Ride-hailing firms Uber and Grab said yesterday they will fully absorb the estimated $250 cost of a new vocational licence their drivers will have to start applying for from Monday.
To help their drivers, they have also set up websites to process the applications, which will be submitted to the Land Transport Authority (LTA).
The moves are an apparent bid by Uber and Grab to ensure they do not lose drivers because of the new licensing regime.
The LTA announced yesterday that it will open applications for the new Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence (PDVL) from Monday. Application forms for the PDVL will be available for download on its website, and drivers should send them in before June 30.
From then on, they will have up to a year to complete and pass the 10-hour PDVL course. Drivers who miss the June 30 deadline will have to stop driving private-hire cars until they get the PDVL.
If we give them (the drivers) a good experience and get them licensed quickly... they will stick with our platform. We are not tying them down in any sense - they have flexible opportunities and choices.
UBER SINGAPORE'S GENERAL MANAGER WARREN TSENG, on the move by Uber and Grab to subsidise the drivers' licence fees.
The offer to sponsor the licensing fees appears to be hitting the right note with drivers, some of whom said they would quit the business otherwise.
Mr Fazly Jumali, 30, said: "I drive part-time, maybe about 30 hours a week. If I had to pay for the licence, I would probably stop driving and return the car."
Uber estimated that the costs to each driver would be about $250. This includes application fees, course and test fees, and a medical examination. However, this could go up if the driver has to take an English literacy test, for example.
While they are subsidising the PDVL, both firms said there is no requirement for drivers to work on their platform after the course.
Uber Singapore's general manager Warren Tseng said: "If we give them (the drivers) a good experience and get them licensed quickly... they will stick with our platform. We are not tying them down in any sense - they have flexible opportunities and choices."
A Grab spokesman said: "We do not have a fixed amount (of subsidy) per driver. Our goal is to help our driver-partners attain their PDVL smoothly and we will do our best to enable this."
Both Uber and Grab declined to say how much the drivers' licensing would cost them, but there are about 10,500 private-hire car drivers under them, according to the Manpower Ministry's count.
That means the total cost could exceed $2 million.
Mr Tseng said there are also plans to set up a medical check-up centre at Uber's office in Paya Lebar, as well as to arrange for Singapore Taxi Academy (STA) instructors to teach the PDVL course there during evenings and on weekends.
The course, comprising eight hours of classroom learning and two hours of self-study, will educate drivers on the rules and regulations of the industry, service quality and safety.
The LTA said it will inform drivers to register for the course with the STA after it has received and processed their applications.