SINGAPORE - Private chauffeur drivers operating under apps such as Uber and Grab will be regulated in Singapore, to safeguard commuters' interest.
Like taxi drivers, they will be subject to medical tests and background screenings, have to attend a vocational licence course, and be put under a demerit point system.
Private-hire cars used for bookings under Uber and Grab will also have to be registered with the Land Transport Authority (LTA), and the vehicles must display a tamper-evident decal, so commuters and authorities can easily identify them.
Announcing the measures in Parliament on Tuesday (April 12), Senior Minister of State for Transport Ng Chee Meng said: "With the growth of apps like Uber and GrabCar, some basic regulations are needed to ensure that the commuters' interests, particularly safety, are taken care of."
"Today, an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 drivers provide chauffeured services during peak hours. This has effectively increased the supply of point-to-point transport services by about a third during these hours," Mr Ng said during the debate on his ministry's budget.
The new rules, which follow a six-month Government review on the private-hire car industry, are expected to kick in by the first half of next year. Drivers can make applications in June.
This will give existing Uber and GrabCar drivers here time to take and pass the Private Hire Driver's Vocational Licence (PDVL) course - a shorter, 10-hour programme compared to what taxi drivers go through.
The course will cover topics such as road and passenger safety, and regulations for chauffeured services. There is no minimum age but applicants need to have held a Class 3/3A driving licence for at least two years.
Both permanent residents and work permit holders can apply, provided that they are employees of a chauffeur company. Singaporeans have the additional option of being a sole-proprietor of their own limousine firm to qualify.
The current taxi drivers vocational licence (TDVL) system will also be tweaked, including cutting down the course time by more than half, from the current 60 hours to 25 hours. There are also plans for part of the course to be done via e-learning.
Mr Ng said the course will no longer focus as much on memorising the street directory for route planning - drivers will instead be taught to use GPS and online navigational tools.
Cabbies who are active with no demerit points will be exempted from refresher courses, while there are three- and five-hour programmes tailored for cabbies who need more training.
Currently, the courses are six- or nine-hour long, and must be attended every six years. The new TDVL programme will take effect from next month.
Existing taxi drivers who want to become PDVL holders can easily do so by attending a two-hour course, without the $40 application charge.