic problem.

The meeting was presided over by Secretary of Road Transport and Highway Division Nazrul Islam while different stakeholders, including police high-ups, representatives of ride-sharing companies and BRTA officials, were also present.

“Our main objective [of introducing ride-sharing services] was to reduce traffic jam by using the vehicles that remain idle after one or two trips,” said Nazrul while talking to the Daily Star on Sunday.

“But a huge number of vehicles from other districts are entering the capital [to provide ride-sharing services], in contrast to our primary objective,” he added.

There are also allegations that many of those vehicles are driven by unskilled drivers who are not familiar with the city roads.

However, the meeting sources could not confirm when and how the decisions would be implemented as the ride-sharing companies are yet to be registered with BRTA.

Fulfilling conditions

App-based ride-hailing services were launched in Dhaka in May 2015. Currently, more than two dozen companies are operating in the capital.

At the meeting, the ministry also directed the BRTA to register the companies as soon as possible and bring them under regulation.

Earlier on January 9, the BRTA placed a proposal of giving the companies a deadline for fulfilling the conditions for registration as the operators, drivers, and riders could not be held accountable without any registration.

The cabinet on January 15 last year approved the “Ride-Sharing Service Guideline 2017”, which was formulated to bring the companies under a regulation.

The guideline came into force on March 8.

Some 14 companies have so far sought registration from the BRTA authorities, but none of them has been able to fulfil the required conditions mentioned in the guideline, and as such, they are still operating without registration.

Some of the conditions are associated with the passengers’ safety and it would take time to meet those conditions as various stakeholders are involved in the whole process, said BRTA officials.

Nazrul said: “We have to bring them under registration first as now they are operating illegally and the government is losing revenue.

“If they fail to comply with some of the conditions related to infrastructure, we will look into those issues later.”

Asked about the fixing of the highest ceiling, the secretary said there should be a common ceiling for all the companies in order to ensure “fair competition”.

“Otherwise riders will go for a particular company,” he added.

A company must have 100 vehicles for providing services in the capital, 50 in Chattogram and 20 in any other districts, according to the Ride-sharing Service Guidelines 2017.

The meeting took some other important decisions, including the one that service providing companies have to take necessary measures to prevent drivers from reckless driving.

The ministry also directed the BRTA to ensure strict secrecy of passengers’ personal information shared with the companies.

In another directive, the ministry asked the BRTA to examine a proposal that restricts the vehicles to be enlisted with more than one company.

The meeting also decided to prevent companies from making any provision that would force a driver to take more than usual number of trips at a given time.

BRTA spokesperson Mahbub-e-Rabbani said they would start implementing the decisions after receiving official directives from the ministry. THE DAILY STAR (BANGLADESH)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK