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Driving Through the Covid-19 Storm with our Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Drivers

By September 22, 2020Current

TL;DR –  If 2020 has been rough for you, you are definitely not alone. Our PHV and taxi drivers are hit hard too, but, there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

Grab driver, Larry (not his real name), became a Private Hire Vehicle Driver four years ago. At that time, the industry was brimming with prospects. Lured by substantial incentives, many – young and old – cashed in on the lucrative business, where earning a decent wage of $5-6000 a month was a relative breeze.

“It was… easy money (at that time),” Larry shared.

Well, 4 years on. Looks like many in the industry are looking for a way out. The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the industry hard.

Taxi drivers are similarly not spared.

Even as Singapore moved into Phase 2, the pick-up was slow for taxi and private hire drivers. Taxi driver, Mr Ho Seng Huat, shared how this may be one of his worst dry spells of passenger pick-ups in his 20 years as a taxi driver. To supplement his income during the COVID-19 crisis, Mr Ho Seng Huat took up the opportunity to make food deliveries.

Mr Ho delivering pizzas. An initiative was a collaboration between SMRT, the National Taxi Association (NTA) and various food operators to help taxi drivers supplement their income to tide through these tough times. Via

 

Light at The End of The Tunnel

Looks like 2020 won’t end on a high for most PHV and taxi drivers… But there is light at the end of the tunnel.

A $77 million Point to Point Support Package (PPSP) was first introduced in February this year, followed by a second tranche in March 2020, with both packages totalling $197 million.

NTUC lends a helping hand to taxi and private-hire drivers amid COVID-19 woes

The PPSP has alleviated some hardship for our drivers. But as the economic fallout from the pandemic continues to ravage many of our drivers’ livelihoods, more needs to be done.

Over the past few months, the Land Transport Authority has been in talks with drivers, operators, the National Taxi Association (NTA) and National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) to better understand the impact the pandemic has had for PHV and taxi drivers.

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Some of these drivers are sole breadwinners – supporting young children and elderly at home. There is no doubt about it. The sector needs strong support during such trying times. 

The good news? The Government has committed to putting an additional S$112 million towards extending the Point-to-Point (P2P) Support Package (PPSP), which aims to support taxi and private-hire car drivers and operators amid the COVID-19 pandemic!

Extension of Special Relief Fund (SRF)

This fund provides payouts of $300 per vehicle per month to active taxi and private-hire car drivers. The payouts are expected to help over 40,000 point-to-point drivers as it will now continue until March 2021.

Taxi operators will allow continue to help with matching rental rebates to their hirers.

The temporary liberalisation of point-to-point regulations that allow the use of taxis and private-hire cars for delivery services will also be extended another year until September 2021. Definitely great news for our drivers!

Updated Eligibility Criteria for PDVL

The eligibility criteria for Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence (PDVL) has also been updated. Under new rules, all PDVL applicants must be Singapore citizens and at least 30 years old and they should have at least one year of driving experience.

NTA and NPHVA had called for this higher minimum age requirement in the past. Good to know that their voices have been heard!

In a media statement, NTA and NPHVA shared, “We are grateful that our requests have been heard and responded to positively. Raising the age requirement will not only level the playing field for taxi drivers who have to adhere to a minimum age of 30 years old but will also encourage young drivers to gain outside work experience which will enlarge their skill sets and provide them with long term job prospects.”

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While being a PHV driver may seem like an easy job, it may not be the most progressive path for younger individuals. Young drivers should explore employment through schemes such as the SGUnited Traineeship programmes. By taking up courses and being more open to upskilling opportunities, they will also be in a better position to seize future opportunities.

Upskilling or reskilling will ensure that these younger workers will not be left behind when professional expectations shift.

Extension of Support for Point-to-Point Operators

To acknowledge operators’ efforts in supporting their drivers through the current crisis, the Government is providing additional relief measures for them. Announced in March 2020, this special relief of $2,200 per unhired taxi was meant to help taxi operators cover the cost of their unhired fleet. It will now continue until March next year. LTA will also extend the previously announced 9-month operator licence fee waiver by a further 3 months.

Training Support for Taxi and PHV Drivers

Leveraging the Government’s Self-Employed Person (SEP) Support Scheme and co-funded by the Government and NTUC, the NTUC Training Fund (SEPs) allows SEPs to earn as they train.  Well, I’d say this is definitely the best time to acquire new competencies so as to be better prepared for when the economy picks up and new opportunities arise.

NTUC Union Members who are SEPs will enjoy additional training allowance support on top of its course fees subsidy. The NTA and NPHVA have also assisted drivers to take up courses so that they can earn while they train. Some of the drivers have even taken up courses in areas such as Security to diversify their income streams and pick up new skills!

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Getting Through The Crisis – Together

The demand for taxis and private hire cars has plummeted since the pandemic first broke. Unfortunately, ridership is unlikely to go back to anywhere near pre-Covid levels in the near future.

Kudos to the NTA and NPHVA in initiating efforts to better support our drivers from the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. The results of determined efforts by various groups of drivers at focus group discussions and tripartite meetings have indeed bore fruit. This good work would definitely go some way in alleviating financial burden of our drivers; helping them to put food on the table and tide through this difficult time!

It honestly takes a concerted effort to get through this crisis. With support from friends, family and the wider community, hope our drivers will find the strength to bounce back and emerge stronger!

Cover image via

 

 

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Gabrielle Teo

Author Gabrielle Teo

I read lots, and I also spend an indecent amount of time trying to get my mostly unpopular opinions published. Oh, I argue a lot with fellow Singaporeans who complain incessantly about Singapore too.

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