TL;DR – Many reasons why there should be.
Christopher Tan, Senior Transport Correspondent of The Straits Times, wrote an article arguing for setting a minimum age for private-hire drivers. He justified his view by citing a number of fatal accidents caused by Uber drivers who are in their early 20’s.
He also highlighted that taxi drivers have to be at least 30 years-old.
One of the main reasons for that minimum age for taxi drivers was safety.
Safety is one concern
Are young drivers really more reckless? The Traffic Police have stated that the statistics have not shown any correlation between the age of the driver and the risk of them being involved in a fatal accident.
However, motor insurers sure think so.
Younger drivers have to pay higher premiums for motor insurance. How much more? NTUC Income charges up to 78% more. That’s essentially saying that younger drivers are 78% more likely to be involved in accidents. In addition, in USA, various organisations have found that younger drivers have a significant higher risk of being involved in fatal accidents.
So perhaps there is indeed a case to be made that allowing younger drivers to be private-hire drivers would increase the risk for passengers and pose a safety concerns for other road users.
There are other reasons too
Other than potentially posing a risk to others, there are other reasons why we should discourage younger drivers from being private-hire drivers. SIM University labour economist Walter Theseira said relying too heavily on driving for a private-hire service could harm a young person’s career prospects in the long term. It does not boost their resumes meaningfully and provides few transferable skills.
Indeed, that’s one of the key reasons why there’s a minimum age for taxi drivers. That policy came about because the Government wanted to encourage people to explore other careers before turning to driving a cab. Similarly, Labour MP Desmond Choo, who sits on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Manpower, pointed out that the bigger issue for young private-hire drivers was underemployment — not landing jobs commensurate with their training.
This concern is valid. A young person who is a full-time private-hire driver may earn a decent salary in the short-term. But they may find their livelihoods threatened in time to come. Uber and Grab are both testing driverless cars.
Sure. There are hiccups. But it’s only a matter of time before driverless cars make private-hire drivers obsolete. When that time comes, people who have only worked as private-hire drivers won’t have any skills to move on to any other jobs.
Review worth considering
Even if we don’t set a minimum age for private-hire drivers, it would be useful to conduct a review to figure out how best to address some of the concerns. That would allow us to benefit most from private hire cars, while better managing the risks and costs to society.