Taxi standards: SMRT warning to cabbies a 'premature move'

SMRT Taxis has told some drivers that their leases may cease if they fail to meet standards set by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) - a move which has been criticised by the National Taxi Association (NTA).

These standards, which came into force in January, require taxi companies to have 70 per cent of their fleet travel at least 250km each day and ply the roads during peak hours. The standards will be raised next year, and again the year after.

But the NTA said on Saturday that taxi operators should not "simply pass the blame" to drivers, and called SMRT Taxis' move a "premature action".

The NTA statement followed Lianhe Wanbao reports last week, in which an SMRT taxi driver, who declined to be named, said he received a letter on April 12.

It informed him that he did not meet the daily 250km mark from January to March. It also warned that his contract would be reviewed if he did not meet the requirement after a month.

According to another report, the issue came up at last Friday's two-hour feedback session between 30 drivers and SMRT. Drivers asked that the 250km requirement be calculated on an average basis. So if a driver does not travel far enough on one day, he can drive longer distances on other days to meet the target.

SMRT said it will submit the request to LTA and help its cabbies find relief drivers.

This month, SMRT Taxis has been holding its sessions with drivers, which are usually held once every month, on a weekly basis.

This is mainly to explain to drivers how to meet the LTA's maintenance and taxi availability standards, said SMRT vice-president for corporate marketing and communications Kalai Natarajan.

"SMRT has been very proactive in stepping up our communication and assistance efforts to ensure that commuters continue to enjoy their travel experience - by way of helping our drivers cope with the new LTA-mandated ruling," Ms Natarajan said.

The taxi association also asked that LTA "play a more proactive role" in ensuring that cabbies are "fairly treated" and that taxi operators work alongside drivers to meet the targets.

An LTA spokesman said the standards are "based on the taxi fleet and not per taxi driver", and no financial penalties would be imposed on taxi companies for the first six months.