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Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill to better support various innovations in transport sector

The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill was introduced for second reading in Parliament on Tuesday (7 February).

Land Transport Authority (LTA) stated that the proposed amendments to the Road Traffic Act (RTA) are to better support various innovations in the transport sector, while safeguarding commuters’ interests, in particular, safety.

It noted that autonomous vehicle (AV) technology has the potential to transformationally improve Singapore’s transportation system.

Giving an example that autonomous buses could one day, address the problem of shortage of bus drivers, while on-demand autonomous shuttles could comfortably and conveniently ferry commuters from the doorstep to the train station. It has been facilitating AV trials by various technology developers at designated locations such as one-north and CleanTech Park since 2015.

As AV technology is evolving at a rapid pace, it stressed that rules put in place to regulate AV trials must be highly adaptable. The proposed amendments to the RTA will give LTA the flexibility to create and amend rules to facilitate AV trials on public roads, as and when needed, while ensuring the safety of road users.

However, netizens have noted that trials have not gone well with a reported accident with its AV at one-north.

As announced at MOT’s Committee of Supply debate in 2016, LTA said that it will be introducing regulations for private hire car (PHC) drivers and vehicles to better protect commuters’ interests. These include requiring all private hire car drivers to obtain a vocational licence, and to display a tamper-evident decal on vehicles used to provide PHC services.

To support this, LTA stated that the proposed amendments to the RTA will empower LTA to introduce and enforce rules prescribing the duties and responsibilities of PHC booking service operators. Private hire car booking service operators refer to persons or business entities which provide ride-sourcing services (i.e. match passengers to drivers for rides in a private hire car), such as Uber and Grab.

It said that these include ensuring that their drivers have the required vocational licences and that the PHCs used are adequately insured.

“PHC booking service operators can be fined up to $10,000 for every offence,” it added.

In addition, LTA said that the proposed amendments to the Act will give LTA the power to issue general suspension orders barring all PHC drivers from driving for a PHC booking service operator that has had three or more instances of their drivers committing major offences within a rolling 12-month period.

These offences are providing private hire car services without a valid vocational licence, using an unlicensed private hire car to provide private hire car services, and using a private hire car without adequate insurance to provide private hire car services.

During the suspension period, LTA noted that it will be an offence for any driver to drive for the PHC booking service operator. Drivers doing so will be penalised with a fine not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding three months or both for the first offence, and a fine not exceeding $2,000 or imprisonment not exceeding six months or both for subsequent offences. Their vocational licence may also be suspended or revoked.

Since mid-2016, LTA said that it has stepped up enforcement at Tuas and Woodlands Checkpoints against the evasion of Vehicle Entry Permit (VEP) fees, fixed Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) fees and toll charges. LTA is currently empowered by the RTA to turn back foreign-registered vehicles with unpaid VEP fees.

“The proposed amendments to the RTA will empower LTA to also turn back foreign-registered vehicles with other unpaid fees and charges, such as tolls, ERP fees and the Reciprocal Road Charge, thereby strengthening LTA’s enforcement against offending foreign-registered vehicles,” it noted.

To step up deterrence, LTA stressed that the maximum composition sum for any RTA offence will be increased from the current $500 to 50% of the maximum fine prescribed for the offence, or $5,000, whichever is lower, when the Bill is passed.

“This will enable LTA and the Traffic Police to better calibrate composition sums according to the severity of the offence,” it added.