Cab drivers, including those of aggregators Uber, Ola, car-pooling service BlaBlaCar, and yellow-black taxis, will no longer require a special endorsement from transport offices to drive vehicles for commercial purposes.

This means people with a regular driving licence for a light motor vehicle can drive commercial vehicles in the same category without seeking a special endorsement. Until now, cab drivers had to get an endorsement every three years to drive commercial vehicles.

This will also apply to e-rickshaws, e-carts, small school vans, among other ‘light-motor vehicles’, where the distinction between commercial and private driver’s licence has been eliminated.

According to a recent Road Ministry note issued to State Transport Commissioners early this week, the need to obtain the “transport licence would arise in case of medium/ heavy goods and passengers only”. No other vehicle “will require any separate endorsement, even if they are used for commercial purposes,” it added.

The exemption extends to light motor vehicles (goods/ passengers), e-rickshaw and e-cart, according to the note seen by BusinessLine .

It has also instructed that similar changes be made in Sarathi, the national database of driving licences.

“We understand this to mean that the distinction between a commercial and private driver’s needs for licence has been done away with for light motor vehicles, which include taxis, subsequent to a Supreme Court judgment on Mukund Dewangan vs Oriental Insurance Case ,” SP Singh, senior fellow at the Indian Foundation for Transport Research and Training, said.

Interpreting the note for BusinessLine , Sakshi Mittal Gupta, Advocate on Record, Supreme Court, said, “As per this notification, there is no need under the law to obtain a separate licence for driving a light motor vehicle — transport or non-transport vehicle or the vehicle being used as a commercial vehicle.”

Gupta was part of the team that represented an insurance company, one of the parties in a case connected to Mukund Dewangan vs Oriental Insurance in the Supreme Court.

Apex court’s decision

The Road Ministry’s note follows a Supreme Court decision to this effect last year. As per legal website LiveLaw, the apex court bench had observed, “When a driver is authorised to drive a vehicle, he can drive it irrespective of the fact whether it is used for a private purpose or for purpose of hire or reward or for carrying the goods in the said vehicle.”

At present, commercial driving licences need to be endorsed every three years, while driving licences for private vehicles are issued for longer durations of up to 20 years.

“Getting a commercial driver’s licence is difficult. To get it for an autorickshaw or a cab, drivers have to be trained for three days, and pay an extra fee as well,” Ravi Rathore, President, Sarvodaya Drivers Welfare Association, said. While the move will increase the number of drivers and can potentially increase competition in the market, drivers of smaller vehicles welcome the move. “If people are able to drive private vehicles, why should they not be allowed to drive commercial vehicles?” said Rathore.