Jun 20, 2013

    Cabbies hog stand while 'changing shift'

    TAXIS waiting at taxi stands with the "Change Shift" signs displayed have drawn the ire of many passengers. The cabbies not only turn down fares in queue, but their vehicles also hog the spots at the stand.

    One irate passenger highlighted the practice on citizen-journalism website Stomp on Monday. She said she was refused by three taxis displaying "Change Shift" signs at Yishun MRT station's taxi stand last Saturday.

    Shipbroker Karin Woon, 38, told Stomp: "They declined to take me to Mandai (her destination), but they still parked their cabs there."

    In an interview with My Paper, Ms Woon said that, if a cab driver parks at and hogs a space at a taxi stand just to wait for an ideal client, the "cabby is out of line".

    It is not clear if the three cabbies were using the taxi stand as a place to hand over their vehicles.

    A 55-year-old taxi driver with CityCab, who wanted to be known only as Mr Pek, said that the taxi drivers could be waiting to "pick up some extra fare on their way home" - passengers who are going in the same direction.

    Still, the taxis should not have obstructed the road, he said.

    The taxi stand near Yishun MRT station has space for only two taxis. Ms Woon said she was "forced to stand on the edge of the main road behind (those) cabs to get the attention of other cabbies".

    What made it worse was that there is a loading bay behind the taxi stand, which is usually occupied, and that might make it difficult for a waiting passenger to look out for other taxis.

    "That, to me, is dangerous and unacceptable," said Ms Woon. "What if it was an elderly person who had to stand on the main road to flag a cab down?"

    Taxi driver Sakrudin Jailani, 50, told My Paper that changing shifts at taxi stands is "not a common practice" among cabbies. He had attended a taxi refresher course by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), where taxi drivers were advised against doing so.

    Ms Tammy Tan, group corporate-communication officer of ComfortDelGro, said: "Cabbies are allowed to display the 'Change Shift' sign only while plying the road and to pick up passengers who are en route to their changing-shift location."

    She added that the cabby of one of the two Comfort taxis that Ms Woon identified has been warned for displaying the "Change Shift" sign while waiting at the taxi stand.

    The third taxi belongs to another company.

    According to a letter published in The Straits Times in February, Ms Helen Lim, director of media relations and public education at the LTA, stated that taxi drivers are "not allowed to pick and choose their fares unless they have valid reasons, for example, if they are on call or changing shift".

    An LTA spokesman told My Paper that taxi drivers who refuse to hire out their taxis without valid reasons will be penalised under the Vocational Licence Points System with six demerit points and a fine of $300.

    About 230 taxi drivers were penalised for refusing to convey passengers without valid reasons last year, said the LTA. Fifty-six taxi drivers have been penalised from January to April.