40% of private-hire car drivers - or 23,900 - without vocational licence one month before deadline

Private-hire drivers were given a one-year grace period by the Land Transport Authority to provide chauffeur services after the regulator introduced a vocational licensing scheme in the middle of last year (2017).
Private-hire drivers were given a one-year grace period by the Land Transport Authority to provide chauffeur services after the regulator introduced a vocational licensing scheme in the middle of last year (2017).PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - There are 56,300 private-hire car drivers on the roads now but a significant number may have to stop picking up passengers in a month's time.

A total of 23,900 drivers, or about 40 per cent, have yet to undergo the Private Hire Car Driver's Vocational Licence (PDVL) training or pass the test.

Private-hire drivers were given a one-year grace period by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to provide chauffeur services after the regulator introduced a vocational licensing scheme in the middle of last year.

They were allowed to continue operating for apps such as Grab and the now-defunct Uber, provided they sent in a PDVL application before July 1, 2017.

The LTA has given these drivers up to June 30 this year to take the 10-hour vocational licence course and pass the test. If they fail, they will have to stop providing chauffeured services.

Among this group of 23,900, it is unclear how many are opting not to attend the training entirely or have difficulty passing the test.

Observers have said that many among this group may also leave the industry entirely, in the wake of the Grab-Uber merger in March. Since then, drivers have said that bonuses have been dialled back, resulting in lower incomes.

The LTA said the test has a 70 per cent passing rate.

However, some students may find language a problem, say trainers.

Mr Quek Kuan Boon, 47, who conducts PDVL training classes at ComfortDelGro Taxi, one of the LTA-appointed training centres, said: “Some students may be weaker in language... They are not so proficient (in English).”

The trainer said these students may find it a challenge to understand some of the syllabus, such as the rules and regulations, which can be quite “technical”.

To help, Mr Quek said he would provide more elaboration or use a language the students understand, even Chinese dialects.

Mr Soon Zhao Hui, 26, who obtained his PDVL on his first attempt in February, said the challenge was memorising some of the syllabus – such as the demerit point system, and a section on staying healthy, which covered subjects such as cholesterol and blood pressure levels. 

“You have to remember them, as they may come out in the exam,” said Mr Soon, who is a chef, but drives on a part-time basis. 

While drivers have grumbled about the long queue to get a slot to attend the PDVL course and take the test, the LTA said on Friday (June 1) that the average waiting period has been reduced from between four and six weeks, to one week.

 
 

The LTA has increased course capacity by appointing ComfortDelGro Taxi as a new training provider and the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) as a new test centre in December 2017.

Before that, the Singapore Taxi Academy was the main training provider and test centre for PDVL applicants.

The LTA said on Friday that it strongly encourages the 23,900 private-hire car drivers to sign up for the training and take the PDVL test.

"This is to avoid a situation where these drivers are unable to obtain a PDVL by the June 30 deadline due to a last-minute surge in sign-ups," the authority said.

The LTA added that since the start of the year, it has been sending SMSes and letter reminders to these drivers and is also working with the National Private Hire Vehicle Association to get drivers to go for the course.

Private-hire car drivers who drive without the PDVL can be fined up to $1,000, jailed for up to three months, or receive a combination of both penalties.