I’ve just completed 2 full years as a taxi hirer. On 5 Aug 2014, I took out my i40 taxi from Hyundai Komoco. Prior to that, I was a relief driver for about 8 months after I got my taxi vocational license on 15 Jan 2014. It’s now the appropriate time to press the pause button and reflect on my trials and tribulations I’ve gone through before I become a full fledged taxi driver. I’m now more confident and steady on my chosen profession. I’m definitely no way better compared to those veteran taxi drivers who are much more skillful than me. But I’m sure I’ll get there soon.
My taxi is already 2 yrs old. It has clocked more than 350,000 km to date. The wear and tear is getting quite obvious with scratches and dents here and there. On average I clock about 200 km per day. Since I drive everyday on the day shift, I have so far clocked more than 150,000 km. As such, I’ve managed to tame my “iron horse” to my whims and fancy at this juncture even though still not able to blend into nirvana state where the soul of the machine and myself merged into one entity. I’ll get there in due course.
In my previous job, for 18 yrs I was driving trains on the East/West line. Almost everyday, I was in the train driving cab aging as the train also ages. I’m now looking fit and better than before with enough sleep without those crazy rotating shifts and bizarre reporting hours in my previous life. At least, I have no TB to worry about! That’s according to some of my ex-colleagues who happened to bounce onto me. The trains on the other hand are getting more sick and unfit now.
When I started driving taxi nearly 3 yrs ago, I was a nervous wreck and a hopeless lame duck with zero knowledge on prominent land marks with no road sense even though I got my driving license in Mar 1984 at FTB (Force Transport Branch at 4th Ave Bukit Timah). Yup, I was a trained police driver performing team policing – driving police patrol cars all over the island attending to cases. I’d ever mentioned, to pass the full time Taxi Vocational course conducted by Taxi Academy is only the beginning at the foothills. Now LTA has decided to shorten the Taxi Vocational License course and also remove some of the modules! Is it not clearly logic defying? Do these policy makers ever drive full-time as a taxi driver before they craft policy with far reaching consequences impacting taxi drivers and the general public using our taxi service?
Like a fish suddenly thrown out of the pond when I was unceremoniously booted out from my previous job after 18 long yrs, I had to struggle and make a decent new living in order to survive in this most expensive city in the world. I had no choice but to quickly learn the basic skills to adapt and survive in a another trade in an entirely different world – a sea infested with sharks where they are out to get you if you are not alert or careful. 3 sets of rules – Road Traffic Act, LTA Taxi Rules & Regulations and also Company’s Rules & Regulations are ever ready to whack you. Tons of cameras on every corner of the roads are also aiming at your backside.
To spend your greater part of your waking hours eking out an honest living on our roads could be a challenge. Just turn on the radio and you will hear of accidents here and there causing traffic jams. It’s a daily affair especially on weekday morning rush hours. I’ve witnessed so many aftermath crashes on our public roads. Yup, knock 3 times NOT on the ceiling but on someone’s bum, you are out of the game! I’ve not elaborated on nasty ugly customers who are always out to get you for any little inconceivable excuses.
When I started driving taxi nearly 3 yrs ago, there were not many careless road users. Now, we have to look out for electric bicycles zipping around the main roads and side roads on top of the usual walking zombies with headsets plugged into their ears.
Recently, there is another menace – the Pokemon craze that is happening right now! Just this evening, I fetched 2 crazy Frenchmen from Changi Village to a pub on Joo Chiat Rd playing Pokemon in my taxi.They were so excited about catching Pokemon and giving me instructions to slow down or go faster, making sudden turns etc! They even asked what’s my Pokemon score. I said no Pokemon for me cuz I’m driving. It’s dangerous and irresponsible. I’ll lose my license if any serious accident were to happen! What a crazy world? Now you know what I meant when I said sharks infested cesspool I was thrown into to fend for myself? Sometimes I miss that comfortable little pond.
For more than 2 yrs, I’ve more or less overcome some of those job hazards coming out stronger and wiser. Just to illustrate, I did not even know where Elias Green is even though I’ve lived at Elias Road for more than 25 yrs! I was always confused with Pasir Ris Street 51, 52 and 53 even though it’s in my neighborhood. I remember the first time when I fetched one aunty to RWS casino she had to direct me. I told her I know it’s in Sentosa but not sure how to get there. She laughed at me uncontrollably like a wicked witch! Really langgar! It was also an adventure getting into Jurong Island. Getting into the extreme Tuas South Basin area is also a maze when it took me a while to get out!
I was determined to perform well in my new job. It’s either make or break. I told myself that I’ll need to get my geography right. Every day after work, I will go through the street directory and maps to get a clearer picture. In my bedroom, there is a detailed CBD map and another larger highways map pinned on the wall. (From Mighty Minds). I need to know all the CBD gantries in order to put a city surcharge if I pick up pax inside. Also to avoid the CBD surcharge if I were to send pax just outside the restricted zone. There are only 10 expressways and yet I need to master all the exits and entrances in order to get my pax to their destination using the fastest route. These are some of the basic skills a professional taxi driver will need to master.
I just did a cursory sketch of the challenges facing a taxi hirer. Of course, there is more to it. Handling pax especially those cocky ones also need some skill. If you are not careful, you will invite a complt. We do not want to be called up by LTA or company to answer to unnecessary complaints wasting precious down time. Time is money to a taxi driver.
I’ve briefly spoken on the job descriptions as a full time taxi hirer. There’s much more I wish to say. Maybe, I’ll touch on the competition facing the taxi industry other time. Or I may even touch on the idiosyncrasies of my night relief drivers etc. That will be another blog another time. Suffice to say here that it’s not easy being a taxi hirer. Like any other professions, there are issues and problems beneath the seemingly calm exterior. In short, there is no perfect job devoid of its inherent imperfections. Different strokes for different folks!