May 15, 2013

    Taxi drivers don't have it easy

    MY HUSBAND became a taxi driver two years ago.

    Taxi drivers do not earn $7,000 a month, and most of them work between 12 and 14 hours daily - even on weekends and public holidays - just to earn enough to support their family.

    Even if they are sick, they have to work as they will not have any income otherwise, and will still have to pay the taxi rental fee.

    Cabbies are often at the mercy of inconsiderate passengers who will call for a taxi and then cancel the booking, in order to lure the cabby to their location without having to pay the surcharge.

    Other passengers who call for a taxi just hop into the first one that comes along, and do not answer their phone when the driver responding to the call tries to contact them, leaving the driver waiting in vain.

    Cases of taxi drivers being beaten up by drunk passengers have been reported too.

    Sometimes, they meet fare cheats who claim they do not have enough cash on them and ask the taxi driver to wait while they go to an automated teller machine to withdraw cash, only to run off.

    What can taxi drivers do about fare cheats? Most of the time, they just have to live with being cheated, as it would be difficult - or almost impossible - to find the cheats, and they would rather drive on in search of new passengers, rather than waste time making a police report and going through the lengthy procedure to make a claim with the taxi company.

    Taxi drivers are considered self-employed, but they must still abide by the Land Transport Authority's (LTA's) minimum-mileage requirement, and their taxi company's rules and regulations.

    Even in the event of complaints made by unreasonable passengers, they will be subject to disciplinary action.

    I hope everyone can understand that there will definitely be some black sheep in each trade, and that not all taxi drivers are bad. They have the same mentality as other drivers on the road - they just want to be safe at the end of the day and to be with their family.

    Please do not be so quick to judge when you see a taxi driver ferrying his family members, as he could have been driving for several hours before that and was just taking his family out for a meal.

    Perhaps the LTA, National Taxi Association, taxi companies and other agencies should review policies to help taxi drivers.

    Should they be considered self-employed? What can be done to protect the safety and interests of taxi drivers, without compromising service levels?

    While giving out a handbook to cabbies might increase their safety awareness, more can be done.