SINGAPORE - Taxi operators will have to meet stricter standards on taxi availability from next year.
At least 85 per cent of their fleets will have to meet a daily minimum mileage of 250km on weekdays, and during the peak periods, 85 per cent of their taxis must also be on the roads.
Announcing the higher requirements on Wednesday, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said that the Taxi Availability (TA) framework, which was introduced in 2013, has helped to ensure that more taxis are plying the roads and commuters are better served.
LTA added that the percentage of taxis on the roads has increased from 82 per cent in 2012 to 87 per cent in the first nine months of 2014.
The daily utilization rate, or the proportion of total taxi mileage under hire has also increased from 65 per cent in 2013 to 68 per cent.
Taxi availability standards for the weekend, however, will be relaxed. Companies will only need to have 75 per cent of their taxis meet a minimum daily mileage of 250 km.
Among the six taxi operators, only Comfort and CityCab have been able to meet all the requirements under this year's standards, with Prime being fined about $140,000 for falling short of the mark.
The National Taxi Association, said in response to the latest announcement, that the LTA could have gone further in assisting taxi drivers with the challenges faced in meeting the requirements.
It added that while the percentage of drivers doing shifts has increased from 53 per cent in 2012 to 66 per cent in September this year, this still translates to having some 10,000 taxi drivers who remain as one-man-operators. These taxi drivers continue to drive long hours and may still fail the TA requirements, it said.
Single-shift drivers, it added, continue to face difficulties in finding relief drivers due to a decline in the pool of Taxi Driver Vocational Licence (TDVL) holders and competition from taxi operators who are also searching for available drivers to take over as hirers.
The number of TDVL holders, it said, has dropped to 99,392 in August from a high of 100,382 at the beginning of the year.
The NTA said it had earlier suggested the potential in encouraging new TDVL holders to join the industry as relief drivers first.
"With majority of the taxi drivers already driving 12 hours a day, the key is to make every taxi work harder, not the drivers," said Mr Ang Hin Kee, executive adviser of the NTA in a statement on Wednesday.
It urged the LTA and taxi operators explore more innovative ways in addressing these concerns, and also provide additional resources to tap on existing inactive pool of TDVL holders to attract them as relief drivers.