Very soon, we might just see more taxi drivers moving away from the traditional taxi industry into the Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) Services industry which include Uber and GrabCar, and here’s why:
Taxi drivers are required to obtain a Taxi Driver’s Vocational License before they are able to drive a taxi. They ensure that the drivers are professionally trained. But first, before you can take the vocational license, there are 4 criteria:
a. You must be a Singapore citizen
b. be at least 30 years old
c. possess a qualified class 3 driving license
d. be able to speak English and Mother Tongue
And that’s not it, apart from the vocational license, taxi drivers also have other requirements to address standards and quality of taxi services.
PHV services on the other hand have fewer regulatory requirements such as the vocational licenses and the minimum daily mileage of 250 kilometres which taxi drivers must clock. This is why, more and more taxi-drivers are making the move to become drivers of GrabCar and Uber.
Something obviously needs to be done before all taxi-drivers end up becoming drivers of PHVs, rendering Taxi companies unnecessary.
Safe and Secure?
Then there is a question of safety and security. How do we ensure that the PHV drivers have the right skills and possess a sound mind?
Granted, not all taxi drivers are the safest drivers around some speed and some make illegal turns and so on (I was boarded a cab which was driven at 120km/h and the cab braked hard and jerked each time there was traffic light or another vehicle which “cut” into the cab’s lane).
Also, in terms of security, how do we ensure that the drivers do not have an ulterior motive for driving? How would PHV companies ensure that the drivers do not have any adverse criminal records that could jeopardise the security and safety of the passengers?
So, it is necessary for the authorities to have a fairer playing ground for all the stakeholders. If the equilibrium is tipped in the favour of the PHV model, then Taxi drivers will either lose their jobs or make the jump to become a PHV driver, which then cause Taxi operators to close shop.
That said, there has been news recently that Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan is looking in to the situation and has assigned Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng to study this and “forge a fair solution“.
The PHV model is not a bad model. In fact it is something that is innovative and something for the incumbent taxi operators to consider. But, there must be a level playing field for all to compete in. And by fair, I think it can either mean for the authorities to put in place the same regulations for the PHV operators (Uber and GrabCar), or lessen the regulations to ease the taxi drivers’ burdens.