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Grab, Uber drivers to be licensed under new regime

SINGAPORE — By the first half of next year, the private-hire car industry will be regulated under a regime which includes licensing for drivers, registration of vehicles with the authorities, and the prominent display of decals and drivers’ vocational licence.

Photo: Grab/Facebook

Photo: Grab/Facebook

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SINGAPORE — By the first half of next year, the private-hire car industry will be regulated under a regime which includes licensing for drivers, registration of vehicles with the authorities, and the prominent display of decals and drivers’ vocational licence. 

Under the new regulations, all drivers wishing to provide chauffeured services will be required to apply for and obtain a Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence (PDVL). Applicants must undergo a medical examination and will have to go through background screening. 

Announcing the new regime in Parliament on Tuesday (April 12) during the Ministry of Transport’s Committee of Supply debate, Senior Minister of State (Transport) Ng Chee Meng said: “We have taken a practical, balanced and minimalist approach in these new regulations. They will ensure that we meet our key objectives of protecting commuters’ interests and safety, allowing the point-to-point transport industry to grow and innovate, and also at the same time helping our taxi industry adjust to new and disruptive ‘sharing’ technologies.” 

To qualify for a PDVL, drivers who are Singapore citizens must be registered owners of a chauffeured-services company. Applicants could also be employed by a limousine company. They must also have possessed a Class 3 or 3A driver’s licence for at least two years before applying. 

Before receiving their licence, applicants must undergo a PDVL course — lasting about 10 hours — and pass the requisite tests. Licence holders will be subject to a disciplinary regime in the form of a demerit-point system. 

Except those who have been active on the roads and have no demerit points, licensed drivers must also undergo a three-hour refresher course every six years after obtaining their licence. 

Drivers who work for limousine firms may be exempted from the PDVL course if the firms’ training programmes meet the Land Transport Authority’s (LTA) requirements. 

Taxi drivers looking to enter the private-hire car sector may convert their Taxi Driver’s Vocational Licence (TDVL) to a PDVL by attending a two-hour briefing on the regulations governing chauffeured services. 

Speaking in Parliament, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that although the sharing economy — particularly new business models run by Grab and Uber — were benefiting commuters globally, they were “disrupting existing business models of taxi operators, with impact on taxi drivers”. 

While Uber was “causing havoc” in many cities, Mr Khaw said many countries have taken the wrong turn in banning the app-based private car hire service. The Republic, he added, should not obstruct innovation, especially when commuters stand to benefit, but should be mindful of the disruption to incumbents and help them make the “correct adjustments”. He added: “We should seek to achieve win-win for both the disrupters and the incumbents, with commuter welfare as the underpinning principle. It can be done.”

Under the new rules, private-hire car drivers will also be required to register vehicles used for chauffeured services with the LTA. They must also display a tamper-evident decal to assure commuters that the private-hire car is registered with the authorities.

The decal, LTA said, will also facilitate enforcement action against unregistered vehicles providing chauffeured services, and private-hire cars that engage in unpermitted activity, such as picking up passengers who hail them on the streets. 

The LTA said the new regulations are intended to “better protect commuter interests”, particularly safety, and comes after a review of the chauffeured-services industry – which include services provided by UberX and GrabCar – and engagement with stakeholders, including commuters, private-hire car drivers and car-rental companies. 

Separately, the 60-hour course for TDVL applicants will be shortened to 25 hours. There are also plans to have part of the revised course conducted via e-learning. The duration of the refresher courses for taxi drivers will also be trimmed, with the six-hour course halved to three hours and the nine-hour course reduced to five hours. In addition, active licence holders with no demerit points and who are nominated by their taxi companies will be exempted from the refresher. 

The TDVL course and refresher will also be updated and streamlined to take account of changing industry practices and new technology. This includes expanding route-planning training beyond the hard-copy Street Directory to include other navigational tools, such as the Global Positioning System. The changes to the TDVL course are expected to come into force from May.


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