National Taxi Association proposes flexi-rental model for drivers, new training and more smart features

Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng greeting a taxi driver at Changi Airport Terminal 4. During the visit, more than 1,000 taxi drivers and airport staff received gift bags prepared by the National Taxi Association. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE- Standardised taxis fitted with smart technology and elder-friendly features could be in the works if the National Taxi Association (NTA) has its way.

These were some suggestions made by NTA at a Chinese New Year celebration at Changi Airport on Friday (Feb 16). The proposals were aimed at helping taxi drivers "stay ahead of the game", it said, in response to the Land Transport Industry Transformation Map launched earlier this week.

NTA executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said: "On our end, from the taxi drivers' point of view, we hope to see a lot of the transformation happening with the type of vehicles they drive.

"For example, there are many more elderly. We hope that all vehicles in the future will be elderly-friendly and wheelchair-friendly."

Joining in the visit was Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, who was at Terminal 3, and Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng who visited Terminal 4.

During the visit, more than 1,000 taxi drivers and airport staff received gift bags prepared by NTA. Both ministers also joined taxi drivers in their Chinese New Year "lo hei" celebrations.

Mr Ang, speaking at the event, added: "I think there are many areas that we can move alongside the authority to transform the experience that consumers have in the future when they come on board our taxi services."

Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng (in red) joined taxi drivers in their Chinese New Year "lo hei" celebrations, on Feb 16, 2018. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

In a media statement, NTA said that "the ride service industry needs to move beyond the current operating model as it continues to evolve and improvise its services". It suggested changes in its taxi fleet and driver training, among other things.

Equipping the taxi fleet with standard features, smart technologies and driver-assisted features will "greatly enhance the ability of the drivers to drive smarter and safer on the roads", it added.

Addressing cost concerns, NTA suggested that an industry-wide adoption would help cut cost and make maintenance works easier.

It also proposed a flexi-rental model for drivers.

"The taxi rental model remains largely the same as 30 years ago, where drivers take on the full responsibility of renting a taxi vehicle on a 24-hour basis," said NTA. The vehicle is left idle when the driver is resting or sick.

Flexible vehicle rental arrangements "would go a long way in helping taxi drivers optimise the usage of their vehicles and helping taxi operators attract an untapped market of taxi vocational licence holders," it added.

NTA also suggested changes to how drivers are trained.

Instead of relying on classroom or textbook-based learning, drivers can engage in e-learning. "For instance, the curriculum can focus on teaching drivers how to use and apply new navigation tools, instead of teaching drivers how to use the street directory," said NTA.

Mr Jimmy Goh, 69, a taxi driver of more than 20 years, supported NTA's suggestions.

He said that his earnings have increased by 10 to 20 per cent since he started using ride-hailing apps like Grab and Uber, in addition to scouting for passengers the traditional way.

He said: "With new technology, with all the apps in play, they should have more bite-sized training to help uskeep up with the times."

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