SINGAPORE: Enforcement action will be taken against drivers who continue to carpool during the COVID-19 outbreak, as this is considered an offence under the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said.
On its website, the LTA noted that after consulting the Ministry of Trade and Industry, carpooling services are not deemed an essential services during the 28-day "circuit breaker" period aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus.
“Drivers operating such services must comply strictly with the circuit breaker measures enacted under Parts 2 and 3 of the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations and stop providing car-pool services,” the authority said.
“This includes non-commercial carpool arrangements between people who do not live in the same residence,” it added.
On Thursday, the Minister for Transport issued an order revoking Road Traffic (Car Pools) (Exemption) Order 2015, which allows drivers to be compensated for costs such as fuel for offering carpool trips.
Those caught offering carpool rides during this period face a fine of up to S$10,000, a maximum of six months jail, or both.
In response to media queries, the LTA said carpool services have been suspended during Singapore’s circuit breaker period, as such services are provided on a “social and non-commercial basis”.
Noting that ride-hailing platforms Grab and Ryde had already suspended their GrabHitch and RydePool carpooling services, the LTA noted that private carpooling arrangements are also not allowed.
This includes those made through chat groups such as SGHitch, the authority added, referring to a popular Telegram chat group with almost 56,000 members.
The Straits Times had reported on Thursday that the year-old chat group had been taken down temporarily.
However, checks on Saturday (Apr 18) showed that SGHitch - now renamed COVID-19 Lockdown SG Hitch - was still active, with more than 90 requests for rides as of noon.
Messages sent by the group’s admins now include the caveat: “Hello drivers, now MOT had revolved (sic) Carpooling in Singapore. Accept any hitchers at your own risk or accept Hitchers that you had been fetching.”
A message sent by the admins in a related Telegram group, Singapore Telegram Network, reads: “ @sgHitch does not acknowledge that we allow Carpooling or anything related to it.”
Instead, it claimed SG Hitch now exists to match drivers and users for requests such as the sending of documents, as well as the delivery of food, groceries and other online purchases.
Several other smaller carpooling groups on Telegram have already suspended operations, citing the current coronavirus outbreak and regulations against carpooling during this period.
“Enforcement action will be taken against drivers who do not comply with the COVID-19 (Temporary Measures) (Control Order) Regulations,” sad the LTA.
“We encourage members of the public who come across non-compliance of such practices to help report to LTA through the OneMotoring portal.”