Three taxi companies have been fined by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for falling short of taxi availability standards, with the island's smallest operator Prime being handed the heftiest penalty of almost $109,000.
SMRT was fined $21,396 for not having the required proportion of taxis meet a daily minimum mileage in February, while Premier was fined $12,027 for falling short of the same yardstick in August. Prime, which has a fleet of just over 850 cabs, was fined a total of $108,990 for lapses between January and August - for not meeting the minimum mileage requirement and also not having the bulk of its fleet on the roads during the peak hours.
The taxi availability framework, implemented in 2013, is aimed at increasing the number of taxis on the roads during rush hours and ensuring commuters can get a ride.
In a nine-month report card released yesterday, the LTA said the standards have yielded results.
Between January and September, 91 per cent of all taxis were on the roads during peak periods, up from 89 per cent last year - meaning that about 2,000 more taxis were available for hire by commuters. The percentage of taxis with a minimum mileage of 250km also increased from 80 per cent to 81 per cent.
However, the daily taxi utilisation rate, or the proportion of total taxi mileage under hire, saw a slight dip from 68 per cent last year to 66 per cent. But it is still higher than 2013's 65 per cent, and overall, this suggests there is "less empty cruising", the LTA said. Only Comfort consistently met all the taxi availability standards this year.
Under the framework, taxi firms have to ensure that 85 per cent and 75 per cent of their fleets clock a daily mileage of 250km on weekdays and weekends, respectively. CityCab fell short in February, while Trans-Cab missed the mark in both January and February. SMRT, Premier and Prime have not been able to hit the standard this year.
The second requirement is ensuring the bulk of their fleets are plying the roads during the peak hours. Between 7am and 11am, and 5pm and 11pm, the percentage of taxis on the roads must be 85 per cent. Between 6am and 7am, and 11pm and midnight, it must be 60 per cent.
In the first nine months of this year, Comfort, CityCab and SMRT consistently met these standards, while Trans-Cab, Premier and Prime fell short. Under the framework, financial penalties are applied using more lenient standards based on 2014's requirements.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said he has asked LTA to maintain the current availability standards for next year.