While agreeing with the Point-to-Point Passenger Transport Industry Bill in general, 11 MPs raised their concerns about a number of issues surrounding both the taxi and private-hire car sectors.
The safety of commuters was a point of concern among several MPs.
Some, such as Mr Yee Chia Hsing (Chua Chu Kang GRC) and Mr Ang Wei Neng (Jurong GRC), asked about the discrepancy in age requirements for the two sets of drivers.
While taxi drivers must be at least 30, a person needs to have held a driving licence for just two years to apply for a private-hire car driver's vocational licence (PDVL).
"So now, we have a situation we would not trust a 20-year-old to act wisely when voting, but he is trusted to ferry our children and loved ones from point to point in a private-hire car," said Mr Yee.
He suggested that the age limit for private-hire car drivers be set at 25, and that PDVL applications be restricted to those who have owned or rented a car, or been listed as a driver in the insurance policy of a family car, for at least two years.
Older and more experienced drivers would be more conscientious, he said.
Senior Minister of State Janil Puthucheary, however, noted that only 4 per cent of private-hire car drivers were between the ages of 20 and 25, and that data does not suggest they are more dangerous drivers. He added that the issue of driver age would have to be studied carefully.
Meanwhile, Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP (NCMP) Dennis Tan asked if there could be consistency in the requirement for child safety seats between the two services.
While taxis are exempt from regulations that require children under 1.35m in height to use an appropriate child restraint or booster seat, private-hire cars are not.
"A Toyota Vios is a Toyota Vios, regardless of whether it was registered as a street-hail service or ride-hail service. This inconsistency in application of the law is not in the interest of the child," said Mr Ng.
Dr Janil said opinions on the issue were divided, and that the matter was still being studied.
He noted commuters are already able to bring their own car seat or indicate on ride-hailing apps that they require a car with such seats.
The impact of private-hire car services on certificate of entitlement (COE) premiums was a concern among several MPs, including Mr Gan Thiam Poh (Ang Mo Kio GRC) and NCMP Dennis Tan, who asked if a separate category of COE could be created for point-to-point services, or if the fleet sizes of such services could be limited, so as not to compete with private car owners.
Dr Janil, however, said there would be no change to the COE regime.
Noting that privately owned vehicles can be converted to private-hire cars - and vice versa - he said allowing the two to draw from the same pool of COEs gives the population of private-hire cars here "some flexibility".
Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC), executive adviser to both the National Taxi Association and the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, questioned if the low barriers to entry for the private-hire sector would lure younger people away from other employment opportunities.
"Do we really want to see more young drivers doing this as a full-time job, forgoing the opportunity to delve into a career in other vocations and enlarging their skill set?" he asked.
He called for the age limit for private-hire car drivers to be raised to 30, as with taxi drivers, and said it should be restricted to just Singapore citizens.
Meanwhile, Mr Dennis Tan and fellow NCMP Leon Perera asked if the advent of autonomous vehicles in the future would render the jobs of such drivers obsolete, and asked about the opportunities for these drivers to reskill themselves.
Said Mr Perera: "Will the Government consider working closely with the driver community such that when autonomous vehicles are about to be phased in, drivers are notified ahead of time and given some runway and facilitation to reskill and move to a different industry if they choose to do so?"
In response, Dr Janil agreed with Mr Ang Hin Kee, noting the private-hire car sector was not one that required either an excess of manpower or foreign manpower.
"Since April 2019, we have stopped issuing PDVLs to work pass holders," he noted.
Increasing the minimum age for private-hire car drivers is not an easy decision to make, said Dr Janil.
He pointed out that such a move could impact the number of drivers available in the point-to-point transportation sector, and thus affect the availability of rides for commuters.