Nov 28, 2013

    Prime finds taxi-availability bar too high to negotiate

    THE Land Transport Authority's (LTA's) report card on taxi operators is out.

    Three cab companies - Comfort, CityCab and SMRT - turned up tops by meeting the LTA's taxi-availability standards. The trio will be allowed to add cabs to their fleet in the first half of next year.

    The taxi-availability standards took effect in January, and will be raised over three years.

    This year's standards require 70 per cent of a taxi operator's fleet to ply the roads during peak hours and clock at least 250km a day.

    Comfort, CityCab and SMRT met the mark for getting a proportion of their taxis on the road during peak hours.

    TransCab and Premier met the standards for peak periods, but not for periods just outside peak hours. Meanwhile, Comfort, CityCab and Premier consistently met the standards for daily mileage.

    The smallest operator, Prime, did not meet the standards for either indicator.

    The results were based on the performance of the six taxi operators during the first nine months of this year.

    Mr Neo Chee Yong, Prime's deputy general manager, said: "The taxi-availability standards can be met by the most established taxi operators, but it remains a challenge to our young company.

    "Prime has had the least time to develop in the industry and we find the standards to be unfairly onerous."

    Such smaller taxi operators may face an uphill task with the raised standards that will be implemented next year. For instance, the percentage of taxis required on the road during peak hours will be increased from 70 to 80 per cent.

    Mr Neo is confident that they will be able to comply with the standards next year, having spent a substantial amount to modernise their systems. They will also study fellow operators' policies to better manage taxi hirers and to achieve the taxi-availability standards stipulated by LTA.

    Currently, Prime has a "limited relief system in place", where hirers can engage a relief driver for 90 days in a year.

    Ms Tammy Tan, group corporate communications officer at ComfortDelGro - which runs Comfort and CityCab - said that the operator will "continue to do our best to meet and, even, exceed the new standards".

    LTA will start imposing fines on taxi operators' lapse in performance standards only from January next year. It had earlier announced that it was giving taxi drivers and companies time to adjust.

    The penalty depends on the fleet size of the operator. The maximum penalty for not meeting each indicator is $100,000.