One in three cabbies report ‘driver fatigue’


Wake up call to look into the taxi industry

SINGAPORE: While waiting in line for passengers late one night, cabbie Han Poh Guan witnessed a taxi in front slide and hit a wall as its driver had fallen asleep without pulling up the handbrake.

It is common for taxi drivers to doze off on the job because of prolonged driving without a good rest, said the 57-year-old.

Long hours and sedentary conditions are perennial complaints among taxi drivers here, many of whom work beyond the 12-hours-per-day guideline suggested by the Manpower Ministry.

A recent study among 231 cabbies here also found that one in three of them experience driver fatigue, with those who work longer hours – more than 10 hours a day – reporting a higher chance of dozing off inadvertently.

More than half (55 per cent) of taxi drivers surveyed said they do not take any day off.

The study – the first to look at risk factors of fatigue driving among taxi drivers here – was conducted by the National University of Singapore’s Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health and published in this month’s issue of the Singapore Medical Journal.

The researchers also observed that those who fall asleep at the wheel tend to report poor sleep quality, have another part-time job or consume more than three caffeinated drinks daily.

There was also a higher proportion of cabbies, relative to the adult population in Singapore, who reported chronic ailments such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus and high cholesterol.

“Effort should be made to promote a healthier lifestyle in this high-risk group, so as to curb the development of medical conditions and to prevent further complications from existing (conditions),” said the researchers, who randomly surveyed cabbies from one of the largest local companies when they were queueing to pay rental fees or waiting for their cars to be serviced.

While there are currently no official guidelines on taxi drivers’ work hours and rest periods, the researchers said their findings give cause to review existing policies and implement measures to address sleep-deprived driving, such as educating drivers to recognise when weariness creeps in.

National Taxi Association (NTA) executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said cabbies drive for long hours to cover high overheads.

The Land Transport Authority’s regulations requiring a minimum percentage of taxis to undertake a daily mileage of at least 250km also contribute to cabbies’ daily grind, he added.

However, more has been done in recent years to care for the health of taxi drivers, Mr Ang said. For instance, the NTA has worked with the Health Promotion Board since late 2012 to bring free health screenings and workshops to cabbies, while also offering them stretch bands and pedometers.

The association also organises weekly jogging and bowling exercises during off-peak hours to “get cabbies on their feet”, although drivers have been slow to take it up, Mr Ang said.

He expects the introduction of third-party taxi applications and a widened pool of relief drivers to give cabbies some relief.

Taxi drivers whom TODAY spoke to said they have to work long hours to make ends meet.

“Rent and fuel costs can go up to S$190 a day and I have to take up to 30 trips to see net income growth,” said Mr Han, who drives from6pm to 6am every day.

While he tries to get at least eight hours of sleep daily, this is often affected by the time he reserves for his family. “I have no time and money to exercise or go for check-ups,” said the ComfortDelGro driver.

Some, including Mr Kelvin Lim, still set aside time to work out. The 53-year-old TransCab driver dedicates three hours in between two driving shifts to playing basketball with his colleagues and neighbours.

“I make a very conscious effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is a very high-risk job, so it is important to take care of ourselves,” Mr Lim said.


The above report published by an independent think tank is a cause for concern. It should vindicate all the endless grievances by taxi drivers. Currently, we have nearly 29,000 taxis operating on our public roads. link The total Taxi Vocational License (TVL) holders is slightly more than 100,000. Only citizens could hold a TVL. More than half of the existing TVL holders are active taxi drivers if we assume that every taxi is operating on two shifts. The number of 50,000 over taxi drivers on our public roads reveals an alarming phenomenon if we assume that the recently published report in this month’s Medical Journal is accurate citing the “one in three taxi drivers facing driver fatigue”. The implications are serious and dangerous. They are running “time bombs” on our public roads only waiting to explode!

The fact is that everyone of us is a road user. Whether you drive or not, we are all road users. (also paying the ubiquitous ERP charges of course) Unless you do not leave your homes, we all use the roads as motorists, cyclists, passengers in a bus, car or taxi or simply as pedestrians. With a third of taxi drivers having “driver fatigue” plying on our public roads, one could imagine the potential safety issue and its repercussions. As a responsible government, the relevant authorities should study the implications further and make policy changes to address this problem. Sadly not much is done. At the best, it’s only negligible or token measures just to show that they do care. It’s merely lip service so to speak. Take this training scheme for instance. Only 4,000 cabbies stand to benefit for the next 2 years? Is it enough when we have more than 50,000 active taxi drivers?


This is only what they could for taxi drivers?

Currently, all TVL holders need to go through a compulsory refresher course every 5 years. The TVL holder pays for the $50 one-day course. During the one-day course, new rules & regulations are briefed with updates on latest landmarks and buildings. Only a small part of the course is devoted to the safety aspect. Once in every 5 years to get briefed on a little bit of safety aspect is clearly not enough. It should be revamped to at least a 3-day course once in every 2 or 3 years with a greater part devoting to safety driving and healthy lifestyle appreciation. But then who is going to pay for the rental when active taxi drivers go through the course. As it is, the taxi driver will still have to pay for the daily rental whether he’s driving or not; attending courses notwithstanding. In other words, the taxi driver will need to pay for the $50 one-day refresher course, daily rental of the taxi and also incurs loss of income for that day!

Obviously, the government will need to work out with taxi operators to ensure that active taxi drivers do not suffer any loss of income whilst attending such courses. All these active taxi drivers are citizens and their welfare (esp driving fatigue) is of concern to all of us. As a responsible government, more should be done for this group of taxi citizens. I’m referring to active taxi drivers. The other half TVL holders who are not active taxi drivers should not take into account.

This group of taxi drivers is not subject to MOM rules and regulations. Most of them work for more than 10 hours, some clocking even more driving hours on the roads. They also do not have off days or public holidays. Even maids and foreign workers do get off days. Taxi drivers as citizens of this country are even worst than those foreign workers. Taxi drivers as citizens of this country, nevertheless it’s still a dog’s life for them. I did blog about it on my previous recent posts. link For a start, the government could decree that all taxis need to be run on 2 shifts so as to lessen the rental burden thus reducing their driving hours. Some of those taxis running on the roads do not have relief drivers and yet LTA insists that they clock at least 250km daily. It could be quite tough especially for the older drivers. LTA’s rationale for that 250km requirement is to ensure that taxis are kept running on the roads most of the time to meet increasing demand for taxis.


Obviously taxi drivers are not on their radar!


How come taxi drivers don't get? Double standards?

Government should also step in to ensure that taxi drivers get at least one day off fortnightly. The latter should work with taxi operators regarding co-rental payment. No taxi driver will want to voluntarily take a day off cuz he will still need to pay rental on daily basis whether he’s driving or not. That’s a sad reality. It’s a vicious cycle that need to be broken if the government is serious in addressing this “driver fatigue” safety issue amongst the tens of thousands of active taxi drivers.

Actually, the root cause lies in the high rental as a result of ridiculous COE prices. Taxis just like other private cars need to compete for existing COEs. The sky high COE contributes to high rental. If the taxi is run on OMO (with no relief driver), the rental of $132 as in my case, (Rentals vary with different types of taxis), about $30 to $50 diesel depending on mileage clocked and other miscellaneous costs such as monthly season parking, other parking charges when taking breaks, ERP charges etc (not to mention fines for unavoidable minor traffic offenses eg dropping pax at bus-stop) – the total operating costs could escalate to about $190. As such, the taxi driver is forced to drive everyday to meet the high operating costs whether he’s feeling well or not, rain or shine. That’s the main cause for the “driver fatigue” syndrome.

Trains do not compete for limited road space so they are exempted from COE. Buses are also exempted. Taxis even though is a public transport still need to pay for the high COE. If only the government could waive COE for taxis, then taxi rental will be reduced. With reduced rental, the pressure on taxi drivers will be much lesser. Question is will this government willing to forgo such a huge sum of revenue? They seem more keen on revenue than taxi drivers’ welfare.

Taxi drivers are a neglected group of public transport workers working long hours without off days or rest on public holidays. Their priority is never on the government master transport blue print even though tens of billions are pump into rail & road infrastructure not to mention the millions given out to purchase buses for bus operators.

I feel that it’s a pity that taxi is not their top priority. Taxis should complement trains and buses. Taxis do play an important role in public transport due to its affordability, convenience and nimbleness which need to be recognized. The government need to change its mindset regarding taxis since most tourists and foreigners take this mode of transport. As ambassadors of the country, due recognition need to be given to them. More courses need to be conducted for taxi drivers to upgrade and improve its professional image. Without addressing the fundamental issues especially high rentals highlighted above, standards in the profession will not improve. The vicious cycle will not be broken. It will remain at its current pathetic state now that the independent report has warned of “driver fatigue” and its serious safety repercussions. Hopefully, the government will take the sobering report seriously before it’s too late.


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My condolences to Tan Kin Lian on the demise of his beloved mother


My deepest condolences to Tan Kin Lian on the demise of his beloved mother

This afternoon at about 3.45pm, I paid a visit to Mr Tan Kin Lian (presidential candidate 2011), at Cactus Crescent. He’s holding a funeral wake for his beloved mother aged 90 yrs who passed away on the morning of 24/2/15. I followed him on Facebook. That’s how I got the message. It’s the 8th day of CNY. Usually, Chinese avoid funeral wakes during this time – the first 15 days of CNY unless they are relatives or close friends. Since I was around the vicinity, I thought I’d just drop by to send my sincere condolences to him.

When I arrived at his residence, I asked for him. I introduced myself after paying my respects to his late mother laying in state. For a moment, he was not sure. When he managed to recall, he straightaway introduced me to all his friends present that “he’s my blogger friend.” He shook my hand warmly and invited me to the living room.

Mr Tan wanted to know how I find his Facebook postings and the many articles he’s written especially on financial planning, investment, insurance etc. My reply was that I only disagreed on one issue. That’s one of the reasons why I decided to pay him a visit to discuss. When he looked at me curiously, straightaway I told him that I do not agree with his National Service views.

Mr Tan is lobbying for our NS to be reduced to one year. In fact, he has set up online petition to get his message across. It was a friendly exchange of ideas on the NS issue immediately after paying my respects to his beloved mother by lighting joss sticks on the altar. There were no drinks or peanuts. We did not waste time on formalities. We debated on one of the vital pillars of our society – National Service for all able bodied male citizens. link

Mr Tan says that he’s not asking for the abolishment of NS. Just a reduction to one year from the current 2-year NS. I told him it used to be 2 and half years. Later, in the evening when I was discussing it with my EM friends, they told me it’s now only 20 months. The following points were brought up by him…

a) Times have changed
Unlike in the early years of nation building when we were poor, we needed as many able bodied citizens to take up arms to defend the country. Now, we are quite “rich”. We are able to afford all kinds of high tech weapons. We’ve got fighter jets, war ships, missiles, submarines and other deadly weapons. In fact, war is no longer fought on land with much manpower. It’s the age of button pressing and joysticks in times of war. link Look at the Americans’ recent military operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan. No ground troops deployed at all. As such, according to him, we need to modify and change our NS concept since we are already 50 yrs into nation building.

b) Waste of resources & time
According to Mr Tan, Switzerland only demands 9 months of NS from her citizens. Taiwan is currently one year. The latter plans to scrap it. They will expand their professional armed forces instead. If other countries could do it, why can’t we?


Our citizen army marching on National Day

For the past 50 yrs, our young men need to sacrifice 2 years performing NS obligation at a meagre pay. Their university education is delayed. Their career is also delayed. In the early years of nation building, we did not have tons of foreigners working here. But today, these foreigners have a head start in work places cuz they need not serve NS. Mr Tan is not against FTs working here. He’s merely stating the facts and the grim reality facing our young men. The burden of 2 yrs need to be reduced to a year to alleviate such gross injustice to them as citizens. Why penalize them? Moreover, they should be paid “market rate” for their NS obligation. Serving the country is one thing but they also need to be adequately compensated. Just like our Ministers and MPs serving the country are also adequately compensated.

Our professional armed forces need to be expanded with savings ( in terms of training costs, allowances etc ) from a reduced NS obligation. Citizens also need to go back for in-camp training every year for 2 to 4 weeks thus disrupting their work. Many employers are not very supportive of this disruption (though they don’t openly say it). Whereas, those FTs are not subject to this obligation.

Actually, those facts mentioned by Mr Tan are common knowledge. They are not unknown to us. It’s just that no one takes the initiative to highlight those points on the NS issue. It’s a taboo subject with much sensitivity and emotions. We must not forget that NS is one of the vital pillars of our society.

Having listened to Mr Tan’s explanations about the NS issue, I’m still not convinced. Maybe, I belong to the old school of thought. I’m old fashion in that sense. I find it difficult to accept what he’s saying regarding his views on NS. Rape of Nanking and all the frightening images of atrocities kept flashing in my mind! We better get prepared for that day which I wish will never come! Never forget the Chinese saying, “养兵千日用兵一时!”

Just this morning when I was sending a male passenger to the Salvation Army office at Upper Changi Road North from Pasir Ris, we commented that the TPE (Tampines Expressway) leading to his place of work is always jam pack with cars every morning. I then said that cars are so expensive, yet there are still so much cars on the roads. It’s just like maintaining a second wife. My passenger all of a sudden replied that “rifle” is the main wife not a car! Without rifle, people will bully you. Even you hold a rifle, people will still bully you! I just could not believe that it’s so co-incidental that I’d be talking about NS later in the afternoon.

At the end of the discussion, I still told Mr Tan I don’t agree with his views on NS. I do not support him on that. He graciously told me that we could agree to disagree and remain as friends. No hard feelings. I respect him for that.

Next, he gave me a preview of a taxi app he’s working on. It’s called “Page Taxi.” There are so many taxi apps in the market nowadays. He feels that his taxi app is better than the rest. He’s still refining on it. I shall blog about it next time round.

At about 2.15pm, after spending half an hour at his residence, it’s time for me to take leave to resume my driving routine. We bade farewell after another round of warm handshakes.

Read related NS article here.

Read another related article here.

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CNY get together …

On the afternoon of 22/2/2015(Sun), the 4th day of CNY, some of my taxi course-mates gathered at Old Kallang Airport Road Hawker Centre to touch base. Nearly 40 of us took the 2-week taxi crash course and graduated on 16 Jan 2014. It’s slightly more than a year since we passed out from Singapore Taxi Academy. It’s a pity that not all turned out in full force. We came with our own $2 red packet to exchange amongst ourselves for good luck! link

Anyway, we were very excited to catch up with each other. We exchanged news on our different career paths. Most of them are taxi hirers with few relief drivers working for different taxi operators. We related our own experiences and giving each other useful tips relating to our job. We started on an equal footing in the same class under the same brilliant instructor, but after a year of baptism of fire clearly we could sense the differences amongst us. Some ran faster whilst some are still playing catch-up. Even myself could not match the better ones amongst them. For instance I told them it’s not easy being OMO – One Man Operation without any relief driver. But many of them could do it OMO (paying full rental instead of half) driving everyday for more than 12 hours with no qualms at all. I really salute them for their tenacity and perseverance.


Group photo of my taxi course-mates

I also learnt from them that so and so got a new job and given up driving taxi. Some have also returned their cabs and become relief drivers. Many have switched from the main taxi operator to a smaller operator etc.. They took time off from their busy driving routine (due to CNY) to drop by with some managed to catch passengers on the way to the meeting venue. They started arriving from 1pm onwards until we finally dispersed after 3pm. Before we left, we promised to meet annually to keep in touch. Hopefully, more of them will turn up next year. We expected our brilliant instructor Mr Foo to turn up since he suggested that we meet up. Unfortunately, he was busy with his “Lo Hei” session somewhere. I observed that some of my course-mates still addressed Mr Foo as “Sir”. It shows the kind of respect they accorded him. As the Chinese saying goes “一日为师,终身为父!”


Our instructor Mr Foo with blue shirt appearing on TV

In fact, we are all on WhatsApp chat group. We used to keep each other updated of road conditions eg traffic jams, airport situation whether the taxi queue is long or the high demand of taxi in certain places. For example, some of them will update us via WhatsApp chat group whenever there is a huge cruise ship calling at Marina Bay Cruise Centre (MBCC). Once the huge ocean liner arrives at MBCC, we could expect few thousand passengers. If we happen to be around the vicinity, we would move over there.

On the same day in the evening, we had the biggest CNY gathering at Elias Mall coffeeshop. The 444 gang under Wilson also came over to join us at EM. More than 30 of us sat on 3 tables. Even M. Chua also took time off to join us to usher in the Year of the Goat. It started at about 7.30pm until past midnight. I had to take leave at about 11pm cuz I had to work the next morning.

The CNY gathering was planned well in advance before the CNY. The number of participants kept growing until it hit more than 30 members. Red Bull initially booked 2 big tables but not enough. We had to add another table to accommodate the extra bodies. Alan Taxi was the treasurer. We contributed a small amount to AT for the expenses. Albert acted as liason officer by setting the menu. Wilson sponsored the 444 gang tables. We only ordered a set of “Lo Hei”, steam boat and some side dishes. Ah Keng sponsored 5kg of fresh flower crabs sourced directly from the kelong. Ah Tong prepared tons of huge fresh prawns, cuttlefish, fishballs, meatballs, fresh vegetables, grouper fish-heads, mushrooms etc etc.

Initially, we ordered some beer to go with the occasion. Later, the boss Cheng San of the coffeeshop dropped by. Out of the blue, he gave instruction to the beer promoters  that 4 crates of beer delivered to our tables. 4 crates of beer comprising 2 Guinness, 1 Carlsberg and another Tiger giving us a total of 48 bottles of beer! M. Chua wanted to pay for the food and drinks but we declined since he’s our VIP for the night. Befitting of his status, he already had plan B in mind. He came prepared. Before he left, he distributed 40 pieces of red packets with a piece of Singapore Sweep ticket inside to all of us. With that gesture, he brought much cheers and uplifted the joyous mood by few decibels with shouts of Huat and Fatt!

As usual, we had portable speakers playing music in the background whilst we enjoyed the tons of food cooked on the steam boat with free flow of beer. How not to be merry with so much food, beer, music and most importantly good company? The star of the evening was our dear fren Bob. Everyone from EM and 444 seemed to know Bob. He managed to walk albeit slowly with a cane. He’s recovering fast since his spinal operation last year. He was completely immobilized when we visited him in the hospital last year. Every one took turns to wish him speedy recovery. We were so happy to see his usual self once again.

Obviously our invited guests from 444 were impressed. They thanked us profusely for the efficient and well organized feast. The only regret is that our Leong & Leong – FOM from 444 were not able to join us due to some unforeseeable circumstances. We hope they could join us next time. We missed them lah!

Wilson speaking for the rest declared that it’s the best dinner feast they ever had in recent memory. Many photos were taken and circulated on our smartphones. I even uploaded some of the pictures on Facebook. link It’s indeed a memorable way to usher in the Goat Year with a bang! So many “Huats” and “Fatts” were uttered whilst we cheered and toasted each other all night long!


Group photo of EM & 444 members





Lao Si, Datuk Lim, Chris and Bob










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Creative Chinese messages & greetings


Typical Chinese New Year greetings

One of the things I look forward to every Chinese New Year is those Chinese greetings I received from friends. In the good old days, CNY greetings used to be sent via sms with 160 characters limit (include full stop, comma, exclamation marks etc). Short messages were created based on this 160 character limitation.

With the advent of technology viz a viz smartphones and the internet becoming prevalent, that 160 character limitation is lifted thereby opening the flood gates for all kinds of creative messages. Some even come with “stickers” or “emojis” etc.. Think WhatsApp and Wechat.

I am of the opinion that those Chinese messages circulating during CNY are much more creative than the English messages. The English New Year messages are usually, “Wishing you a happy and prosperous New Year”, “May you be blessed with happiness, health and luck” etc. All standard forms of boring messages. Definitely no puns on the 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs (animals) at all.

I’m one of the fortunate in my age group – those past 50 yrs whom benefited from a forced bi-lingual policy. For that I’m grateful to this government for forcing us to learn Chinese (Mandarin) in school albeit at 2nd language level with only one Chinese book whilst the rest of my subjects were taught in English.

For more than 12 years of formal education starting from the People’s Association kindergarden class right up to Pre-University, I was schooled in English with only one Chinese subject as a 2nd language. At least, I’m able to see the world through two windows instead of one. People like Encik always condemns SBS – Shi Bu Shi. To him Chinese (Mandarin) is SBS lah! He feels awkward and uncomfortable with Mandarin speaking environment. Millionaire Caveman used to say that if only he had some basic Mandarin, he’d be a “billionaire” today. Yup, he was the first amongst the pioneers to venture into China during the early 80s when China just opened up its doors to the outside world. Opportunities were plentiful then. link

Anyway, I’ve given up any hope of convincing Encik about the uniqueness and beauty of the Chinese language. Like caveman, Encik had his formal education in Penang. As such, they didn’t benefit from our forced bi-lingual policy. How to explain to a blind man the different colors of red, blue, yellow etc? Sad to say, a person born blind will never know the beauty of colors no matter how you explain to him! Actually you just can’t explain colors. Like what they say seeing is believing. If you can’t see, what to believe?

Many of my friends have requested that I blog in Chinese. I wish I could write in Chinese as well as my English. Sadly, I can’t. I could only read and understand Chinese but not able to write fluently. Even composing short Chinese sms also see me struggling with the pinyin or the written form.

Two famous international Chinese actors from Hong Kong who could not even speak or understand English initially could now speak English fluently. I heard one of them speaking English with American accent on television recently. I was impressed. They had the time and money to engage private tutors to teach them English. If only my Chinese standard is of the highest fluency, I would devote the time in my remaining lifespan to study Chinese literature, philosophy or Buddhism. Even if I were to devote 20 years of my life doing just that might not be sufficient to fully reap the vast timeless wisdom in its bottomless treasure pit.

It is generally agreed that the English language blossomed around the era of Shakespeare in the 16th century – about 500 years ago. But Chinese literature was already at its height during the Tang dynasty in the 7th century – much earlier then the English. It’s easily more than 1,000 years earlier than the latter if were to include the earlier Han dynasty. 

Back to my subject matter. I’ve selected some Chinese message samples here received from friends. I’ll not attempt to translate them here. The translation will do injustice to those creative messages cuz they lose their meaning with translation. You could copy and paste them using the google translator to get the gist of it. Most of those Chinese messages revolve around hope, luck, happiness, health, wealth, work, family etc during the CNY. The most commonly used greeting year after year is “年年有余” - “Every Year With Surplus” with the last Chinese character “余” whose pronunciation is similar to fish. That’s why the fish image is quite prominently displayed on greeting banners, cards or even sms messages.   

Hope you will enjoy reading those creative messages. You may even recycle them for next CNY. It’s a good reference on how to send creative and interesting Chinese messages to your family and friends.

Read related article here.






新春佳节快到了提早祝您 “新年快乐!” 
他们会在 “除夕夜” 找你。

祝你新年里有鼠不尽的钞票,能牛转乾坤,虎虎生威,兔飞猛进,拥有龙马精神,蛇全十美,马到功成,羊洋得意,猴天得道,经鸡独立。猪你全家健康快乐! (Puns on 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs)

祝福你在新的一年:聪明如鼠!强壮如牛!胆大如虎!可爱如兔自信如龙!狠毒如蛇!浪漫如马!温顺如羊!顽皮如猴!美丽如鸡!忠实如狗! 肥过只猪! (Puns on 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs)

(Puns on 12 Chinese Zodiac Signs)

在金鸡年,祝你像公鸡般勤劳,像母鸡般伟大,像小鸡般可爱,像火鸡般够气,像孔雀般美丽,像马来鸡般纤体,像KFC家乡鸡般受欢迎,像金鸡下金蛋。(Puns on Year of the Rooster)








祝您:2015 新年快乐福到财到!





















(Hidden msg of getting older by a year)

(My favorite greeting on the 15th day of CNY)

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Happy Lunar New Year 2015!

Yesterday after I finished my tour of duty, I presented 2 mandarin oranges and one red packet ($8) to my night relief Alan Taxi. I also thanked him for driving my taxi. I’ll do the same on Fri when my other relief Johnny Cash is on night shift. Both night relief drivers are driving the night shift whilst I take the day shift. So far, they are alright. They are competent drivers and most importantly they exhibit “car sympathy” – they really take good care of the taxi maintaining its cleanliness and exercise caution when operating it. As is the tradition of taxi hirers, we usually give a token of appreciation to our relief drivers during CNY. It’s also giving them luck when the red packet is presented. Some hirers go as far as giving hampers to their relief drivers.

This morning about 9am just before I started driving, my good friend Datuk Freddie zoomed in to my humble abode in his luxurious BMW 5series sedan to hand delivered 8 pieces of fresh rabbit fish. He told me he had gone to the Senoko fish market around 4am to order 26kg (costing more than $1,000 at $60 per kg) of rabbit fish distributing to all his family members and friends. Myself and Lohcifer are amongst the beneficiaries. Later in the day, my brother Dr Nigel and his family came over for lunch. They were able to partake the delicious rabbit fish.


The 8 pieces of rabbit fish nicely packed by Freddie's wife

This is the 6th consecutive year that my good friend Freddie has done so! The Chinese really appreciate any fish given on the 1st day of CNY. It is symbolic of abundance cuz the fish pronunciation in Chinese is similar to the meaning of “extra”, “more” or “abundance”. 年年有余 – “Every Year With Abundance” since my good friend is sending fish to me every year. May he prosper and live forever so as to continue this unbroken link year after year! It’s one of those things I look forward to every year. Thank you again Datuk Freddie. Link here
Another link here.

Usually, I would start work late on weekends (Sat and Sun) including public holidays. Instead of 6am, I would start at about 8am or even 9am until I report off at 6pm. Reason is that there is no extra 25% morning peak surcharge on those days. Even on CNY, there is no extra surcharge at all. It really doesn’t make any sense at all when demand for taxis during weekends and especailly public holidays is at the highest yet there is no surcharge. Wonder no more there are so many desparate passengers waiting for the limited number of taxis.

Taxi drivers do not have annual leave or the luxury of taking off days cuz rental need to be paid on daily basis. For once a year, this is the only time during CNY when Chinese taxi drivers could bring their family members out for visiting. With no extra incentive to drive on CNY, the dearth of taxis roaming the streets is quite obvious. When I was around the vicinity of Rivervale Crescent this afternoon after driving continuously for hours with passengers boarding and alighting from my taxi non-stop, I decided to take a short break. I looked around and noticed there there were so many anxious people standing along the streets as if they are watching the Chingay procession. When I was about to resume driving, a maid with 2 young children came running towards my direction.

“Uncle, uncle, pls send us to Toa Payoh Lor 1. We have been waiting for a taxi for nearly one hour. There is no taxi at all!” 

“Are you sure? I know taxi hard to come by but to wait for nearly one hour I really don’t believe it. You must be exaggerating!”

“No. No. Honestly I am telling the truth. Just send us there. My employer is waiting for the children. They kept calling me but I can’t do anything if there is no taxi!”

“OK. I’ll send you there.”

The maid thanked me profusely. She told the children to wish uncle “Happy New Year” and say “Thank you to taxi uncle!”

I dare say that having the ability to earn an honest living and contribute in a little way to bring smile to others resulting in much appreciation is the ultimate satisfaction of a taxi driver. Never mind if it’s a dog’s life.

I understand that the dearth of cabs is a perennial problem during public holidays especially on CNY. Why is it that the problem keeps recurring? Why can’t it be solved? Or maybe they just can’t be bothered at all?

You see, one month before CNY, barber shops all over the island jack up their prices. Even ladies going to their usual hair saloon also face a higher price hike. On eve of CNY right up to the 3rd or 4th day, all the coffeeshops jack up their coffee and drinks prices. Usually a bowl of noodle costs only $3.00 but it goes up by another 50 cents during this time. Those hawkers and barbers are self-employed and do not have bonuses. Even security guards are incentivized with “special package” to encourage them working during the festive season! They justisfy the increases during the festive season in lieu of bonuses.

It seems that only taxis are the neglected group. Like I say, taxi drivers will have to fend for themselves in this most expensive city on earth! No one would speak up for their welfare. No one cares for them. They are the pariah group in our 1st world country lah! 

With good attitude and a cheerful disposition, many passengers voluntarily gave me tips. One good example was an Indonesian couple I picked up at Ikea @Alexandar Rd. I took the current call booking. When I arrived there, there was the longest taxi queue I ever saw. I was wondering why would anyone go to Ikea on CNY? Anyway, I helped to load the tons of DIY furniture into my cab. When we arrived at the condominium basement carpark at Geyland Rd, the appreciative couple gave me $20 when the fare was only $16 plus including the $2.30 current call booking. Many others – Chinese and non-Chinese asking me if I celebrate CNY and why didn’t I go visiting? I told them if all taxi drivers go visiting, who is going to send them around visiting places? Almost all my passengers just round off the cents to the dollar when they paid their fare. At least, some sympathetic passengers do take pity on us by giving us “bonuses.”

I’m merely stating the facts. As I’m blogging this at Elias Mall coffeeshop, Red Bull just joined me. He’s complaining that the price of a bottle of Carslberg has gone up by $1.00. He just came back from visiting his relatives at Yishun. He told me that he gave the taxi driver $20 when the fare was about $16plus. I then related to him that the Ikea couple also did the same. Red Bull understands the plight of taxi drivers. He says, “it’s only once a year and that taxi drivers got no bonus lah!” How I wish that if only those gods in-charge of our destiny think likewise, our life would be much better. But then, given the fact that taxi driver’s official income is set at only $40 a day on a 12 hour shift; how could it be better? When I told my foreign passengers this fact, they just couldn’t believe it. What to do? Life goes on. We’ll just have to resigned to our fate lah! Link

Any way, I am grateful to be alive and able to earn a decent honest living. I take this opportunity to wish all my family members espcially my other brother James and his family in Vancouver, my friends especially Bodo, Heinz and Ulrike and my loyal followers a “Happy Lunar New Year!”


One of the many CNY greetings received from frens

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