Things you never knew about heavy vehicle drivers in Singapore

If you ever desperately need a job, would you consider being a bus captain or a prime mover driver?

Both professions require you to maneuver large vehicles. However, one ferries up to 140 passengers and the other carries container goods of up to 110 tonnes (110,000 kg).

Bus Captains can bring home more than $3,000 a month

Female Bus Captains in Singapore

If you’re a bus captain, you will earn an average monthly basic pay of $1,950 (across all operators). With bonuses and incentives, you can hit more than $3,000 a month.

Thanks to the Bus Contracting Model which allowed foreign operators to compete in our public bus industry, there has been a wage war amongst operators.

So, it’s intense for companies but bus captains benefit from it all.

You may start off as a bus captain but you can look forward to being a senior bus captain, chief bus captain and master bus captain.

I suppose if you are at the chief or master level, you will have junior drivers under your wing whom you can supervise and mentor.

There is even a school for bus captains – they call it the Singapore Bus Academy which aims to provide structured training for bus captains.

What about Prime Mover drivers?

Prime mover drivers are categorised under heavy vehicle drivers.

Career development for prime mover drivers does not seem as fantastic.

While the pay is pretty decent, between $2,000 and $3,000 a month, not all companies offer basic pay.

For some drivers, they are paid on a per-trip basis.

Prime Mover drivers in Singapore
Prime Mover drivers in Singapore

A veteran union leader in the transport sector shared that the range of payment is based on whether the container is loaded or unloaded.

For empty containers, drivers are usually paid $5 to $10 per trip.

If containers are loaded, they can earn $15 to $25 per trip, depending on the size of the container (20 footer or 40 footer) and whether it is single mount (1 container) or double mount (2 containers).

On good days, drivers can make up to 5 trips a day depending on their journey.


If they are driving to truck through PSA ports for import and export containers, the wait could be 2 to 3 hours. Drivers will be stuck in the vehicle with no compensation for that few hours.

When they return and collect empty containers from yards, they will have to queue approximately 2 hours as there could be many prime movers in the yard. In that 2 hours, they may lose out on 1 trip.

Where to park for quick toilet break?

Unlike heavy vehicles like prime movers, buses can stop by the roadside if they need quick toilet break. LTA will not issue them summons for illegal parking.

Alternatively, bus captains can park at bus terminals. There are many options for them.

Heavy vehicle parking spaces in Singapore
Heavy vehicle parking spaces in Singapore

It is a different story for prime mover drivers.

If they urgently need a biological break, they will have to search for parking lots at heavy-vehicle parking spaces or face being fined by LTA if they stop along the roadway.

Most heavy-vehicle parking spaces are in industrial areas so if you are a new prime mover driver, you might not be familiar with these “lobangs”.

From a practical standpoint, I can understand why LTA would impose fines for heavy vehicles when they park illegally (to avoid road obstruction).

From a compassionate perspective, however, a $100 to $300 fine seems quite heavy…especially if they just stop along the road for a 2-min toilet break.

According to Straits Times, URA will be conducting a study to identify locations suitable for parking of heavy vehicles and better allocate parking spaces.

wishlist for heavy vehicle drivers

Executive Secretary of National Transport Workers’ Union (NTWU), Melvin Yong, said in a recent Facebook post that they “will be working with tripartite partners to enhance the working conditions and career development of our drivers”.

Melvin Yong visits Prime Mover drivers in Singapore

In a blogpost published yesterday, Mr Yong noted a few suggestions to improve the lives of heavy vehicle drivers.

On solving the queuing issue

  • Stakeholders to review the queue systems at the yards to enhance effectiveness and efficiency


On addressing the summon issue

  • Call for leniency in issuing traffic summons to drivers


On alleviating parking challenges

  • Explore with authorities on the feasibility of designating parts of industrial areas for parking
  • Appeal for heavy vehicle lots to be allocated nearer to residential estates or MRT stations


On maintaining good health for workers

  • Authorities to work with yard management to arrange for cafeterias or mobile canteens to be placed nearer to yards (queuing cause them to have meals at irregular hours)
  • Appeal to logistics and supply chain companies to conduct annual health screenings for their drivers


On reviewing pay structure

  • Engage with management partners to explore possibility of having a fixed monthly pay element


Just thinking out loud, can NTWU also issue a handbook for heavy vehicle drivers?

The book could list all the heavy-vehicle parking spaces in Singapore and also tips for new drivers.

Handbook for Security Officers in Singapore

It could be similar to the handbook for Security Officers in Singapore which the Union of Security Employees (USE) did to empower them on employment rights.

Can the union also appeal to LTA to relook the fines for illegal parking and discuss if it is truly necessary for heavy vehicles?

Can we have certain exceptions for heavy vehicle drivers? For instance, lifting the fines for illegal parking along roads with low traffic.

If you have other suggestions, please leave your comments below.

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