33,000 clear first hurdle for private-hire driving licence

Above: A Grab employee applying the Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence decal to a car yesterday. About 27,000 cars have had such decals affixed. Left: The word "void" appears on both sides of the tamper-evident decal once it is peeled off,
A Grab employee applying the Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence decal to a car yesterday. About 27,000 cars have had such decals affixed.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Above: A Grab employee applying the Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence decal to a car yesterday. About 27,000 cars have had such decals affixed. Left: The word "void" appears on both sides of the tamper-evident decal once it is peeled off,
The word "void" appears on both sides of the tamper-evident decal once it is peeled off, to prevent it from being reused.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

85% of the 39,000 who applied get green light to attend the course they must pass

About 85 per cent of private-hire drivers here, who have applied for the new vocational licence, have cleared the first hurdle.

They have got the green light to attend the course - which they must pass within a year - to secure the Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence (PDVL). They will be allowed to continue driving during this period.

The deadline for current drivers to apply for the PDVL is fast approaching. Those who send in their applications after June 30 will not be allowed to drive private-hire cars until they obtain the licence.

Though ride-hailing firms Grab and Uber have been tight-lipped about the number of drivers they have, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) revealed yesterday that it had received about 39,000 applications as of Wednesday.

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Of these, about 33,000 drivers have been approved to attend the course, and 500 of them have registered and attended so far.

About 1,300 PDVL applications were rejected.

This was because applicants had failed background checks or had not held a driving licence for at least two years - requirements aimed at making such rides safer.

With the PDVL, Singapore joins a list of cities worldwide, such as San Francisco and Toronto, that require private-hire drivers to be licensed.

Aimed at protecting commuters without hindering the growth of the industry, mandatory licensing for private-hire car drivers here was first announced in Parliament last year.

About 27,000 chauffeur-driven private-hire cars - or about 63 per cent of the total population of 42,805 - have had decals affixed identifying them as such.

The tamper-evident decals must be displayed on all private-hire cars providing chauffeured services, starting on July 1.

The regulations could prove to be a hurdle for new private-hire drivers here, said National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng. This is because they might not want to go through the hassle of having to wait to get a licence or have a private-hire decal affixed to their cars, he said.

As ridership moves towards private-hire cars instead of taxis, said Dr Lee, this could mean that Uber and Grab may choose to target the more than 99,000 taxi driver vocational licence holders here, who are not required to apply for the PDVL.

Several drivers The Straits Times spoke to welcomed the new measures. One driver, Mr Gregory Poo, said the decal allowed passengers to identify his vehicle more easily, and made it easier for him to drop off and pick up passengers as well.

"Now, when I enter condominiums, the security guards know I am there to pick up or drop off passengers," said the 53-year-old IT technician, who drives part-time for Uber.

Another driver, Mr Calvin Chan, one of the 500 who has attended the 10-hour PDVL course, said the course was beneficial.

"Although I have a lot of driving experience, as a private-hire driver, there are a lot of things you need to know, like where to pick up riders and making sure that there is a car seat set up for passengers with young children," said the 47-year- old full-time Grab driver.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline '33,000 clear first hurdle for private-hire driving licence'. Print Edition | Subscribe