PH Driver vs Taxi Driver – Different but the same

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In an interview with Channel NewsAsia on Wednesday (Apr 26) ahead of the company’s fourth anniversary celebrations, Uber Singapore’s general manager Warren Tseng gave his comments regarding the introduction of a new licensing framework for private-hire drivers, which require them to attend a course and obtain a Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational License (PDVL).

He commented that the PDVL curriculum should be different from what is being taught for taxi drivers, given that the Uber driver is a “very new breed of driver” and added that “It’s important not to treat private-hire drivers as taxi drivers”.

If you ever read the comments section of any news outlet’s articles about Uber and Grab, it is common to have complains about Uber and Grab causing Taxi Drivers to lose their rice-bowls. Some of them are valid and some irrational.

Let us take this trip together to examine the five gripes some people usually have with Uber or Grab Drivers that appears frequently in comments sections or discussion boards

1. Uber & Grab Drivers dressed tardily (Slippers, shorts, singlet etc)

Generalization might be the keyword here and the definition of tardiness. The complains usually points out that the lack of regulations allow Uber and Grab drivers to wear anything they like. While some drivers do dressed in shorts and T-shirt during their drive, many are in their jeans and Polo-Ts or in their smart office wear.

One of the noble ideas of the ride-sharing app is to enable car-owners to pick up riders going the same direction or during their available time, so that, it is environmentally friendly and economical then having  just the driver person taking the journey alone. It is conceivable that in certain circumstances, your Uber or Grab driver picked you up after a walk in a park or after an office meeting.

That being said, not all that dressed in shorts and T-shirts are tardy and not all taxi drivers in their mandatory long pants are presentable

2. Uber & Grab Drivers are NOT service oriented because they are part-timers

In a survey conducted in August 2016 by the Public Transport Council (PTC) found that private-hire services such as Uber and Grab were given a satisfaction mean score of 7.9 out of 10, while taxis received a score of 7.5. 1526 passengers were polled.

The results, released by PTC , showed private-hire services fared better than taxis in all comparable categories, such as waiting times, ease of booking, information on services, and ride comfort. Grab and Uber also fared better than taxis in drivers’ knowledge of routes, customer service provided by the driver, and safety.

If your yardstick isn’t anything scientific, then, you should have heard instances where taxi drivers , do not get out of their car to help you with your luggage or chide you if you are taking a short trip from the airport.

3. Uber & Grab drivers don’t know their route well and only rely on their GPS.

In the same survey, Passengers were most satisfied with safety for both cabs and private-hire cars – although private-hire services scored higher at 8.2, compared with 7.8 for taxis.

Deployment of technology surely have their perks. Google map at times, might be funky, but it also provide real-time update on traffic conditions and planned the quickest route if possible. Hence, reliance on the GPS is not a bad thing.

The article of the PTC survey can be found here.

4. Uber & Grab Drivers are stealing the rice-bowl of the taxi drivers. 

While it is inevitable there are some impact on the taxi driver’s earning, it was also noted in several articles, that the taxi driver’s mean income have not dropped much.  One such article dated recently on 27 April 2017 – an interview with several taxi drivers, one taxi driver indicated that her income remains the same while another, with some strategic change in his driving methods, increased his productivity and income.

You can read the article here

A few points worth noting with Uber and Grab’s entry to the transport industry is that,

  • It opens up a new consumer base, who are attracted by the lower fares, ease of booking and without the need of tediously flagging a passing taxi on the streets. Some of them are not taking taxi on a regular basis but are not more frequent using Uber or Grab and the occasional taxi services.
  • Taxi companies, in the face of competitions (although slow to react), lowered taxi rental, provide petrol rebates, roll out better welfare and loyalty scheme like paid leave among other things that have longer term financial benefits to the taxi drivers. These were less pronounced and forthcoming before.
  • Provide an alternative employment to the taxi drivers if they want a change of scenery. In our interview with an ex-taxi driver for 10 years, Mr Tan who now drives for Grab relish the prospect relying on the Grab application to assign jobs to him, putting in less time plowing the road or having to wait in the endless queue at the airport and not to mention a private car for his personal usage due to the cheaper rent as compared to a taxi.

5. People who cannot afford to up-keep their car, hence they drive for Uber and Grab. “No money but still want to show-off”.

This is irrational. Everybody have different motivation. This is the same kind of label given to taxi drivers, cleaners, security guards or any undesirable and lowly perceived jobs.

If there is a job and you have the ability to perform that duty and make a decent income, would you do it if you can? People who work multiple jobs or part-time are go-getters of sorts. They do it because they have to , because they want to, or simply because they can, rather than sitting at home and doing nothing at all.

Let us remind ourselves that before Uber and Grab take the world by storm and maybe even now,  there are plenty of complains about our taxi drivers’ antics:

  1. Rude, i.e. chiding the if your destination is short from the airport
  2. Driving dangerously, i.e. stopping abruptly to pick up passenger on the roadside, driving fast and furiously,
  3. Stopping to ask where you are heading and drive away when your destination is not where he wants to go,
  4. Refusing to assist with luggage,
  5. Taking the long route,
  6. Poor road knowledge,
  7. The mysterious case of disappearing taxis during peak hours and just before the midnight charge kicking in etc.

I guess there are bad apples in every industry.

To sum it up, Private-hire drivers are different from Taxi drivers in many levels, technologically, demographics and service methods. But sharing similar challenges –  long working hours, social stigma among other things.

Private hire drivers and taxi drivers provide generally the same kind of service; which to move us from one point to another, in the safest and most economical way beneficial to both the driver and consumer.

One thing for sure is that the transport scene in Singapore and the world is different from 10 years ago. It is evolving, and like all things going forward; have to get better, and we can only hope that the nett end result is that everybody benefits from it.

So… they are different but the same.