Extra support for taxi, private-hire car drivers

Private-hire car and taxi drivers will receive additional daily cash support from this week until the end of June, as the Government has set aside an additional $27 million to support them amid a significant drop in ridership during the current heightened alert period.

In total, drivers will receive $25 per vehicle per day, up from the existing $15 per vehicle per day. This works out to $750 per vehicle per month until the end of June.

This will benefit the 16,000 taxi drivers and 40,000 private-hire car drivers here, Transport Minister S. Iswaran said at a virtual media conference yesterday.

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said the additional support from the one-off top-up to the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund (CDRF) is on top of the $188 million in payments already committed from January to next month.

The LTA said it will work with taxi and private-hire car operators to implement the enhanced CDRF by the end of this month.

"We recognise that taxi and (private-hire car) drivers need urgent targeted assistance to tide through this period so that they can continue providing sustainable... services for Singapore commuters," it said.

Mr Iswaran said taxi and private-hire car ridership last month was at 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels before phase two (heightened alert) measures kicked in. Since the heightened alert period began, this has fallen to about 55 per cent.

Under the new restrictions, people are allowed to be out in groups of only two. Dining in at eateries is not allowed and working from home is once again the default.

Taxis and private-hire vehicles can ferry only two passengers at a time, unless the passengers are from the same household.

In addition, all primary, secondary, junior college and Millennia Institute students, including students from special education schools, have since shifted to full home-based learning until May 28.

Mr Iswaran said: "The likelihood is (ridership) may further decrease with the implementation of home-based learning, and some of the associated changes in behaviour and activity patterns of our citizens."

The LTA said all cabbies and private-hire car drivers who are eligible for the CDRF will automatically receive the top-up through their operators. The Government is also looking into extending CDRF payments beyond next month, given that ridership is likely to take time to recover after the end of the heightened alert period.

When asked how long this proposed extension might be, Mr Iswaran said the Ministry of Transport will work with the Ministry of Finance to get a holistic assessment before making a decision.

Earlier this week, ComfortDelGro, Singapore's largest taxi operator, raised its daily rental waiver for its cabbies to 50 per cent to help cushion the blow.

Other taxi operators have also committed to providing additional rental discounts of at least $5 a day.

This is on top of the daily $10 rental discount that their drivers already receive. In total, taxi operators have pledged around $28 million in additional taxi rental discounts, according to LTA.

Ride-hailing firm Gojek has reduced commissions for its drivers, the LTA noted. A spokesman for rival Grab said it will share more details on its support programme for drivers "very soon".

Gojek driver Lawrence Quek, 40, said the payout will help offset his fuel costs, which have gone up as he has to drive longer hours and distances to look for customers and make up for lower earnings.

He said: "Everybody surely wants more. Perhaps an additional $30 would be good. But the Government has already spent so much money, so any money is helpful. I am quite thankful."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2021, with the headline 'Extra support for taxi, private-hire car drivers'. Subscribe