Saturday, November 17, 2007

Taxi Problems in Singapore and Possible Solutions

How often are we not able to hail a taxi in Singapore during peak hours or rainy days? During those times, we often see many taxi drivers driving their empty taxis on the outer lanes of the roads, putting on “ON CALL” signs, apparently waiting for the next caller willing to fork out weekend taxi peak hour surcharge of $2 and/or the call booking charges of between $2.80 and $4.

And now there is another problem. It was reported in the news that some taxi drivers are touting and demanding exorbitant flat fees from taxi passengers especially tourists visiting Singapore. While I condemn these “market spoilers” for their touting activities, there might be a need to understand why there has been a rise in such activities recently.

Two days ago, I took a taxi from Choa Chu Kang to Jurong Point. The moment I got on, the taxi uncle started a conversation with me. He complained to me how difficult it is to earn money these days and how the few “black sheep” (he was referring to the taxi drivers touting for business) have portrayed a bad image for the rest of the law-abiding taxi drivers. He mentioned some of them did touting at places like Clarke Quay because it was getting more difficult to find customers at night. How true this is I do not know but I agree that many drivers including the taxi uncle himself earn less these days as a result of the rising diesel prices and taxi rental costs. To worsen the situation, their diminished net earnings cannot keep in pace with the rising cost of living in Singapore.

I think the root of all these problems is with the complicated system of surcharges. The taxi companies should seriously consider lowering the midnight surcharge rate to a more reasonable one to help the taxi drivers attract more customers while reducing the possibility of a “hide-and-seek game” with passengers especially during the time between 11.30pm to midnight as it will not benefit them much if they do so.

The taxi companies could put in place a point system to allow some rental fee deductions if they make, say 2 trips during the “hideout” period. The peak hour surcharge rules should also be scrapped and instead, the same rental fee deduction system could be used for certain number of trips made during peak hours to alleviate the problem of a lack of taxis on the roads. In addition, more efforts should be put in to promote the “Share a cab” scheme to free up more taxis for other passengers.

At the same time, the daily taxi rental fee should be adjusted periodically in conjunction with any major fluctuations in the diesel price to give their drivers more “breathing spaces” in midst of the rising cost of living in Singapore.

Yes. All these solutions seemed to be benefiting the taxi drivers and their passengers, not the parent taxi companies but if volume of passengers pick up as a result of better efficiency of the whole taxi industry, sacrificing a small percentage of profits initially to earn a lasting goodwill from their passengers may not seem to be a bad idea after all.


h@n| said...

Actually it's not true. There are some taxi drivers who could earn about $100 per day, depends on whether they are hardworking or not. Some tend to just laze around especially at airport area.

Xizor2000 said...

I agree with you absolutely. The surcharges is the root of this evil. Once there are no more such ‘incentives’ to make it affordable to them to refuse fares, the problems will go away. If there are those who are driven to the wall because they can’t deal with the new ‘no surcharge’ system, too bad. It’s market-darwinism in action and only the fittest - which in this case will be the most diligent - will survive.