Lost in translation: NTA’s request to regulators


I wonder all the time, why people in authority has to speak in a language no one understands.

I’m referring in particular the letter that the National Taxi Association (NTA) wrote to Ng Chee Meng. The letter contains a list of requests the NTA wishes to convey to the regulators.

Take for example this sentence:

“All drivers of point-to-point transfers should be similarly qualified and certified”

What on earth is a “point-to-point” driver? Driver say driver lah! Ok, to be fair, they are talking about drivers of Uber and the like, however they’re not technically called “taxi drivers”, rather they’re drivers of a chauffeur service.

How about this one:

“Transport vehicles and drivers must be distinctly identified. Taxi vehicles are clearly marked for easy identification for commuters and enforcement purposes. Specifically for taxi drivers, the photo identification issued by LTA enables commuters to easily identify the driver, and be assured that they hold a valid TDVL. As it is, private hire vehicle services are not expected to provide either form of identification.”

I would have just said that they want clear branding.

“Review point-to-point transfer services operating costs and fees and rates”

It goes on to say:

“Taxi operators are subjected to a plethora of compliance costs, which ultimately translate into higher rental cost for taxi drivers and charges for consumers. For example, the shelf life of a taxi is capped at eight years and taxi operators are not allowed to repurpose the vehicles for private use at any point in time, taxi vehicles are required to go through half yearly statutory vehicle inspections and meet Euro 5/6 emission standards, etc. Taxi drivers are also required to undergo training, refresher and renewal courses to obtain and maintain their vocational license, again adding to the higher costs for drivers. NTA recommends: Ministry of Transport reviews the standards imposed and the cost structure for taxis with a view of levelling the competition field between taxis and private hires.”

The essence of this entire paragraph… is really to tell the regulators to go easy on regulations on the taxi companies. Why? Because Uber and friends are not subject to these regulations – these make it an unfair playing field.

Oh, here’s an interesting one:
“Embrace New Tools and Review Relevance of Existing Availability and Service Requirements and Tracking Methods In the past, statutory requirements were put in place to meet availability and quality of taxi services standards. For instance, taxi operators are required to ensure that 85 per cent of their taxi fleet meet the daily minimum mileage of 250km, and that at least 92 per cent of call bookings are successfully matched. Failing which, they will be financially penalised. This led to taxi operators investing in manpower and resources to track such requirements, which resulted in higher operating costs and inevitably, higher rental and fuel costs for taxi drivers. Today, consumers are able to provide direct feedback through user reviews and have greater access to taxi services with the use of technology and new tools such as third- party apps. Therefore, the existing requirements and methods of tracking need to be reviewed to ensure relevance.”

This very long paragraph that is really an extension of the previous clause – the purpose is simply to state that they want a level playing field.

The entire letter does no justice in trying to tell regulators that what they want is merely some consistency between how the third-party taxi apps operate and how the taxi companies operate.

The spirit of the letter, is to tell the regulators that they do not mind the competition..but all parties should be competing on fair ground. Whilst the apps are good for consumers, the standard taxi driver who drives for a living, should not be unfairly made worse off. Hints of these are buried deep within the paragraphs of the letter but nowhere does it say it upfront.

Little wonder why people think the civil service are such bad communicators. Too much unnecessary language.




About the author

Tay Leong Tan

Tay Leong Tan is a collective of 3 writers. Tay, Leong and Tan. (Who were you expecting?!) We are enthusiastic about labour issues, economics and current affairs in particular.

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