(Or “How to get more taxis on the road, increasing rentals, and still screw the consumer”)
Last Saturday, MediaCorp’s freesheet carried an article that screamed
More may obtain a taxi licence to rent cabs for personal use instead of plying the roads
It went on: more people could possibly be getting taxi licences for the wrong reasons – as suggested by Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew in a press interview … Noting how, with the exception of those owned by ComfortDelGro, taxis are hired out mostly to cabbies who drive a single shift per day, Mr Lui said the authorities “need to be even more vigilant about this … because now driving a taxi can, with high COE prices, become a substitute for owning a car”.
Right, it’s the fault of cabbies gaming the system that we can’t get a cab. Not the fault of ComfortDelgro, the govt, or SMRT.
In mid April, there was a ST report that taxi drivers’ take-home income have gone up by as much as 30% since the increase in taxi fares at the end of last year. “ComfortDelGro, the biggest operator here with about 15,600 taxis, said average net income per cab per day has risen by 12 per cent to $210.93 … up from $188.69 in November, excludes costs drivers have to bear, such as rental and diesel.”
In the run-up to the fare increase late last year, our nation-building, constructive media were full of stories of the plight of cabbies. And when fares were increased, there were stories of drops in income as people stopped taking cabs. Poor cabbies. The media also reported extensively that the fleet owners were NOT increasing their taxi rentals. The benefits of the increase were all going to the cabbies.
So I was surprised (in February or early March) to read in the same said media that S’pore had plenty of taxis (about 27,000 of them) but that taxis were under-utilised because some work on one shift with one operator per taxi who “once they earn enough would call it a day”.
In April, we were told that they are doing well: to to 30% increase in take-home pay. So will there be shortages again as more of those taxis with one operator are AWOL because the operators call it a day after they earn enough? Now we are again reminded that many cabs are only operated by one person a day, and worse: that increasingly cabbies are gaming the system by using the taxi as a car, not as a cab. Juz earn enough to pay rental, then use taxi as car, for what we are not told. Transport gds? Visit clients? Or rent to senior members of Home Team or other scholars to have sex in in return for favours?
A shortage that will be solved when the fleet owners increase their charges so that the cabbies have to work longer hours again?
In other words, are we “being conditioned” for operating costs (not fares) for cabbies to go up to increase the supply of available taxis.
Then we will read stories in the media that taxi drivers are suffering, and that fares have to rise. And we shouldn’t complain if we are compassionate.
The cycle of spin goes on. Bit like the cycle of life.
Instead of inceasing rentals to increase supply, why not insist that each taxi must have mutiple operators working in shifts? Incentives, disincentives could be introduced to force cabbies into sharing? Afraid of too many cabs on the road, forcing down rentals because cabbies are leaving the industry?