A recent study among taxi drivers showed that many are on the roads for more than 12 hours a day. This is beyond the “Maximum working hours” guideline put out by the Ministry of Manpower which states “An employee is not allowed to work for more than 12 hours within a day…”
The study among 231 cabbies also found that one in three driver experiences driver fatigue, with those who drive more than 10 hours a day reporting a greater chance of dozing off at the wheel.
55% mentioned they do not take any day off.
The study conducted by the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, also reveal that those who fall asleep at the wheel tend to report poor sleep quality, have another part-time job or consume more than three caffeinated drinks daily.
A higher proportion of cabbies, relative to the adult population in Singapore, suffer from chronic ailments such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol.
To combat these and to help taxi drivers adopt a healthier lifestyle, National Taxi Association (NTA) collaborated with the Health Promotion Board since 2012 to bring free health screening and workshops to cabbies.
NTA Executive Adviser and Labour Member of Parliament Ang Hin Kee shared that taxi drivers drive for long hours to cover high overheads coupled with the required minimum percentage of taxis to undertake a daily mileage of at least 250km as regulated by the Land Transport Authority.
On top of these worries, taxi drivers sometimes meet unruly passengers who can be difficult, demanding and even violent. At other times, taxi drivers meet fare evaders as well.
In a reply to Parliament in 2013, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said that over a period of three years, there were 50 reported cases of unruly passengers, which works out to 17 cases a year, on average.
To tackle this problem, the NTA proposed the use of inward-facing video cameras in taxis. “Such a measure will deter people from not paying the fare, or assaulting cabbies or any other criminal acts,” said Mr Ang.
Presently, panic buttons are installed in taxis to alert the company’s call centre in the event of a emergency. This will help pinpoint the driver’s location and alert other taxi drivers in the vicinity or the police.
But Mr Ang added that video cameras will serve as a greater deterrence to would-be offenders.