The Ministry of Interior has accepted the submission of a proposal to ban minibuses on UAE roads. If approved, it will be implemented in three years.

The Federal Traffic Council (FTC), chaired by Major-General Mohammed Saif Al Zafeen of Dubai Police, recommended that all passenger-carrying minibuses be taken off the roads by January 2023. Those used to ferry students will be removed much earlier by September 2021 across the country.

Minibuses do not have modern safety features, exposing passengers to great risk of injury or death in the case of an accident.

Around 50,000 minibuses are estimated to ply the UAE’s roads currently. These unsafe, empty-shell vehicles account for 15 percent of accidents in the nation. As per Al Zafeen, minibuses are not equipped with basic safety features as most cars. Furthermore, they carry anywhere between 10 to 15 passengers bunched close together. So many passengers packed this tight is not an ideal and safe situation.

Minibuses are locked at 100kph, yet accidents involving several victims keep on happening. Dubai has already banned minibuses from being used as school ferries since 2016. The Major-General said that once the proposal is approved by the Ministry of Interior, minibuses will be limited to transporting goods.

If the ban is implemented, minibuses will ony be used to transport goods and cargo from 2023 onwards.

Thanks to the rapid adoption of empty-shell Toyota Hiaces, minibuses have been dangerous for decades. The Toyota had almost no safety features until now. Manufacturers like Ford introduced safer vehicles in the UAE in the minibus segment. The new-generation Toyota Hiace also comes with a front-end crash structure. However, these small additions and updates may not help the demise of minibuses as the potential ban will take all the older minibuses off public roads.

This leaves us with a big gap in the public transportation system. Ride-hailing app Careem also makes use of these vehicles. A lot of government and private fleet operators also employs minibuses for tourism, patrolling, surveillance, and a variety of other purposes. While sedans and SUVs might fill in the gap left by minibuses, the transition could end up being slightly complicated.