Firm eyeing electric taxis woos drivers with fixed salary

Taxi queue at Singapore's Changi Airport Terminal 1.
Taxi queue at Singapore's Changi Airport Terminal 1. PHOTO: ST FILE

Other carrots include CPF contributions, 6-day work week, annual and medical leave

A company poised to become Singapore's sixth taxi operator is betting on a new business model to attract and retain drivers.

HDT Singapore Taxi, which intends to run a fleet of 100 made-in-China battery-operated cabs, could be the first to pay cabbies a salary.

Besides the 140 or so owner-operated yellow-top cabs, the rest of Singapore's 28,000-plus taxis are owned by firms and rented out to cabbies. Rentals range from $100 a day for a Hyundai Sonata to $180 for a Mercedes-Benz E-class. Together with fuel, cabbies face overheads of $3,900 to $6,300 a month.

The Straits Times understands that HDT - which is awaiting approval from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to start its taxi business - is offering monthly salaries of between $1,800 and $3,800.

The drivers will, however, have to meet a target amount of fare revenue, which the firm will keep. Anything beyond this target will be shared with the driver. Drivers will also get Central Provident Fund (CPF) contributions, annual leave, medical leave and a six-day work week. Currently, cabbies who take a day off still have to pay rental, or find a relief driver to cover for them.

HDT is also said to be dangling unlimited recharging of its electric cabs to draw drivers to its fold. HDT invited cabbies to a briefing recently to tell them of the offer.

Cabby Alan Tang, 53, said: "The offer is good... The main thing is you don't need to pay rental and for fuel. The only downside is that charging stations are limited, so you probably have to queue."

HDT would not comment, merely saying that "we've not started yet". It has been operating a private-hire service here with a fleet of 30 BYD cars for about three years, under HDT Singapore Holding. The cars are tax-exempt as they are considered research vehicles. Its potential fleet of 100 taxis is also likely to be tax-exempt.

Asked if it would take this into account when assessing HDT's taxi operation application, LTA would only say it was assessing the application as "part of the second phase of Singapore's electric vehicle test-bed, where we are exploring fleet-based, shared car operations such as electric taxi fleets".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2016, with the headline 'Firm eyeing electric taxis woos drivers with fixed salary'. Print Edition | Subscribe