Mini-truck drivers in HCM City and southern provinces are hindered from working legally because they find it hard to acquire driving licences due to the shortage of training facilities.

Most mini-truck drivers used to own three-and four-wheel self-modified vehicles to earn their living, but in 2008, the Government banned the vehicles, according to Pham Phuong Thao, former chairwoman of the city's People's Council.

The municipal People's Committee postponed the complete ban several times to prepare a comprehensive solution for people whose living depended mainly on these vehicles, Thao said.

In 2009 and 2010, self-modified vehicles were banned from streets in inner districts of HCM City and beginning this year they have also been banned from suburban roads.

In response, many drivers have replaced their self-modified vehicles with mini-trucks which require an A4 class driving licence to operate vehicles with loads of less than one tonne.

Nguyen Ngoc Sang, in Binh Tan district, bought a new mini-truck two months ago but he still does not have a driving license.

"I have asked many training centres if they offer driving courses but they have all said no," Sang said.

Sang was recently lucky enough to register for an A4 driving course and exam in Binh Duong Province , about 50km away from his house.

Many people from HCM City or the neighbouring provinces of Binh Phuoc and Dong Nai had gone to Binh Duong to take driving courses, he said.

Duong Tu Luc, head of the Training and Driving License Office at the HCM City Department of Transport, said the number of people who wanted to take the A4 driving course was typically too small for training centres to set up regular offerings.

The Tien Bo Driving Centre was one of the few centres in the city to offer A4 driving courses, Luc said. However, drivers had to go to Tay Ninh province, about 70km from HCM City , to take the exam. "I have been fined by traffic police several times because I don't have a licence," said Duong Van Thuong, from district 11.

Thuong drives a registered mini-truck along National Highway 1A but he is always afraid of being stopped by traffic police.

Many drivers were unable to show a driving licence and would tell officers that they didn't know where to take a driving course and exam, said Le Hong Son, a traffic policeman from HCM City 's Road Traffic Police Office. The traffic police reluctantly let them go and asked them to follow traffic rules, he said, adding that mini-truck drivers should have driving licenses to feel secure driving as well as ensure traffic safety. /.