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    Mar 17, 2016

    Training for Uber and GrabCar drivers?

    PRIVATE-CAR hire drivers operating under Uber and GrabCar may soon be required to have a vocational licence, under regulations expected to be announced next month.

    A proposed training programme, at least 10 hours long - shorter than the 60-hour taxi driver vocational licence (TDVL) course - is being considered by authorities for these private chauffeurs, sources said.

    The licensing requirement, which follows a review that started in October, is expected to be announced by the Ministry of Transport next month, during the Budget debate.

    There will be a "phase-in" period to allow drivers time to go for the vocational course, said industry sources, who requested anonymity. It is estimated that there are tens of thousands of private-car hire drivers in Singapore.

    Course credits attained during the proposed vocational training could also be used for the TDVL, should the drivers want to become cabbies.

    Besides vocational licensing, sources said authorities are also mulling over clearer demarcation of cars being used to pick up passengers. This could be through decals pasted on these vehicles to identify them.

    Asked about the upcoming regulations, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said only that "more details will be made known in the coming weeks".

    With a regulatory framework, Singapore will join countries such as the Philippines and Australia in making efforts to legalise an industry that has come under heat for allegedly competing unfairly with taxis.

    Head of Grab Singapore, Lim Kell Jay, said vocational licensing can serve as an "added assurance" to commuters that drivers and trips are of standard. He added that the company does its own screening, such as background checks and in-person registration.

    Uber's general manager in Singapore, Warren Tseng, said he was "hopeful of a positive outcome" to the review, to ensure drivers could continue to have flexible work opportunities and commuters, reliable transportation options.

    Private-car hire driver James Koh, 53, said if vocational licences become a requirement, part-timers may find it a hassle and stop driving.

    "We have been operating for so long without problems, I find it strange that we need to have a licence now," he added.

    National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng, however, said regulations benefit private-car hire services by legalising them.