Tuesday, October 6, 2015

How To Do It?

 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.


Anonymous said...

Hello Ghost,

The current taxi companies basically operate on a business model that "taxes" the taxi drivers, via vehicle rental, call-booking and etc. The new "ride-sharing" companies "taxes" the independent drivers, via vehicle rental (partnership with vehicle rental companies), a "cut" to the rides charges and etc.

Both the taxi drivers and independent drivers operate like "one-man" companies. Their earning on each day depends on their drivings. They take their "cut" after subtracting rental, petrol/diesel, and etc.

While there are certainly much differences in their business models, they do share similarities.

However, they are, at the moment, quite different in,
(1) regulation, license, certifications as required by G on the companies and the drivers.
(2) sense of protection and clarity of accountability to the passengers/customers by the companies and/or the drivers, if and when things go wrong.
(3) tax submission as required by G on the companies and the drivers.

The above of just some observations. What do you think? Should something be done? Should anything be done? What are the issues and/or potential issues, if any, if they are left as it is today?

There are essentially interests of 4 parties at stake here. The G, the companies, the drivers and the passengers. Perhaps, whoever in G is making the review exercise, should see them through the eyes and interests of these 4 parties.

What do you think? Thank you. Just curious.

Gary said...

It's no problem at all to regulate if you really want to regulate.
Here is how:

1. Require all such drivers and their vehicles to be registered with the LTA or Police. That is, create a register for them and issue them an ID, like a driver's licence.

2. Specify minimum requirements for would-be drivers - age, driving experience, general knowledge/familiarity with commuters destination, inspection of the vehicle for roadworthiness and condition of their interior.

3. Check if them for any criminal records and test them for language fluency - minimum must be able to converse in Singlish?

That they do not require to be trained like regular taxi drivers does not mean other checks and restrictions cannot be imposed.

Gary said...

Otherwise, they would not be any different from the 'pa wang chia' of the 1960s. Do we want that?

Ghost said...

To Anon:
The question the G has now is what to do with the Uber/Grabtaxi drivers. If you ask me, I'm against the high daily charges on taxi-drivers. They need to pay daily rent up around $100 which to me is way too high. However, lowering the rent will not help them against Uber/Grabtaxi because people using apps will be able to charge lower than normal taxis.
To Gary:
The problem with the registration idea is how would you do it? Who would hold the registration? LTA would require the list from Uber/Grabtaxi and both of them are foreign companies. Also they are just apps; if they refused to hand over their driver's list, how do fine an app if the companies are not based in Singapore? Right now, Uber has a presense in Singapore but if they want to, it's not too hard to imagine them moving overseas and still being able to operate their business from there.

Anonymous said...

Hello Ghost,

Thanks for your response. This is one of my concerns too, if this "level-playing field" is left to civil servants and G to do. Hence, we need to look at these problems from the 4 parties's angle and take their interests in mind.

I hope that those representing voice of taxi drivers need to look at the bigger pictures. It is not just putting existing regulations, fees and etc onto your competitors (like Uber/GrabTaxi drivers), but also, questioning their existing regulations, fees and etc that have been imposed on them (the taxi drivers) for years, that are making it increasingly difficult for them to have decent earnings with decent work (hours worked and etc).

I also wonder, who is representing the voices of the passengers? who is taking care of the interests of the passengers?

Some of us do have our needs that are un-met by existing taxi operating models, hence, giving the rise to the growth of Uber/GrabTaxi new models. At the same time, there are gaps in Uber/GrabTaxi new models that are yet to hit all the passengers.

Thank you. Just curious.

Ghost said...

Honestly, I think it will be great if taxi-drivers be polled on what should be done but that's an impossible hope. Voice of taxi drivers? Ha! That's a joke. The taxi-drivers has no voice, if they did the daily rent would not be $100 per day.