Review of private-hire services: Taxi association submits proposals

The National Taxi Association (NTA) has submitted a list of recommendations for the Government's ongoing review of private-car hire services such as Uber and GrabCar.

In a four-page letter to Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng yesterday, the NTA called for three areas to be studied: the safety and security of passengers, fair competition between transport providers, and greater efficiency in meeting taxi demand.

The letter, signed by NTA executive adviser Ang Hin Kee, came after dialogues with more than 300 cabbies. Last month, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said private-car hire apps will be reviewed, after feedback from cabbies that these services were not competing on a level playing field. He appointed Mr Ng to look into it.

In an update on Facebook, Mr Ng said he met NTA leaders last month and also spoke to more taxi drivers yesterday. In the coming months, he will be meeting commuters and private-hire drivers.

He said of the letter: "I am glad that NTA is looking beyond the taxi industry, and has even recommended how we can improve the safety and service quality of the private- hire car industry."

Among the issues raised, the NTA has called for drivers of both taxis and private-hire cars to be similarly certified and qualified.

The NTA pointed out that cabbies have to take a 60-hour vocational course and also undergo regular medical checks, among various requirements.

The association also called for private-hire vehicles to be identifiable, similar to taxis, and for their drivers to have a photo identification to ensure commuters' safety.

While commuters involved in disputes with cabbies can approach the Land Transport Authority (LTA) or taxi operators for recourse, the NTA said it is "currently unclear" which party commuters in private-car hires can make claims from - the app providers, the drivers or the car leasing firms.

Another issue the NTA raised was the need for fair competition.

It said taxi operators are subject to a "plethora of compliance costs", which translate into higher rental costs for cabbies and charges for consumers. Taxis, for example, have a shelf life of eight years and have to go for inspections every six months. The NTA called for the Ministry of Transport to review the standards imposed, and for greater parity with private-hire cars.

The association also pointed out that taxi operators had to adhere to a fixed schedule of charges as set out by the LTA, but private-car hire services are not bound by this.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 17, 2015, with the headline 'Review of private-hire services: Taxi association submits proposals'. Print Edition | Subscribe