Innovate to benefit drivers, customers

Private-hire car services such as Uber and Grab have landed in many countries and are now a whole new ball game here ("Fare cuts by Uber, Grab will hurt sector: Taxi body"; Sunday).

Understandably, the National Taxi Association is concerned over undercutting fares, which might not be sustainable in the long term.

It has also welcomed competition and requested a level playing field, citing compliance with Land Transport Authority (LTA) requirements on daily distance coverage and regular servicing.

The distinct difference between the two types of companies is that one is a taxi service while the other just connects passengers and willing drivers.

There are pros and cons regarding a taxi operator and a private-hire business.

Among other things, in the former, the fares are fixed, including distance-related travel and approved surcharges, while the latter is subject to surge pricing when demand outstrips supply.

Pending the LTA's licensing of private-hire car services by the first half of next year, cab operators will have to rise to the inevitable challenge by being innovative and coming up with ideas to benefit both drivers and commuters.

For a start, they should do away with booking fees. App bookings by private-hire operators do not incur any charges, and that is the reason for more bookings.

Traditional taxi drivers should not shy away from picking up passengers in outlying estates. This is another gripe of many residents in such areas.

Cab operators should also explore the possibility of paying taxi drivers a basic wage and rewarding diligent ones who are able to chalk up more passenger trips, such as through an equitable profit-sharing formula.

Hopefully, the licensing of private-hire car services will not only benefit the taxi industry but drivers and commuters as well.

Andrew Seow Chwee Guan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'Innovate to benefit drivers, customers'. Print Edition | Subscribe