Sunday, 2 November 2014

Singapore Booming Taxi Booking Apps..


Flagging Billboards at Bukit Merah View Hawker Center,


"Uncle, STOP!!.a deafening scream suddenly pierced into my ears.

"You almost bang into the car in front. You can go and die but I don't want to die young, ok!", my lady passenger furiously scolded me.

Yes, I had committed the most unforgivable sin for working on a third-party taxi booking Apps with my cellphone while driving. I could have landed with a hefty fine, jail, revoked license and worst of all, destroyed or killed an innocent life if a fatal accident had happened. I had absolutely no excuse for my "horrendous crime" and begged for her forgiveness.

The dangers of using a handphone while driving is well understood and yet it is an incorrigible habit of many drivers worldwide.

Lately, taxi drivers in Singapore are incentivized and bombarded with an explosion of third-party taxi booking Apps like GrabTaxi (Malaysia, Oct 2013), EasyTaxi (Brazil, Dec 2013), Uber (USA, Sept, 2014) and Hailo (Nov, 2014). A lot had been written about these Apps in the press and blogsphere. You may want to read them at these links..(Boom In Taxi Booking Apps) (Vulcanpost - GrabTaxi) ( Say-Hello-to-Hailo-Apps ) (Mr. Tan Kim Lian Apps)         

As anticipated, our transport authority is now mulling to control and regulate these Apps as their impact on public transportation system grows. Currently, technological companies that operate these Apps are not regulated. Now, tell me, which business or part of our daily life is not regulated by PAP?.

Nevertheless, as a taxi driver, I think the need to use a handphone to work on these Apps while driving has the most dangerous impact on me and my passengers. If an increase in regulation is indeed required, scholars at LTA should focus more on the safety impact of these Apps rather than the economic impact on Government coffers. I hope Mr. Ang Hin Kee (PAP MP and advisor for National Taxi Association) will also focus more on the welfare of taxi drivers instead of finding faults with these Apps companies, echoing LTA views or protecting GLC taxi operators interests. 

Although a proposed amendment to Road Traffic Act next year will make using or holding a mobile device while driving a more serious traffic offense with stiffer penalties, all laws will never eliminate diehards. There will always be law-breakers. Which taxi driver never make an illegal U-turn to catch a passenger faster?. In their natural anxiety to earn more, surely more taxi drivers will lose their vocational license and livelihood when caught using these Apps while driving.

While it is an offence when a driver holds a phone and uses it to communicate with someone else through voice or texting, it is not against the law to use the phone or other mobile devices if it is mounted on a holder under the existing and new law.  

Thus for the safety of drivers and passengers, the technologies companies that operates the taxi booking Apps should be legislated to compulsorily provide a strong, adjustable and detachable holder to their drivers. They should also provide a handphone solely delegated for use on their Apps only. Uber had done this!. I hope the other three techno companies would follow soon if they want more taxi drivers to join them. Their investment would be recovered in the long run when more drivers in their fold.  

As you probably know, when I was a COMFORT driver, I was not interested in these Apps because COMFORT provides me with more call bookings than I could handle. Then, I could pick and choose which call booking I want to oblige. I've no competitor fighting for my call booking. I would avoid Mrs.India and grab Mrs. Europe as I've the luxury of choices. My poorer cousins then in SMRT, Transcab, Premier and Prime do not enjoy such luxury as they have few call booking.    

Sad to say, to this day many gullible taxi commuters still assumed that they could get a taxi faster through COMFORT call booking just because COMFORT has the biggest fleet of taxi here. Unfortunately, when making a call booking to COMFORT, especially during peak hours, they would often get a recorded message saying that "no taxis are available in their area. please call back ten minutes later". 

It was usually a big hassle to book a taxi with COMFORT. In reality, there were tens of taxis in their area waiting for call booking, except that they were not COMFORT taxis but SMRT, Transcab, Premier or Prime taxis. The latter were ignored and therefore had few call booking jobs.

However, when a person uses EasyTaxi, GrabTaxi, Uber or Hailo, instead of calling COMFORT, he/she could get a taxi faster, for the simple reason that the call booking goes to all brands of participating taxis in the vicinity instead of just COMFORT taxis.

A total of six taxi companies operate nearly 28,000 taxis here. If all the 28,000 taxis use the various Apps, it means more taxis are available for booking than the 16,000 COMFORT taxis! Unfortunately, if more taxis are occupied with booking jobs, less taxis will be available for street pick-up jobs. But from a national perspective, if more taxi rides are made through call booking, less taxis will need to cruise empty on the road hunting for passengers. Taxi drivers can stay stationary off the roads to answer call booking, thereby resulting in less traffic congestion, accidents, pollution and fuel wastage, among other benefits.

Unlike selfish COMFORT who warned their drivers against using the Apps, the enlightened SMRT collaborated with HAILO and encourages their drivers to use the Apps to earn more.        

For too long, COMFORT's taxi drivers and commuters alike had to endure and live with monopolistic, inefficient and arrogant COMFORT. Soon, when 3rd party taxi booking application is commonly used, COMFORT will discover an exodus of taxi drivers joining the poorer cousins who now has equally abundant call bookings. It is an industry fact that many taxi drivers join COMFORT only because of their copious call booking and nothing else.

Taxi Drivers Crowding to Join Apps.

At this juncture, I would like to share with you my observations, thoughts and experiences in using these Apps for the last two weeks as a taxi driver.

Two weeks ago, I went to the popular Bukit Merah View hawker center for my lunch break. As soon as I got out from my cab in the car park, a young lady approached me with a EasyTaxi leaflet and started her sweet sales talk to persuade me to sign up as a EasyTaxi driver. I happily joined EasyTaxi without hesitation and in seconds, she downloaded and activate the system application of EasyTaxi available in the Google Store of my cheap Samsung ACE android smartphone. Instantly, I could accept call booking.

The other three Apps companies ( GrabTaxi, Hailo and Uber) were also present inside the hawker center, with hundreds of eager taxi drivers queuing to sign up. With four huge billboards flagging on that windy day, the "makan" place was turned into a busy exhibition hall of Apps companies.

Many GrabTaxi drivers came to top-up their credit to use for paying the 30 cents tax for every job done through GrabTaxi Apps. In less than hour, I observed at least twenty drivers came to top up their credit in cash of between $20 to $50 through Mr.JingWei's mobile device. I understand that in future, GrabTaxi will allow their drivers to do this top up at any AXS machine. On that day, it seems that GrabTaxi was the most popular Apps company in the hawker center because of these top up visitors. 

But most drivers were crowding around the Uber table and joining them because Uber was providing a free delegated Iphone to solely use their application and a holder for the Iphone to mount onto the taxi windscreen. This Iphone cannot be used as an ordinary smartphone. 

Uber is also unique because they accept non-taxi driver to join their rank. As long as you own an acceptable car and is their approved driver, they will provide you with taxi booking jobs and you can use your private car to ferry your assigned passengers like a chauffeur. But you certainly cannot ply the street with your private car to ferry passengers like normal taxi drivers. 

The enterprising Prime Taxi company is collaborating with Uber to lease out their fleet of private car at $55.50 per day to anyone who is interested in the taxi business but do not hold a taxi vocational license. When your rented car is not used for ferrying Uber passengers, you may use it to drive up to Malaysia for holiday.
During their promotional period, each Techno company offers different monetary incentives to both the drivers and commuters to attract them to use their Apps. Like most business, when the promotional period is over or their business becomes established, the initial rewards will give way to normal charges as these companies are not charitable organisations. They need to make a profit to stay alive and they also tried hard to find a niche in this competitive business.

For example, EasyTaxi and Hailo give confirmed jobs to drivers while Grabtaxi offers more jobs but through competitive bidding. When using Hailo Apps, it is not like a Western shootout where the fastest trigger gets the job because sometimes the fastest finger could be a lot further away - which means the customer had to wait longer for the cab.

I prefer Hailo or EasyTaxis as my reflexes are slower than younger drivers. I avoid Uber as payment is too slow to my liking. Uber also competes with normal taxi drivers for jobs through their use of private cars. In any case, working with more than two Apps creates confusion and distraction while I am driving.

I wholeheartedly welcome these third-party taxi booking Apps to Singapore because they improve my income with more jobs, incentives and lower my fuel cost as a result of less cruising around hunting for passengers. In the last two weeks, I did about 10 call booking jobs a day with an additional income of about $25 per day from booking fee alone.

The only grouse I have with these Apps is the frequent inaccurate and brief address of pick up point displayed on my handphone. I had to call the passenger to confirm the address. When I do that I inevitably commit a serious traffic offence for using my handphone. I hope my Apps partners will resolve these teething problems soon and also provide me with the aforesaid "safety devices".  

Honestly. the main benefit I get from using these Apps is driving less hours and still earn the same income. I usually stop driving when I hit a monetary target and not on an hour mark - it means that when I hit $150 collection before cost deductions, I stop driving irrespective of the time. It could be 2pm, 3pm or 4pm. But unfortunately, I think soon I had to surrender my vocational license to LTA because I'll surely be caught for working the Apps with my handphone while driving. Anyway, at my age it is a good excuse for early retirement from driving to become a security guard instead! Cheers and Good Luck to each and everyone in our driving business!

Tombstone Guard.

45 comments:

Xianlong said...

Text on this blogpost of yours is smaller than usual when viewed on my chrome browser.

Thanks for your opinion on the taxi booking apps. Is good the fight via another platform is gonna give COMFORT's booking system a massive headache.

Same thing that happen when social media aka another platform broke the pap's traditional mass media monopoly.

Those incumbents can jolly well be busy busy busy working on their booking system. Newcomers will change the rules via another platform.

Thomas Mah said...

I am using grabtaxi too. Normally I will park in a side road or carpark to wait for bookings. Drive to pick up after it is confirmed. It will be safer and less stress on your eye and finger.

Of course you have to pick your location carefully. :)

Lim James said...

Hi, Xianlong.

Thks for your comments.

You can use Firefox browser and increase the font size to have a bigger text.

Yes, these Apps will give COMFORT a run for their money on call bookings. Sad to say, it affects my buddies who are still with them unless they add these Apps to their call booking options.

Lim James said...

Hi Thomas Mah,

Presently, it's impossible to survive to solely depend on these Apps for our pick ups. We still need to cruise the streets to hunt for customers. Hopefully in future when more commuters use these Apps for their taxi rides, we could park & wait for call bookings. I guess this could only happens when the call booking fee is removed or reduced.

Jacelyn Richards said...

Your blog is mindblowing one small request Can you increase your font size of letters in your difficult to read. Thanks in advance

Lim James said...



Allow me to clear the air on my daily collection as a relief driver on the day shift.

In Singapore, a day shift TD on average collects about $20 – $22 an hour. So if he drives 8 hrs/day, he generally collects about $160. I pick my first pax from 8.30am after dropping my wife at work and stop driving around 4.30pm (8hrs). I clock around 200km & spent about 30mins at lunch. Therefore, a TD collection depends on the hours on the road. A night shift driver collects about 20% more because of more surcharges but has to clock more mileage with higher fuel cost. TD don’t earn easy money. Don’t believe, join the rank!

mrsfreeloader said...

Firstly, like to say great blog, thanks for sharing. I am heartened to hear that alongside income generation, which is a must for any job, you have discussed the safety issue of using a mobile device whilst driving. I hope this is something everyone works towards resolving, for everyones' safety. One other issue that I think must be considered, and that may cause young women or vulnerable individuals to stop using these apps to call taxis, is that unlicensed taxis can use these apps to 'be a taxi for a day' etc. As a young woman I have never knowingly booked or taken an unlicensed taxi for personal safety reasons. Especially not when travelling alone. In the UK there was a TV advertising campaign advising women never to do so. Do you think this issue of personal safety of vulnerable passengers and unlicensed taxis will be addressed by app companies or authorities?

5757quanto said...

You don't have to be a security guard. With your age and wisdom you are a treasure to the younger generation.老是寶. Only country that have the know how to tap the wisdom of the older folks, can attain genuine wealth. Sad to say our country is solely interested in material wealth, which is the shortest route to hell

Hotel to Stay in Cebu said...

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Tommy Tan said...

Personally, I avoid taking call bookings.
I find the rush and anxiety to take a call booking anti-thema to a peaceful enjoyable driving. The potential risk of accidents from looking for unfamiliar pick ups, the no shows, I deem, is not worth the effort. The booking fees have to go up much higher to entice me into these jobs.

Low Paul said...

Nowadays pple cant own their taxis. Need to pay rental daily. End up work half the time to pay rent.
taxi drivers suffer from various work related diseases while their taxi companies income flourish.
they r better off investing their money in these companies than paying rental n see half their money come to naught.

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Albert Zee said...

As long, as uber is kept at bay and other apps are not too greedy, it could be a future of taxi dispatching

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Sandbox Advisors said...

It can be really dangerous to use a phone while driving yet people still do it. An accident is a terrible thing, especially when your job is driving.

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Michele Ward said...

une application destinée à faciliter la localisation et réservation d’un taxi se trouvant dans une même zone que le client qui parfois a du mal à le localiser alors qu’il se trouve à moins d’un bloc de sa position.
Taxi-Diali, comme son nom l’indique clairement, c’est une application bien adaptée à tout téléphone mobile fonctionnant sous le système Android. Une fois téléchargée dans chaque portable, du client et du chauffeur de taxi, elle permet à ce dernier d’être facilement repéré par son client qui cherche patiemment un taxi.
Bien sur, pour le client dès que l’application lui signale la présence d’un taxi ou plusieurs dans la même zone où il se trouve, il aura toute la latitude de choisir et de faire appel à celui qui lui convient le mieux puisque toutes les coordonnées du taxi sont affichées dans son écran. Lorsque le client valide son choix pour tel taxi , le chauffeur du dit taxi peut également identifier la position de l’appelant grâce à la géolocalisation intégrée dans l’application et rappliquer directement à sa position sans qu’il ne lui la donne.
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Jenny Dsouza said...

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Limo Limops said...

I am using grab taxi too. Normally I will park in a side road or car park to wait for bookings. Drive to pick up after it is confirmed. It will be safer and less stress on your eye and finger.

Of course you have to pick your location carefully.

ICV said...

I am using uber taxi this days, its quite efficient to get a taxi with uber taxi during peak hour... but I only do this when I need a cab urgently, else its better to BMW - Bus , Mrt , Walk

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Anonymous said...

How are you doing Uncle Lim?

Hope that you are fine!

You have not been blogging lately..

CNY is coming..

Wish you a happy NY!

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Boh Tong said...

James we have not heard from you for almost 3 months,no update. We are worried something may have happened to you :-(

Lim James said...

Hi, Boh Tong,

Thank you very much for your sincere concern of my well being. Yes, it's been a long 3 months since my last post. And I know I owe my friends and supporters an explanation. Honestly, my deteriorating eye sight and resultant splitting headache is causing me tremendous difficulties in working at my computer. However, I'm not giving up one of my few joys in life.i.e.blogging. Presently, I'm still driving a cab as I'm certified medically fit to drive but in the day shift. To overcome my headache with a monitor, I'm trying out using voice to words software for my blogging. So far, its not smooth going but I'm not giving up. Trust me, I should be back at my blog in no time. Meanwhile, I wish to take this opportunity to wish my Chinese readers and other races as well, a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year. May God Bless Each and Everyone of you and your family. Regards James Lim i

Erica belinda said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Mr. Lim, Please take good care of your body, do not drive the taxi too long hours. Happy New Year
林先生,请照顾好你的自己的身体,不要长时间开Taxi 。希望你的眼睛可以快点恢复好
新年快乐 From : Patrick

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Anonymous said...

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If u see his FB cover pags he appears to be making merry with a whitey and life is dandy as long as the white man is happy.

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Jacky Yap said...

Hi there! This is Jacky from Vulcan Post.

Came across your article and was wondering if we can republish this article on Vulcan Post so there are more readers who read it? We will properly credit you in the article of course.

Thanks!

Jacky@vulcanpost.com

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Lim James said...

Hi, Jacky Yap,

Go ahead and publish my post at anywhere you want.

Regards
James Lim

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Anonymous said...

Hello!

You can try using communication apps that allow you to sign up without having to include your phone number, and will allow you to speak easily to anyone while you are driving. One such app is called Roger, which is a walkie-talkie app that only has 3 buttons. All you have to do is just tap the button once to speak, and then tap again when you are done speaking. The entire app maintains a very simple look, and is built for you to talk easily no matter where you may be (even if you are offline) :) Do give it a try!

Lim James said...

HI Anon,

Thanks for your recommendation.

I'll try using "Roger".

Regards
James

Don punish the dog. Wong said...

Testing

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