250km daily mileage forced upon taxi drivers by the PAP

The Land Transport Authority has ruled that 70% of all taxis will have to clock a daily mileage of at least 250km from 2013 onwards. This move is said to aim at increasing the number of taxis during peak hours, however even with this new ruling, only 900 out of 28000 taxis will be affected as the majority of them are already cloaking in 250km or at least 9 hours daily.

Singapore’s only taxi union, the government-controlled National Taxi Association, supported the new ruling and also shot down suggestions to increase the taxi population citing “worsening traffic congestion” as an excuse.

There is usually a shortage of taxis on the streets during the peak hours and bad weather times. Most taxi drivers avoid driving during bad weather conditions because of the harsh penalties issued to road accidents by taxi operator companies. 2 collisions in the same year will render a Comfort taxi driver unfit for driving along with fines for repairs. The real solution to the shortage of taxis on the road is however to increase the taxi per population ratio. Although Singapore has a higher taxi to population ratio than most cities, car ownership to population is the lowest among them all.

Impact of high COE prices on taxi demand
Due to high COE prices, most people in Singapore do not own a car and rely heavily on taxis and public transport. As such, the demand for taxi inevidently shot up as lesser people are buying cars. The problem is further compounded by the inefficiency of the public train and bus network where breakdowns are frequent and overcrowding is common.Overcrowding in public transport has remained unsolved ever since the PAP government began importing a huge number of foreigners to provide a slew of cheap labor to businesses in 2007.

Taxi operators do not give their drivers CPF contributions, Medical Leaves, Annual Leaves or any other usual employee benefits because they see the drivers as “partners”. Unlike a free market, no taxi driver is allowed to own their own taxi vehicle. The recent regulaton to enforce the 250km daily mileage ruling contravenes the free market concept that was used as an excuse by taxi operator companies not to give any employment benefits to the drivers. The average driver earns about $2500 to $3000 a month with a 48 hour work week, while the taxi operator companies earn about $3500 a month in rental from each taxi. One of Singapore’s biggest taxi operator companies, ComfortDelgro, has been posting consistent profits over the years with the latest Q2 result of $65 millions profit. There is no plan to reduce the monthly rentals of the taxi drivers.

Many taxi drivers are driven by elderly Singaporeans in their late 50s. The maximum permissible age for taxi driving is 70, but elderly drivers do not get to pay lesser monthly rentals despite their experience and safety record on the road. The PAP government, through the Land Transport Authority, only regulates taxi companies but they do not protect the drivers from exploitations by their companies. The taxi union, NTA, is controlled by the NTUC, the only legal workers’ union in Singapore with key ministers and PAP MPs sitting in the management. As the taxi drivers are abandoned to fend for themselves, most taxi drivers are anti-PAP and they would usually badmouth the PAP government in front of their passengers. Many Singaporean men in their late 40s who have finished serving their National Service are retrenched because of PAP’s loose foreign labor policies and they turned to taxi driving hence furthering the angst and hatred against the PAP regime. The former National Taxi Association advisor Seng Han Thong was punched and set fire upon on 2 seperate occasions by 2 different taxi drivers. Seng Han Thong was the PAP MP for Yio Chu Kang GRC, the new NTA advisor today is Ang Mo Kio GRC PAP MP Ang Hin Kee.

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