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SMRT, Trans-Cab impose penalties on drivers who fail to meet availability standard

Taxi operators SMRT and Trans-Cab Services have started to impose penalties on drivers who failed to meet taxi availability standards.

SINGAPORE: Some taxi operators have started to impose penalties on drivers who failed to meet taxi availability standards.

Drivers from SMRT and Trans-Cab Services recently received notices about the penalties, which include cuts in financial incentives.

In January this year, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) raised the taxi availability standards to ensure more cabs are on the roads to serve commuters.

SMRT taxi driver Joseph Koh received a surprise SMS from his operator recently.

Mr Koh was told his hiring contract will not be renewed because he failed to meet the taxi availability standards.

He has been asked to return his Toyota Crown taxi next month.

"I felt shocked and disappointed, because I worked for so long, and I tried my best to work with the company. I still need a job anyway to feed my family," said Mr Koh.

Channel NewsAsia understood more than 30 drivers have been affected.

Taxi companies that are unable to meet the taxi availability standards will face financial penalties.

These companies also need to comply with the standards in order to be eligible to grow their fleet.

Under the revised standards, operators have to ensure 80 per cent of their taxis clock a minimum daily mileage of 250 kilometres.

In addition, 80 per cent of their fleet must be on the roads during peak periods.

SMRT taxi driver Jimmy Goh said: "We are required to drive from 6am to 11am, and also in the evening from 5pm to midnight so how can we complete two peak hours?

"We can try our very best, but at most we can only complete one peak hour. In this case, we will not be able to fulfil the TA (taxi availability)."

Drivers like Mr Goh could lose financial incentives under SMRT's revised quarterly rental rebate benefit scheme.

If he fails to meet the availability standards, he will not be able to get a one-day rental rebate.

As for Trans-Cab Services, it will deduct $100 from the performance incentive package that drivers get.

In a letter to some 800 drivers of its Toyota Wish taxis, Trans-Cab said that based on its record in the past four months, Toyota Wish taxis have not been able to meet the taxi availability standards.

Patrick Teo, secretary of the TransCab Operators' Association, said: "Normally, they (Trans-Cab) have very good incentives, but now after the 250 kIlometres TA (taxi availability), they will cut $100. In a year, it's $1,200. I think with $1,200, drivers can do a lot of things that can help their families."

Most of the taxi drivers who can't meet the availability standards are hirers who drive alone or do not have a relief driver.

They said it has been tough to get another person to share the load. One of the reasons cited is the difficulty to find compatible relief drivers.

To help match hirers and relief drivers, the National Taxi Association is piloting a 'matching' session this year.

The National Taxi Association has expressed its concern and disapproval of the introduction of financial penalties on taxi drivers.

"Their actions are quite regrettable. In fact, what we feel is that operators should work alongside with us, to find more innovative ways of helping our drivers attain that standard, rather than passing the responsibility fully onto their shoulders," said National Taxi Association's executive adviser Ang Hin Kee.

Both SMRT and Trans-Cab have declined to comment on the penalties that have been meted out to drivers.

Replying to queries from Channel NewsAsia, LTA said the standards are based on the taxi fleet and not per taxi driver.

LTA added that most taxi companies are currently able to pass the first year standards, including SMRT, and hence should not incur any TA penalties.

It stressed that taxi companies should help and incentivise their drivers achieve the service and availability standards, a point that has been reiterated several times to the taxi companies.

Besides having more taxis on the roads, efforts are also ongoing to simplify the taxi fare structure.

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