In response to the introduction of the Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence (PDVL) where current and new private hire car drivers have to obtain, Members of Parliament raised various questions and concerns over the test.
MP for Tampines GRC Mr Desmond Choo had asked the Minister for Transport, what has been the passing rate for applicants since the implementation of the private hire driver's vocational licence and whether the Ministry will consider allowing the tests to be conducted in vernacular languages especially for older drivers.
Senior Minister of State for Transport Dr Janil Puthucheary replied in a written reply on 9 July that the passing rate for the Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence (PDVL) test is about 80 percent.
He stressed that private hire car (PHC) drivers must be able to read and speak simple English.
"This is so that they can navigate roads and buildings, the names of which are primarily in English. This also ensures that the drivers can communicate effectively with all commuters – both Singaporeans and tourists. This is why the PDVL course and test are conducted in English. There are no plans to conduct the tests in other languages," he stated.
MP for Potong Pasir SMC Mr Sitoh Yih Pin also filed a question on the language used in the test, asking the Minister for Transport whether language assistance can be arranged for candidates who are more proficient in their respective vernacular languages for the PDVL test while retaining a minimum proficiency requirement in the English language.
In a written reply, Minister Khaw Boon Wan wrote that the provision of chauffeured services puts drivers in contact with a wide range of commuters every day. Hence, PHC and taxi drivers must be able to speak simple English to communicate effectively with all commuters – both Singaporeans and tourists. Drivers must also be able to read basic English, so that they can navigate roads and buildings, the names of which are primarily in English.
"Nonetheless, we understand that there are PDVL applicants who may have language difficulties. If they wish to look for other jobs or transit to other industries, they can approach e2i or Workforce Singapore for employment assistance," the minister answered.
"For those who would still like to drive PHCs, and who require assistance in preparing for their PDVL tests, they can sign up for remedial classes conducted by the training providers – the Singapore Taxi Academy (STA) and ComfortDelGro (CDG) Taxi. Based on feedback, we understand that these have been useful in helping applicants pass their tests. LTA will also work with the training providers to ensure that language assistance is available to applicants who require them," he added.
Meanwhile, MP for Boon Lay GRC Mr Patrick Tay Teck Guan asked the Minister for Transport (MOT) whether he can provide a breakdown of the educational qualifications (primary, secondary, junior college, ITE, diploma, degree, masters and higher) of the 54,000 private-hire car drivers in Singapore.
Responding to this, Mr Khaw stated that of the 54,000 PHC drivers as of 31 March 2018, about 40% have attained tertiary / post-secondary level qualifications, including degree, diploma and ITE qualifications.
He noted that the highest qualification attained by another 40% of drivers is secondary school level qualifications. The remaining 20% have attained primary school level qualifications or other qualifications, such as the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications, as their highest qualification.
The minister also replied to a question filed by MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC Mr Christopher de Souza, who asked the Minister for Transport whether any new considerations have surfaced for the Ministry to consider raising the minimum age requirement for private-hire car drivers to that required for taxi drivers to better ensure the safety of passengers.
The minister answered, "Where safety is concerned, we are of the view that the number of years of driving experience is more important than age. In this regard, LTA requires a minimum of two years’ driving experience for applicants for the Private Hire Car Driver’s Vocational Licence (PDVL)."
Earlier in June, Land Transport Authority (LTA) announced that PHC drivers, who are providing chauffeured services on a one-year Approval-to-Drive (ATD) concession are reminded to pass the PDVL test and obtain their PDVLs by 30 June 2018.
It then reminded PHC drivers on Friday (1 June) that the PDVL course and tests have been conducted since the authority started receiving PDVL applications in April 2017, to equip drivers with the necessary skills to provide PHC services safely and competently.
The authority stated that ATD concession holders who have not obtained their PDVLs by 30 June will not be allowed to continue to provide chauffeured services.
Those who drive a PHC without a valid vocational licence will be liable, upon conviction, to a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail term of up to 3 months, or both.