By James Lim
It is almost a month since my last post. You might have wondered what has happened to be lately. Am I in good health, sick or lying in bed with a serious injury from traffic accident?. Your kind concern is understandable because my job as a cabby expose me constantly to many dangers on the road. There’s almost a weekly news of traffic accidents involving taxi drivers. Fortunately, with God’s grace, I’m Ok!.
Actually, it is not difficult to explain why I have not written as much as I did in the past. Apart from getting older, I’m not enjoying cab driving as much as I used to. I also noticed recently that I haven’t been engaging in conversation with my passengers as much as I used to. I’m sure all related. Maybe, I’m just been feeling tired and withdrawn.
However, if a friendly and talkative guy gets into my cab and engage me with the hottest issue of the day, like the current increase in flagdown cab fares, I’ll throw my taciturn temperament out of my window. And this was what happened few days ago when I picked up this youngish IT executive at Vivo City.
“Uncle, why your company keep increasing cab fares so often nowadays?
“My friend, my Sonata flagdown fare is still the same at $3.20….no increase. It’s only our company’s new Hyundai i40 that has gone up to $3.80. By the way, this new model i40 is introduced 6 years after the Sonata. So, flagdown fare increase is not often every few months. But the most drastic taxi fares increases was about two years ago when surcharges period were extended, meter rates and other related items were highly increased.
“Uncle, it seems to me that your company don’t care about customer welfare at all”
“Young man, you’re right. Not only our company don’t care about customer welfare, they also don’t care about taxi driver welfare.
“Uncle, how can you say that. The flagdown fare increases also benefits you, right?.
“No, the increased flagdown fare don’t benefit me. In fact, I’ve to work harder and longer hours because I’ve to pay a higher rental for the new i40 at $126 per day instead of $100 for my old Sonota. My rental had gone up by 26% but the flagdown fare increased by only 16%. (from $3.20 to $3.70).
Our company feels justified to charge a higher rental because the newer model cost more. They don’t care about the reaction from taxi commuters or suffering of taxi drivers. Now, many taxi commuter avoids taking i40 if other models of taxis are available. Do you know that taxi companies are like Food Court Operators (eg. Kopitiam & Food Republic). Once they renovate their premises, stall rental and food price increased correspondingly.. It’s the consumers and hawkers who suffers.
On the other hand, the company makes more money introducing the new models. As a proof, Comforts revealed in their 2012 financial report that in Singapore their revenue from taxi business was10.1% higher at $824 millions due to higher rental from a larger fleet and an increase in new replacement taxis.
Uncle, if you’re not happy with your company, you could join other taxi companies like SMRT, Trans-Cabs, Premier etc…..
“My friend, it’s easy to say. Don’t you know that other taxi companies also introduced new models and increased their flagdown fares too. For example.
- SMRT’s Toyota Priuses at $3.80
- SMRT’s Hyandai Azera at $3.80
- Trans-Cab’s Renault at $3.90
- Trans-Cab’s Epica at $3.60
- Premier’s Priuses at $3.50
- Prime’s Priuses at $3.60
“Aiyoh, looks like these taxi companies operate like a cartel. Why LTA is not doing anything about it?”
On the surface, LTA’s policy is “Bo Chap, or Mai Chap” (don’t care or don’t get involves) because taxi companies are private business. Government don’t get involve in setting prices of consumer products or services except essential items or services. They let the market set the pricing.
In my opinion, the greatest handicap in the taxi industry is a lack of serious competition.The biggest taxi company controls 60% of the market and is a GLC (Government Link Company). You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to speculate whether they are bedding each other.
“Uncle, what’s your greatest grievances against your company?
Worst of all, all taxi companies do all they can to muster as large a fleet of taxis as possible and get every taxi rented out to drivers, regardless of the demand and competition on the street. As long as rentals are collected promptly, they do not care how the drivers survive.
“Wow, you talk so bad about your company. You’re not scare to get sacked like blogger Gintai (Link)?
“So be it. If you lives in a forest, don’t worry about no wood to start a fire”
This article was first published at James’s blog “Diary of a Singaporean Cabby”