Red tape meant to protect passengers

I was baffled when I read Uber Singapore general manager Warren Tseng's letter ("More red tape does not necessarily mean safer rides"; yesterday).

It seemed to imply that it is not a good idea to license and certify private-hire vehicle drivers.

I have been a taxi driver for more than 15 years, and I am a strong believer that my job involves the safety and security of not just my passengers, but also Singapore.

Every day, taxi drivers provide about one million trips to all parts of Singapore. It is critical for drivers providing this type of service to be certified as safe, reliable and knowledgeable.

I am encouraged that the Transport Ministry has decided to do the right thing by requiring all private-hire vehicle drivers to go through a statutory course, get licensed and register with the authorities ("GrabCar, Uber drivers to be licensed"; Wednesday).

However, when I read yesterday's report ("Questions over insurance for Uber, GrabCar"), which raised questions about insurance coverage for such private-hire services, and the answers from insurance companies and some of the providers of the ride-matching services, I became more worried for the drivers, as well as passengers (which could include my own children in future).

In the taxi industry, it is not just drivers who are regulated, but operators providing the vehicles are also subject to a regulatory framework.

I applaud the Land Transport Authority for bringing third-party taxi-booking app companies into the regulatory fold as well.

Its efforts in managing new and disruptive technologies that impact the safety and lives of ordinary citizens are commendable.

National Taxi Association executive adviser Ang Hin Kee has suggested that regulations for private-hire cars spell out a standard level of insurance coverage, as they do for cab firms ("Some gaps in rules on private-hire cars"; Thursday).

This is a relevant and reasonable request for the safety and security of private-hire car passengers.

I urge the authorities to go beyond regulating drivers.

Private-hire car firms and car leasing companies must ensure that each vehicle in their fleet meets minimum insurance requirements for the car, driver and passenger, and that regular checks are done to ensure the safety and reliability of the vehicles.

Most importantly, drivers and passengers must know who would be accountable for their claims, should an incident arise.

Tay Choon Chua

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 16, 2016, with the headline 'Red tape meant to protect passengers'. Print Edition | Subscribe