Higher demand, fewer private hire drivers caused fare surge & booking difficulties: S Iswaran

The number of active PHC and taxi drivers have fallen by 18 per cent since January 2020.

Faris Alfiq | August 03, 2022, 12:46 PM

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Fare surges and difficulties in booking taxis and private hire cars (PHC) recently were caused by higher demand for point-to-point (P2P) trips with fewer drivers on the road, according to Minister for Transport S Iswaran on August 1.

Iswaran was responding to a parliamentary question filed by PAP Member of Parliament (MP) Saktiandi Supaat, who asked whether the ministry had conducted studies to identify both demand-side and supply-side causes of booking difficulties and price surges of private hire cars and taxis recently.

Demand for trips picked up “sharply” after easing of SMM

In his written reply, Iswaran said that since the community safe management measures (SMM) were eased in March and April this year, and the reopening of international borders, the daily demand for point-to-point (P2P) trips has picked up “sharply”.

He shared that daily P2P trips have increased by 30,000 in June 2022 as compared to February 2022.

However, the number of P2P drivers, including active taxi and private hire car drivers, has not seen an increase as rapidly as the demand, which led to the difficulties.

Number of drivers has fallen by 18 per cent since January 2020

Iswaran also shared that since January 2020, the number of active taxi and PHC drivers has fallen by 18 per cent, to about 57,000 drivers as of June 2022.

The decrease was in response to lower demand for P2P transport during the pandemic, he said.

“This was despite the Government setting aside more than S$530 million for P2P support measures such as the Covid-19 Driver Relief Fund and the Special Relief Fund,” he added.

In his written reply, he reassured that the P2P sector “will require time to adjust to the surge in demand after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted”.

“We are seeing signs that the market is responding,” he said, and noted that the Vocational Licence applications have increased recently, and some drivers who left the P2P sector may progressively return in response to the higher demand.

“These will boost the supply of P2P drivers in the upcoming months,” he said.

No plans to change the limit of paid carpooling trips a day

Saktiandi also asked whether MOT will consider liberalising current regulations limiting private motor cars to two paid carpooling trips a day.

In response, Iswaran said that the ministry has “no plans to change” the limit as there are existing avenues in place for drivers to provide ride-sharing services which are commercial in nature.

Such avenues include the P2P framework.

In his reply, Iswaran described carpool trips as “incidental and non-commercial in nature”.

“As private car owners typically take two trips a day – to and from home, the current regulatory regime allows private car owners to charge at cost-recovery basis for up to two trips a day,” he added.

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Top image via Jeremy Kwok on Unsplash