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'If passengers don't want to incur the penalty, then be there': Grab drivers cheer move to shorten waiting time grace period

'If passengers don't want to incur the penalty, then be there': Grab drivers cheer move to shorten waiting time grace period

A person using the Grab mobile app. (File photo: Grab's website)

SINGAPORE: Grab drivers cheered the ride-sharing platform's move to charge commuters a penalty for being more than three minutes late, with those who spoke to CNA indicating that it is a “fair” move. 

The change takes effect next Monday (Jul 18). Currently, commuters have to pay the penalty only if they are more than five minutes late.

Users will be automatically charged a waiting fee of S$3 per five-minute waiting block if they keep the driver waiting for longer than three minutes. A S$4 fee applies if a passenger cancels a booking more than three minutes after accepting one.

The change will affect all rides, except for those booked under GrabExec, Grab Exec6, GrabAssist and GrabAssist Plus.

One driver, 38-year-old David Lee, told CNA that he is glad that Grab is making the waiting time grace period shorter. 

“Although I don’t know if this action will help to better educate riders to be ready before booking their ride, I just hope it does,” he said. 

Fellow driver, Michael (not his real name), who has been driving since 2015, pointed out that Grab’s system is “fair”. 

“If the passengers don’t want to incur the penalty, then be there ... We just want to pick up the customer, move on to the next one. We don’t want to sit there and be idle,” the 53-year-old said. 

“AMPLE” TIME FOR PASSENGERS

Drivers told CNA that the current waiting time of five minutes is “a bit too long”. 

“For certain jobs in town, there is no waiting place either. When we go there, and there’s a traffic warden, we have to make an extra round (if the passenger is not there yet)," said Michael.

"Every extra round eats into our petrol, and by the time we’ve circled back to the location, we don’t know if the passenger is still there.” 

While most of Michael’s passengers have “decent time management and respect”, there are those who “make drivers wait for whatever reason”, he shared. 

“There’s also the period of time from when the driver accepts the job to reach the pickup point. Most of the time, it’s more than sufficient time for them to be on time,” he added. 

“Even before we reach, there’s a message to the passenger that the driver will be there within X minutes. So there are a lot of reminders given.”

Mr Darren Hui, 52, who has been driving with Grab for about seven years, shared similar views: “Sometimes we get informed about a job around 2.5 to 3km away, and it takes us about six to 10 minutes to reach the pickup point. When we reach, some passengers still make us wait for another five minutes.” 

“Some passengers will say they need time to get ready. But you see, they assigned us six to 10 minutes to travel. Isn’t that ample time to get ready?” he added. 

Mr Hui explained that full-time drivers like himself drive around 25 to 30 trips a day. 

“If every trip is cut down by two minutes … that’s (saving) one hour daily. That’s a lot to us. And you haven’t even included the travelling time from the location where we accept the job to the pickup point.” 

SOME PASSENGERS “MISUSE” GRACE PERIOD 

Some passengers also misuse the grace period, said Mr Hui. 

They ask him why he can’t wait for them if their five minutes aren't up. So he feels that the revision is “fair”. 

“We’ve all taken a school bus before. Does the school bus wait for you and me? No, you have to wait downstairs for the school bus to come,” he said. 

Mr Lee, who drives around 12 to 15 hours a day for six days a week, shared that “it is still relatively common for passengers to be booking their (rides) while still at home or in the office, and playing around with the five minutes”. 

“As the penalty system is automated from the time we arrive, a lot of passengers will only arrive at the 4:30 to 4:55 mark. Most are not even apologetic about it,” he said.

“You can calculate how much time drivers lose if we’re to pick up 10 such passengers per day.” 

Grab told CNA on Tuesday that the decision to reduce the waiting time grace period was made after "careful evaluation".

"Today, 94 per cent of our rides already see passengers at their pickup points within three minutes of their drivers arriving," the company said.

"As the country reopens and more passengers book rides, we want to help our driver-partners capture these new demand trends by spending their time on the roads more productively."

Grab also shared with CNA that the revised grace period will help reduce fuel wastage caused by idling engines, which has become more of a "pain point" for its drivers amid rising fuel costs.

DRIVERS INDICATING THEY’VE “ARRIVED” BEFORE THEY ARRIVE 

Following Grab's announcement, many passengers lamented on social media that they often encountered drivers who indicated they had arrived before they actually did. This means that the grace period kicks in before the driver reaches the pickup location.  

In response to queries from CNA, Grab said on Tuesday that it is refining controls at the backend so that drivers will only be able to mark their arrival when they are at the pickup point or "very close" to it.

But as it stands, drivers now can only indicate they have arrived when they are near the pickup point, drivers told CNA.  

“Drivers can only ‘arrive’ within a very, very close proximity of the location, due to the technical capability of the app which is dependent on GPS. Sometimes, we can’t even press ‘arrive’ when we’re at the location, due to, for instance, the passenger’s input of their office on the 15th storey of the building as the pickup location,” explained Mr Lee. 

“(In such cases), we lose time as we have to force ‘arrive’," the Grab driver said, adding that the passenger then takes a while to come to the pickup point. 

Even if there is a “mini jam” in the car park, it is “still reasonable for the driver to put ‘arrive’ first, because the proximity is a very, very small radius” and “there will be ample time for the driver to reach the passenger”. 

He noted that especially in condominiums and apartments where passengers request a pick up from the basement car park, drivers will usually indicate they’ve arrived once they pass the security guard house, as they “don’t know if there is sufficient data coverage in the basement”. 

Mr Lee said he believes a driver’s job is to “race against time”, especially with rising petrol and other operational costs. 

"It is not that the two minutes saved are crucial, but it’s more (about) making a compromise between the driver and the passenger,” he said. 

“There are passengers seeking fairness. Everyone is thinking for themselves, I get that. But how many drivers will one passenger face in a day versus (the number of) passengers that a driver faces in a day? How to find the equilibrium when it comes to fairness?” 

Ultimately, Mr Lee feels that “empathy works both ways”. 

He has on occasion refunded the S$3 waiting penalty in cash, as he knows the passenger is “genuinely not at fault due to GPS error or the passenger is handling another passenger with a mobility aid thus they’re slower”. 

“Humans should be more empathetic to each other, no matter who they are,” he said. 

Source: CNA/gy(cy)
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