Large carpooling ops to come under licensing framework

Ride-hailing giant Grab indicated last year that its population of GrabHitch drivers was double that of its regular ride-hailing drivers.
Ride-hailing giant Grab indicated last year that its population of GrabHitch drivers was double that of its regular ride-hailing drivers.PHOTO: ST FILE

Carpooling services with a fleet of 800 or more vehicles will be licensed under a new regulatory framework governing all point-to-point transport from next June.

In response to a question from Mr Ang Hin Kee (Ang Mo Kio GRC), Senior Minister of State for Transport Janil Puthucheary told Parliament yesterday that carpool operators are considered ride-hail service operators.

But because they are not operating on the same scale as ride-hailing firms or traditional taxi companies, "we won't be subjecting them to a full licensing regime - provided they continue to operate as carpool operators as opposed to a full ride-hail operator".

These carpooling services, he added, will be licensed as "a sub-class" of ride-hail operators.

"They will be required to ensure that their drivers comply with carpooling regulations so that their carpooling is carried out on a restricted non-commercial basis," Dr Janil said.

"And as we collect data and as we examine the market if those conditions are breached, we will not hesitate to take firm action against the drivers or the operators that have contravened those regulations."

The population of carpool drivers is actually large, but information on the exact size is unknown.

Ride-hailing giant Grab, however, indicated last year that its population of GrabHitch drivers was double that of its regular ride-hailing drivers.

The Land Transport Authority stipulates a number of rules for carpool operations, such as drivers being able to charge an amount which would merely cover expenses for a particular ride, and that each driver can do only two carpool trips a day.

 
 
 

But industry observers said that these rules are flouted openly and regularly.

Under the new licensing regime, The Straits Times understands that the authorities will be able track each vehicle and driver more closely so as to act on breaches.

Nominated MP Walter Theseira also pointed out that there are now "decentralised booking systems" which "do not fall neatly within the ambit" of the new licensing regime.

He said regulators may in time have to deal with issues arising from these platforms.

One Telegram-based ride-matching group has, after popping up in March. ST reported in June that at least two dozen middlemen have been offering rides in the Telegram group. Ride-hailing firm Gojek has come out to say that these middlemen are unauthorised, and that it had filed a police report against them.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2019, with the headline 'Large carpooling ops to come under licensing framework'. Print Edition | Subscribe