Taxi firms must meet conditions before growing fleet

From January, the maximum number of new licences issued by the LTA will be linked to the operators fulfilling minimum standards relating to taxi availability during peak hours, and on the roads in general.
From January, the maximum number of new licences issued by the LTA will be linked to the operators fulfilling minimum standards relating to taxi availability during peak hours, and on the roads in general.ST FILE PHOTO

TAXI companies' fleet growth will now be subject to them having met certain conditions, following changes to the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill passed by Parliament yesterday.

The growth will still be capped at the current 2 per cent that has been in place since last year when the framework was introduced.

But from January, the maximum number of new licences issued by the Land Transport Authority will be linked to the companies fulfilling minimum standards relating to taxi availability during peak hours, and on the roads in general.

Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC), one of two MPs who rose to speak on the Bill's amendments, pointed out that there were concerns that operators were "fully passing on the taxi availability framework to taxi drivers".

"For drivers who are unable to meet this standard, they may have their hiring agreement terminated or penalties imposed by the operator," said Mr Ang, an adviser to the National Taxi Association.

"Taxi hirers are under immense pressure and many struggle to look for relief drivers to assist them."

Responding, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew said taxi companies too had a role in helping their drivers meet the standards. "I... urge them to work with and help their drivers achieve the service and availability standards and not expect the drivers to achieve them all on their own," he said.

In other changes to the Bill, it is now an offence to leave or attempt to leave Singapore knowing that a vehicle's fuel-measuring equipment has been altered.

This addresses a gap where the LTA is unable to prosecute motorists who alter the fuel gauge outside Singapore, Mr Lui said.

Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), while supporting the amendments, questioned the relevance of the three-quarter petrol tank rule for Singapore cars entering Malaysia.

The Workers' Party MP called for a review, saying that the law's rationale - to control road usage, among other things - should be studied as petrol tax was no longer an inhibitor to motorists looking to buy a car, said Mr Singh.

Mr Lui said even with caps on the vehicle growth rate, usage restraints "are equally important". "Hence, a combination of the ERP, parking charges as well as fuel cost are all matters that a motorist would have to take into consideration," he told the House.

The amendments to the Bill also empower the LTA to collect the vehicle tax, known as the Additional Registration Fee, upon the registration of vehicles previously de-registered.

Currently, the tax can be collected only when vehicles are registered for the first time.

maryam@sph.com.sg