On Sunday (22 Nov), The Straits Times (ST) published an article titled “Cabby hit by plunge in income pushes for pay-as-you-use rental” featuring a cab driver named Peter Quek, who had seen a drop in income as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

ST’s report highlighted that the 44-year-old single father to two daughters, both aged 14 and 16, drives 60 hours a week and has been driving a taxi for more than five years. It was also noted that his parents live with him.

The ComfortDelGro’s driver claimed that his trips had dropped from 150 trips a week to just more than 100 trips a week since the global pandemic.

Mr Quek’s monthly income had also reduced from S$3,000 to S$1,500.

“Pandemic or not, whatever I make in the first few hours of driving goes to covering operating costs,” he told ST.

“It’s only after about seven hours that I break even for the day, and then begin to earn my income, so the fall in income is disproportionate to the decrease in passengers,” Mr Quek continued.

The cabby also receives S$1,000 per month from the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme for nine months, which was launched by the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) in March.

By tracking his expenses and earnings through the Excel spreadsheets, Mr Quek found that his daily operating costs work out to about S$180 after rental relief from the taxi operator and the government.

He noted that the amount also includes “hidden costs” such as Medisave contributions and income tax deductions.

“Many drivers might not take these into account, but as self-employed persons, it’s important that we know all the costs ourselves, because we are going to bear them,” said Mr Quek.

These circumstances prompted him to write to the Ministry of Transport and ComfortDelGro in September to propose for a lower rental rate for taxi drivers, with additional charges calculated based on the length of time they use the taxi.

He believes that with such a system, which caters to all types of cabbies, taxi drivers could have more autonomy and would be motivated to plan their schedules.

“Instead of slogging away for hours just to make up daily rental, a pay-as-you-use system will let us break even earlier in the day and enjoy better work-life balance,” Mr Quek told ST.

With a lower rental rate, taxi drivers would be free from “the current mental and physical toll of making rent”, he added.

Mr Quek also shared with ST that “not all drivers have been impacted by the pandemic equally” given that only some drivers work full-time.

“Some are retirees who do not need the income as much, and can afford to drive less. Such a system will allow them to,” he noted.

Netizens speculate cabby was the same ‘Peter Quek’ who is banned from using Grab

While most netizens – who wrote under the comment section of ST’s Facebook post on the interview with Peter Quek – agreed with Mr Quek’s proposed idea, some were quick to spot that the ComfortDelGro’s driver is actually the same ‘Peter Quek’ reported by ST back in 2016.

Earlier on 26 July 2016, ST reported about a Grabcar passenger named Peter Quek who has been “permanently banned” from using the ride-hailing platform after a complaint from a driver. It was said to be “the first reported case” of a passenger being banned from Grab for harassing drivers.

ST reported that in the span of nine months since November 2015, Mr Quek would make bookings for rides at odd hours or give fake destinations, or pick-up points, to drivers.

He would also make excuses not to board the ride after the driver arrived and claimed that he had gotten a taxi, before forcing the driver to cancel the booking which would affect the driver’s cancellation rate and incentive payment by Grab.

A copy of police report seen by ST stated that Grabcar driver Eliza Shen had alleged Mr Quek of harassing her in Whatsapp messaging groups and Facebook discussion groups by calling her a ‘chio bu’ [attractive woman] and said she was ‘not bad looking’.

Ms Shen also claimed that Mr Quek persisted in posting photos of her son, which he had taken from Facebook and instant messaging chat groups, despite she had asked him not to do so.

“The Straits Times understands that Mr Quek is a driver with SMRT Taxis in his 30s or 40s. He could not be reached for comments,” ST wrote in the report.

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