Uber, GrabTaxi drivers may need vocational licence
DRIVERS who run chauffeur services under ride-booking apps such as Uber could be required to obtain a vocational licence in the future.
While they are currently free from this requirement, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) said yesterday that it is looking into removing this exemption, as a way to ensure the safety of passengers taking private-hire rides.
In a forum letter published in The Straits Times, LTA noted that chauffeured vehicle services have become more accessible to the public with technology and given the industry's recent growth, it is studying possible measures to safeguard commuter interest.
The cab community has cried foul recently, following news of ride-matching apps and rental companies working together to run their own fleet of "taxis".
The rental firms lease out cars to drivers at a rate cheaper than taxis. The drivers then use the vehicles to fulfil bookings from apps like Uber and GrabTaxi.
These companies and drivers, however, do not have to meet the stringent requirements imposed on the taxi industry, such as vocational training.
In its forum letter, LTA did not elaborate if a licensing requirement would apply only to drivers who do chauffeuring via apps or to the entire industry, which also includes corporate charters and limousine services.
Meanwhile, Uber drivers have told The Straits Times that the time and money required to take a vocational course will be an extra burden for them.
One driver, Yu Kim Reed, 30, asked why vocational licences have to be implemented now, given that chauffeur services have been around for so long.
"The only difference is that a (car hire) call centre has been replaced by the Internet," Mr Yu said.
National Taxi Association executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said a driver rating system cannot fully replace vocational training, refresher courses and medical examinations which taxi drivers currently have to undergo.
Mandating vocational licences will be a "welcome start", but he said that rental car companies and transport apps should also abide by other requirements that taxi companies are subject to by LTA, such as ensuring their fleets are regularly maintained and serviced.
App companies said they are willing to work with LTA should vocational licences become required.
Uber's Singapore general manager Yaniv Goder said it hopes to be "included in the consultation process".