Khaw Boon Wan has been Transport Minister for only a few days when he announced that he would like to “evaluate” GrabTaxi and Uber to ensure that there is a level playing field. This is due to the feeling that GrabTaxi/Uber drivers have an unfair advantage over normal taxi drivers as they do not need to get any vocational license before starting to drive.
Now this complain is not new. Governments throughout the world has had the same complaints. One of the reason why companies like Uber and GrabTaxi are able to charge lower rates is because their drivers do not need training. They also don’t have a private taxi fleet. Their cost is lower, so they can charge lower. So saying there should be regulations on such companies is not new. The question is what can be done.
In simple terms, Uber and GrabTaxi are NOT taxis companies. They are phone apps where any driver with a car can sign up and use the app to pick up passengers. How do you regulate a phone app? That’s the question that needs to be answered. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for some regulation on having some regulation on drivers of Uber and GrabTaxi. Taxi-drivers need to go for courses and pass tests before they can be taxi-drivers. Right now, drivers who just passed their driving test one month ago can use the apps.
However it’s one thing to say something need to be done; it’s another to figure out how to do it. The Transport Ministry and LTA need to figure that out first before doing/saying anything. If the examples of other governments are anything to go by, it's going to be a hard question to crack.