Taxi fare cheats were recently in the spotlight after newer, stricter regulations were introduced from May 9, 2016, to deter fare skippers.
While the move was applauded, it has apparently not stopped some passengers from attempting to ride and dash.
What traditional taxis cannot do yet
Ride sharing apps like Uber or Grab have the option to automatically punish fare evaders. If for some reason, the previous transaction for the ride taken did not go through, the user would not be able to book another Uber until the outstanding sum is settled.
Taxi companies obviously do not have that luxury of filtering and blocking riders since most fare cheats are those who got the cab from flag downs.
But what's more troubling is that even with the new regulations kicking in, the number of taxi fare cheats might not drop drastically.
And here's why.
It is a hassle to report fare cheats
A plausible reason fare cheats might be doing what they are doing is simply because they don't think they will get caught -- a problem that stems from the difficulties of reporting such fare dodging.
Which is a problem fare cheats might have been well-aware of and exploiting all along.
A post on the Facebook community, Singapore Taxi Driver, highlighted the challenges the taxi driving community face in reporting fare cheats:
With the increase fare evasion, is it time to relook at the procedure to launch a report on unpaid fare?
Currently, the process is very time consuming and drivers had to sacrifice their resting time to launch the report...
The procedure as follow:
1) Upon non payment of fare, Taxi driver had to make a police report.
2) Together with the police report, the taxi driver had to make a trip down to the company to report the non payment. (Hopefully the company will compensate the loss of earning due to non payment).
3) Lastly, the taxi driver had to go to LTA to launch a report with LTA for them to investigate.
So, can we simplified the steps so that taxi drivers would able to luanch the report without sacrificing their sleep?
Reporting a fare dodger might seem commonsensical at first, but when the fare you lose is, say, less than $15, would you bother sacrificing an hour or two to go report it? The cost of reporting a fare cheat can be more than $15 in revenue.
Moreover, the system of reporting is such a hassle that when Ivan Toh, a member of the Facebook group, trapped a potential fare dodger and called the police, he was informed that he had to make an initial report to his company first.
And the police tell me I have to go report to my company 1st then go file a police report and then go to LTA. (Fxxking busy to do all Tis for summon him is it?) for me as night driver I sleep more important so after police telling him he will get summon he search his wallet again and he found $65 rigget (Ringgit) and I accepted the offer and go off (2hrs) wasted. LTA rules to summon Tis ppl (This people) too troublesome for taxi driver do u all agree? Why the police can't just summon them?
What can be done?
The reporting process can and should be streamlined so that taxi drivers do not have to make the decision between reporting a crime or losing a few hours of their income.
As mentioned in the aforementioned Facebook post, the process seems to be
1) Making a police report
2) Following that up by reporting the offense to the taxi company (which might yield some compensation for hours lost)
3) Then finally heading down to the Land Transport Authority to lodge yet another report.
But why does the taxi driver have to be involved in all three steps of reporting?
Some might argue that it would be more convenient for the taxi driver to report to the company, who will then handle the remaining two reports with the police and the LTA, only bringing the taxi driver back into the fray when further clarifications are needed.
This will lessen the income lost from the reporting process and still encourage taxi drivers to report those that do not pay their fares.
Regulations are a great deterrent and all, but only when those guilty start to believe they stand a high chance of getting caught.
Which they assume they won't for now.