The National Taxi Association (NTA) has come out to complain about transport apps and other rental car companies with their own fleet of “taxis”. NTA says that such companies are eating away profits from taxi companies and declared that they feel such companies are unsafe because their drivers and fleets do not undergo government scrutiny.

Referring to transport apps like Uber, which allows users to send out requests for transport to nearby drivers subscribed to the app, and rental group Prime Leasing, which employs its own drivers to drive passengers, NTA spokesperson and Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Mr Ang says that the NTA has lodged complaints with the Land Transport Authority.

“It’s an issue of a level playing field… Taxi companies are required to have a fleet that is well maintained… they make sure that things like brakes are working properly. In the end, this is cost, which is translated into rentals.”

Mr Ang also says that these rival companies also do not send their drivers to vocational training and re-training and thus do not fulfill service quality criteria.

“Taxi drivers are exposed to a lot of public scrutiny – so much so that when a cabby uses his cab to drive his daughter to school, people ask ‘is that right?’. But suddenly, we have a group of people who may be ex-cabbies, who may have been banned because of disciplinary action, who may have criminal records, who don’t have health checks – they’re now operating these ‘limo’ services,” Mr Ang said.

Mr Ang says that the autorities should look into these issues as rival taxi companies are also about “public safety”.

Mr Ang said that in light of all these problems, “thank goodness we’ve not had any major incident,”

Taxi commuter Richard Ho, 55, avoids using these unmarked cars. The IT director said: “My wife definitely will never get into one. We’re a bit concerned about the security issue.”

But National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der-Horng said companies like Uber are merely being innovative, and “as long as they abide by the law and, given the essence of shared economy, why not?”

He said firms such as Uber complement taxis, especially during peak hours.

Mr Ang of the NTA acknowledged that companies like Uber can help meet peak transport demand. “But there needs to be clear rules on how they go about their business… Right now, I’m not sure there are.”

The LTA said business entities can lease rental cars to provide chauffeured vehicle services but these must be covered with adequate insurance. These rental cars also cannot pick up street hails.

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