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GrabCar, Uber drivers may require vocational licence to pick up passengers, legally

Private car hire drivers for Uber and GrabCar may soon be required to obtain a vocational licence in order to legally pick up passengers in Singapore. Currently, a ten hour training programme is being considered by the authorities for these drivers.

This review of mandating vocational licences for private car for hire drivers began last October. It is expected to be announced by the Ministry of Transport at the debate for Budget 2016 next month.

Other countries, such as the Philippines and Australia are also moving towards regulation of the private car for hire industry. There have been outcries in the past that private cars for hire are competing unfairly with taxis. In Singapore, taxi drivers are currently required to attend training courses totalling to sixty hours. Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan stated in October last year that the authorities were moving to level the playing field" between taxis and private car hire services.

“All GrabCar drivers with or without the taxi driver vocational licence (TDVL) already have to undergo a rigorous registration process that includes stringent background checks, in-person registration, induction training as well as vehicle inspections – all to ensure they understand and adhere to our code of conduct before they start picking up passengers. Introducing vocational licensing to our GrabCar drivers can serve as an added assurance of our commitment to deliver the best driver service standards and trip experience,” said Mr Lim Kell Jay, Head of Grab Singapore.

For the estimated tens of thousands of private car hire drivers in Singapore, there will be a "phase-in" period to allow drivers time to go for the vocational course.

With regard to the future outlook for the entire private chauffeur industry, Mr Lim has stated that Grab “welcomes frameworks that help create a sustainable transportation ecosystem where taxis and private hire vehicles co-exist.”

General manager of Uber in Singapore, Warren Tseng, had similar sentiments, stating that he hoped both drivers and passengers would benefit from the review, where drivers still work with flexible opportunities and commuters with reliable transportation options.

It was also emphasised that Uber also requires individuals interested in becoming driver partners to go through a stringent screening and training process, including clearing a third party background screening, verification of requisite vehicle and driver documents, and in-person training.

Besides vocational licences, the authorities are also considering the placement of clearer markings on private cars being used to pick up passengers. This could be through decals pasted on these vehicles to identify them.

Earlier on 11 May last year, the Singapore Parliament passed the Third-Party Taxi Booking Service Providers Bill to allow Land Transport Authority (LTA) powers to regulate taxi booking service provided by third-party companies.

With the passing of the bill, third-party taxi booking services that have more than 20 participating taxis will be required to register with LTA in order to operate in Singapore.

The service providers will be required to adhere to guidelines such as specifying fares and surcharges to commuters upfront, providing LTA with live data on bookings, following directions from LTA when certain conditions arise, and to provide taxi booking services that are “safe, reliable and efficient”.

Flouting the regulations can lead to fines of up to $100,000, suspension or having licences revoked.