Foreign-registered vehicles are not allowed to provide cross-border passenger transport services for hire without a public service vehicle licence (PSVL), the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has said.
The LTA clarified the regulation in response to queries from The Straits Times about Sameride, which is due to launch a Singapore-Johor Baru carpool service today.
Sameride noted on its website that more than 300 commuters have pre-registered for the service on its app over the past two weeks.
It said its first route for commuters was set up in 2016 in the DC Metro Area in the United States.
Sameride estimates that users of the Singapore-Johor service could cut the cost of their commute by up to 50 per cent compared with taxis.
The app also aims to expedite travel time by reducing traffic on the cross-border route.
The LTA said on Saturday it takes a "serious view towards" foreign-registered vehicles illegally providing hire-and-reward services, and said it will carry out strong enforcement action.
It advised the public not to engage cross-border hire services by people using unlicensed vehicles. It said such vehicles may not be sufficiently insured against third-party liabilities and passengers may not be able to claim insurance if they are involved in accidents during the journey.
People providing hire-and-reward services, including cross-border carpooling, without a valid PSVL can be jailed for up to six months, fined up to $3,000 or both. The vehicle used may also be forfeited.
But commuters who use such services are not seen as breaking any law. A 23-year-old, who wanted to be known only as Mr Neo, has been a customer for around a year. He said: "The door-to-door service is a great plus, and it also helps to save time as queueing at the Customs can take up to 11/2 hours. It is much faster when you are using a car."
Another commuter who gave his name only as Mr Ong, is a permanent resident who has been travelling between Johor and Singapore for over 25 years. He told ST: "Such a service has helped people travel more comfortably and not have to leave their house that early compared to when using public transport. It also helps to lower cost and the carbon footprint.
"It usually costs between $10 and $25, depending on where the starting location is."
ST understands that Sameride has not sought LTA approval to launch the service.
Sameride said in a statement sent to media on Tuesday (Dec 31) that over 500 ride offers and requests were registered on the platform’s first day of operations for the Singapore-Johor cross-border route.
The company also clarified that it is a messaging and social platform designed to allow riders and commuters to create requests, adding that its app lets users create not more than two offers or requests daily, fulfilling LTA requirements for carpools.
“Sameride does not operate a fleet of cars or hire drivers to provide rides. It is not a taxi app. It is a...messaging and social platform with grouping by home areas, work areas, and schedule,” the company said.
“So, (similar) to...messaging and social platforms, usage of Sameride app is not subject to regulation.”
LTA declined to comment on Sameride’s statement.