The importance of Taxi Vocational License

This amazing country has a powerful tool to control almost every profession in every industry from the lowest food chain to the highest. Yup, I’m referring to the issue of “license” by the relevant authority. If you are a professional e.g. Doctor or Lawyer you will need a license to practice. If you swindle your client’s monies entrusted to you or prescribe medicine indiscriminately, your license may be revoked. Without a valid license, you will not be able to earn a living in your chosen profession.

Before you start selling cooked food, you will need to go for medical check-up and apply for a license. If you do not maintain a minimum standard of hygiene as a hawker selling cooked food, NEA may revoke your license thus forcing you to close shop. Even selling tobacco products to the under-age will have your license taken away. From these few cases, you will agree that licensing is an effective way to control and regulate almost every profession in the country.

In those good old days, there was not much control or regulations as far as illegal hawkers or pirate taxis were concerned leading to chaotic situations. Anyone could just set up a stall selling cooked food any where as they like then. This is still being practiced in some 3rd world countries. Not any more in our highly regulated country where everything needs a valid license from the proper authority. Without proper health checks, hygiene was an issue not to mention the indiscriminate setting-up of stalls along the streets and back lanes. We have more or less eradicated illegal street hawkers. But pirate taxis or “pa wong chia” have resurfaced and mutated in new form under the cover of new technology in our new economy!

Whatever mutations the modern pirate taxis evolve in the so-called new economy, certain things can never and should not be changed. The interests of the consumers (passengers) and those existing taxi drivers holding valid taxi vocational license must be safe guarded. Let’s look at the rationale of taxi vocational license.

Like I mentioned earlier, licensing is a powerful tool to control and regulate a profession. There are one hundred and one rules and regulations in the rule book to discipline errant taxi drivers. If there is a complaint by passenger to LTA, the taxi driver will be investigated. If the complaint is substantiated, the taxi driver may have his license suspended or revoked affecting his livelihood. Even if the passenger directs his complaint to the taxi company, the taxi driver may be sacked. He will have to look for another taxi company to ply his trade earning a decent honest living.

Every 3 years, taxi driver will have to go for a refresher course and a complete medical check-up before his taxi vocational license is renewed. If he does not pay his medisave voluntarily, his taxi vocational license may not be renewed. When I drive my taxi, I have to be careful not to invite unnecessary complaints from passengers. I’ll not do nonsensical things to jeopardize my rice bowl. On few occasions, I was offered extra cash to fetch more than the legal limit of 4 passengers. I declined. I told my passengers it’s against the law. I do not want to take unnecessary risks for getting caught by enforcement officers.

Taxi vocational license is indeed an effective means of control to regulate and discipline taxi drivers. Almost all foreigners and tourists are impressed by our local taxi drivers. We follow strictly to the taxi meter fare, do not over-charge and are courteous to them. They have been to many countries in the region and they all agree that our taxi drivers are reliable and trust worthy – the best in the world! Mind you, it does not happen by chance.

Just to illustrate the importance of taxi vocational license. Whenever I send pax to Jurong Island – a vital installation with tons of oil and gas, I was asked to surrender my taxi vocational license. Not my NRIC! Security is so tight that they snap a picture of me with my fingerprints taken all under the watchful eyes of anti-terrorist security personnel in army green camouflage!

The same thing happens whenever I enter Changi Airport cargo complex. They demand for my taxi vocational license even though I need not change pass. Obviously, my taxi vocational license (with valid date cuz they check) carries more weight than my NRIC.


Do we want this to happen? The result of unregulated taxi drivers!

Imagine without the fear of having your taxi vocational license revoked, do you think that the reputation of our taxi drivers could be so impressive? If I were to operate under UberX, taxi vocational license becomes irrelevant. If the passenger complains to LTA, there is nothing the latter could do to me. Unless, I commit a criminal offense, the police will not prosecute me. As such, I will operate my taxi business under UberX outside LTA’s taxi rules and regulations. It is as simple as that. Yet, many policy makers do not understand this simple rule of the thumb.

I would like to highlight some salient points of taxi vocational license. Before a citizen (only citizens could apply for taxi vocational license) could apply for the taxi crash course, he will need to write in to LTA for approval first. The applicant will be screened by LTA for any criminal records or past serious traffic offenses. Only after getting the LTA approval letter, the applicant can go for the taxi course. As such, before the Singaporean could go for the taxi course, he will need to go for a complete medical check-up and get approval from LTA first.

If you drive under UberX, you need not go through all these procedures. In fact, any body, not necessary citizens could drive UberX. The difference between a qualified taxi vocational driver and UberX driver is that the latter could not do street jobs – meaning they could not pick up pax by the road side. But with 3rd party taxi apps, unlike in pre-internet days it is no longer an issue. UberX drivers have become a major player in the taxi industry albeit without any form of control on them unlike those orthodox taxi drivers holding LTA taxi vocational license. That’s why existing taxi drivers complain about different levels of playing field in the same industry.

On the first day i.e. 1/10/15 the newly minted MOT visited train depots and crew stations. He uploaded some pictures taken during his visits on his FB. That tremendously boosted the morale of frontline staff. On the 2nd day i.e. 2/10/15, he wrote a blog about the taxi industry. From there, we could see his priorities in his new job. At least, he is humble enough to admit that he did not know that UberX drivers need not go for the taxi course to get qualified for taxi vocational license. He’s trying to put things right by highlighting this salient point on his blog. His subordinates had better take note of his thinking.


MOT's latest blog on the taxi industry.

All these while, taxi drivers have been trying to highlight this vital point to the relevant authority i.e. taxi vocational license but to no avail. Even our PM publicly endorsed Uber and other 3rd party apps saying that it’s just sending pax from point A to point B. Is it so simple as that? Just like one smart alec ever mentioned driving trains is just “pressing buttons” only. If it is so simple, then just train a monkey to sit in the train driving cabin to “press buttons”. No need to spend months training someone to operate trains with yearly refresher courses and endless circular updates!

PM Lee has endorsed Grabtaxi and Uber. Watch 11:11 min of the video

At last, we have an enlightened MOT brave enough to change course and change tact by publicly declaring that something need to be done to address this anomaly in the taxi industry! In the newly sworn in cabinet, there are 3 co-ordinating Ministers with 2 of them holding DPM rank. If there is another DPM post, the newly minted MOT could be the 3rd DPM! After all, he has already cleared up much of the HDB mess with enough flats for all and the housing prices are more or less stabilized. He has earned his dues and proved indispensable to the new team. PM made a wise move by appointing him as MOT!

My only worry is his health. I read somewhere just before the last GE that our MOT felt uncomfortable and giddy when he was attending to his constituents’ needs. He had to lay down to rest a while. He also publicly mentioned about taking frequent walks at Sembawang park to de-stress. Let’s hope that he could last the term and make some significant changes for the benefits of all before he calls it a day!

Updates…. 6/10/15

I was quite reluctant to include this part on my blog for fear of losing a fren. For the sake of our taxi industry, I’ll let the truth prevail. I’ll just say that my fren who was an experienced skilful taxi driver all his life in a moment of folly chose to work for a credit card syndicate.

My good fren committed credit card offences by cloning passenger’s credit card when the latter paid at the Point of Sale Terminal in his taxi. After some time, he was caught red handed. Convicted in court for the said offence and went in for more than a year. LTA revoked his taxi vocational license and he could no longer ply taxi as before. He’s gone over to UberX. The dark side accepted him with no questions asked. They welcomed him with open hands!

I’m quoting one known living example. What about others with different criminal convictions? Nobody knows cuz there’s no proper screening done on those crossing over to the dark side! It’s a nightmare and a time bomb waiting only to explode.

Read related article here.

Click here to read Confession of a new taxi driver.

Embattled Uber faces global crackdown.

Better safe than save!

Posted in Langgar | 8 Comments

We do not have 4 seasons but we have haze season!


Every year there is haze season here!

I could still vividly recall the dark dreary overcast sky when the people’s princess was laid to rest on 6/9/1997. Link The sad moving dignified state funeral was telecast live on television with Elton John singing “Candle In The Wind” accompanied by piano. Most of us stayed indoors to catch the tragic event telecast live on television as the haze was then at it’s height. The heaven seemed to mourn for the people’s princess. Everyone avoided outdoor activities. I remember the yearly haze was not so bad before that. It was tolerable then. From that year 1997 onwards, it’s getting worst especially this year, the haze seems to last longer than usual and more intense.

Our Indonesian friend publicly said that it will take 3 years for them to solve the haze problem. I hope he knows what he’s talking about. It’s already 18 years since that memorable haze and it looks like it’s going to stay with us forever. To declare that 3 years could stop this nuisance is like talking through his ass!

Just few days ago, I related the above to my Filipino pax. He boarded my taxi at The Metropolis to Clementi Loop directing all the way to his destination by sitting on the front seat. The pax told me that he’s a PR here for the past 10 years and every year, like all of us have to tolerate this health hazard.

“Why are you all not doing anything? Why your government not doing anything?”

I told him that we are a small country. A tiny red dot. We are powerless and can’t do much except to make some noise every year when it happens.

“Look, you’ve got a powerful airforce. Just go over there and bomb those assholes! Teach them a lesson!”

I nearly got a heart attack and nearly lost control of the taxi when I heard that langgar comment. That guy looked very well educated. He spoke like Obama in perfect American accent in a loud commanding voice – just like he directed the route all the way to his destination by giving me clear directions. Immediately, I told him it’s madness to do such unthinkable thing. It’s a declaration of war! We would also be killing innocent lives. That’s not a civilized way to do things in a modern civilized world.

“Look, by burning their vast forests year after year sending toxic fumes, gases, ashes and smoke over to your country is akin to slowly “killing” your own people here. Over the long run, more and more of your innocent people here will die. If your government is so particular about second hand cigarette smoke by banning smoking in almost every corner of the island, I say this yearly haze is even worst than cigarette smoke! If second hand cigarette smoke could cause cancer and other respiratory diseases, don’t you think that this unhealthy thick haze is even much worst? It’s just that nobody highlights it. It’s not politically correct to highlight this life threatening phenomenon. But I’m telling you the hard truth. Think over what I just said” I passed him a mask and he put it on straightaway!

I then told him that my brother also had the same line of thinking. That’s why my brother and his family migrated to Vancouver about 8 years ago where the air quality is so much better. The water is also so much cleaner there. For these 2 precious things, my brother is willing to give up his birthrights here – his executive flat, brand new Toyota Wish, a maid, $6K teaching job etc not to mention his right to choose the government of the day in this unfriendly neighborhood (region) – in exchange for clean air and water! When my Filipino pax heard it, he commented that it’s a wise move.

I told him I’m different. Whether there’s haze for one month or the whole year, I’ll still live here cuz this is my country and my home. I would rather go childless than adopt cuz it’s not mine and doesn’t carry my genes. The adopted child is not my own flesh and blood. Similarly, no adopted country for me. It’s as simple as that.

Notwithstanding the exchange I had with my Filipino pax, I feel that if it is a man made disaster, it should be able to be solved. If it’s a natural disaster, then it’s God’s will. Question is will this seasonal haze stay with us for the rest of our life and many more generations to come? Do we want to be known as a beautiful sunny tropical island without 4 seasons but with a seasonal haze? Like I ever mentioned on my previous blog, we are merely farmers minding our plots of land. We will leave it to the newly sworn in cabinet to handle this man made national disaster which is killing us softly slowly.

On my part, I’ve stocked up lots of face masks in my taxi. Courtesy from cryptic Chiu from EM. From the freely available face masks, I noticed some interesting characters. Some pax offered to buy the masks from me. Some would just take one piece when I told them to take extra. They say leave it for others to use. Some would not utter a word but quietly “stole” few and quickly put inside their bags. Some would decline cuz it’s not branded like the N95 they were looking for! However most of them are appreciative thinking that it’s from my taxi company. I just told them remember to take my company taxi then!



But the most sobering conversation I eavesdropped from a PRC couple when I picked them from a condominium at Pasir Ris Grove to ICA is that they commented that our country is so tiny that when they started burning some forests and with a change in wind direction, the whole country suffer! They spoke to me in English when they boarded my taxi. They thought that I’m a Malay due to my dark complexion. Most of my PRC pax thought that I’m a Malay until I started to speak to them in Mandarin. The pregnant wife was complaining about the irritating haze in this “愧地方”! She said it’s more than a month and the haze doesn’t seem to go away. When they reached ICA to renew their passes (I overheard them talking about it), I collected the fare and before they alight, I told the wife to go back to China and leave this “愧地方” cuz the haze is not healthy for her unborn child.

I even received sms haze sarcasm from frens. Sample of such sms…

印尼为了感谢邻国多年来的支持。特别优待各国享用免税印尼烟。今年还特别加料浓度高达99%  公开声明这绝对是免费的。请多谢印尼政府。

Every year, this seasonal haze will end soon after our 7th month ghost festival and National Day celebrations. But it seems that this year, in SG50, the haze outlasts them all! When will we get back our clear sky? When will the haze go away? We will never know. Only heaven knows. So let us all pray hard and urge heaven to grant us our wish for clean air and clear sky.

Posted in Langgar | 4 Comments

My reflections on GE 2015

君子报仇,五年未晚 jūnzǐ bàochóu, shí nián wèi wǎn – When a gentleman takes revenge, ten five years is not too late; one should bide one’s time and wait for the right opportunity to seek vengeance; similar to “revenge is a dish best served cold”.


The massive turnout at a recent opposition political rally.

Even at Elias Mall coffeeshop, we could not escape the election fever. Endless rounds of heated debate and emotional discussion on the latest campaign trails by heartlanders have been going on. The on-going election campaign is reaching its climax with many political rallies held every night all over the island causing massive traffic jam and havoc! It’s now on the 4th day and Singaporeans will have to go to the polls on 9/11 (Friday) to decide which political party will rule over us for the next 5 years.

In one of the emotional deliberations on the pros and cons of the political parties, I was suddenly asked a pointed question if I would vote against the incumbent party? They exhort me to seek revenge by voting against the ruling party. They are aware of my case.

My case briefly …

Between 19/4/2014 to 3/6/2014, I was issued 7 summons at the same place around the same time between 1am to 1.30am for not complying with “No Waiting” sign near to Bishan MRT bus stop whilst driving taxi. I was doing the night shift then. I used to send someone working in EM coffeeshop back to AMK and then I would proceed to Bishan MRT to look for a “fish.” It’s my kelong as well as LTA kelong! Usually there are pax around that time coming out of Junction 8. The taxi stand is quite a distance away. Pax too lazy to walk. Most taxis would wait at the bus stop for pax. The CCTV captured my taxi and I was issued 7 parking summons at $70 each. All the summons came within a few days. I was quite shocked to receive so many summons at one go.

I personally went down to LTA to appeal to the officer. A young lady officer half my age interviewed me. There was a camera overlooking us when the interview took place in a small room after I was called in. I told her that it’s after 1am and that there was no bus. I was inside the taxi all the time. I was willing to pay one of the 7 summons. I assured her that I had learnt my lesson and that I would never ever park or wait at the said place in future. $490 for the 7 summons is a huge sum of money to me and I only managed to earn about $100 a day. ( I was new to the taxi trade then & still struggling )

After listening to my explanation, she said that she could only waive one of the 7 summons. I would have to pay up or go to court to answer to the 7 charges! She was unmoved by my desperate pleas. I asked for leniency and compassion based on the time of the offenses. There was no obstruction caused. I was merely doing a service to the pax at their convenience so that they need not walk so far to the taxi stand.

To add insult to injury, she commented on “how I managed to pass my driving and taxi licenses?” “The law does not say that certain time I could park or wait at the place intentionally committing the offense.” She said that I should know the law better and that I had committed an offense. Like a mangy bitch bitting hard, she refused to let me go!

I replied I never denied that I had committed the offenses. I was at fault. That is why I’m here to appeal to your compassion and asked for leniency. If I were not at fault, I would have gone to court to fight it out!

I mentioned that there are many places with vehicles parked illegally causing worst obstruction due to lack of parking facilities especially in some private residential estates. If you could tolerate illegal parking at some religious places and schools why couldn’t you let a poor taxi driver off with a warning instead? After all, I was willing to pay for one of the 7 offenses. I further assured her that I would never do it again. My desperate pleas fell on a deaf frog. Typical case of public servant insolence with an iron rice bowl mindset who doesn’t need your vote! No use lah. Wasted trip.

When she refused to relent, I told her I would see my MP to appeal on my behalf. Immediately, she extended the grace period to pay for the summons for another month giving me time to see my MP. I had the impression that they are more into revenue collection than road safety education.

In my whole adult life, I have never been to any Meet the People session. I had no choice but to approach my MP. I told the MP that in a criminal case where an accused committed 7 counts of housebreaking or any criminal cases of the same nature, usually the prosecution will only proceed on 2 or 3 counts. Even if the accused is convicted on the said criminal offense, he would be sentenced concurrently with the rest taken into consideration ( TIC ). It simply means that the court only effectively proceeds on one of the same numerous charges! Obviously my parking offenses are even worst than criminal offenses!

Before my MP spoke to me, I was attended by one ang mo grassroots assistant. They were most helpful. The MP was pleased that I was willing to pay one of the 7 summons. It made his job easier. He then wrote an appeal letter to LTA on my behalf. Within a week, the replay came. I was instructed to pay 2 of the 7 summons! I was further given a stern warning and a lecture on the evils of illegal parking! I paid $140 for the 2 summons without further argument.

Not only me but many of my friends had many bad encounters with LTA traffic enforcement officers. Just to randomly quote a few cases…

Douglas was inside the car about to pick up his wife at the Pasir Ris MRT station roundabout near to White Sands. LTA officer simply snapped a picture of his car. He was given a fine. Taxi driver Pop Ong was “On Call” at Tanglin Mall taxi stand where only 2 taxis are allowed. He was the 3rd taxi but with “On Call” sign prominently displayed yet he was snapped a picture and given a fine. His appeal was rejected. Crazy Kang parked for a few minutes along Punggol Rd to allow his pax to buy something and he got a ticket for the illegal parking in a dead night.

Taxi driver Hamster Wong was cleaning his taxi with a damp cloth at one corner in the HDB neighborhood whilst waiting for his relief, yet he was chased off by LTA officer for parking along double yellow lines with threat of a summon. He has been doing just that for donkey years until recently. He told me that even when the MP of the area passed by one day saw him cleaning his taxi, he commented that he’s working very hard. Yet there was this foreigner putting on LTA uniform with a little bit of power terrorizing him. “I don’t understand what the government is doing? Cheng Hu Zou Si Mi Lan employing those foreign idiots? In those earlier bygone days with carpark aunties (before those foreign morons,) there was no problem.” Remember those LTA morons even summoned a hearse for illegal parking in a HDB estate when it went viral on social media?

What about my relief driver Alan Taxi parked at his block below when he realized that he forgot to take his wallet? Barely 5 mins he came down and explained to the LTA officer yet he was issued a summon. Can’t he tell if the car engine is still hot or did he make any observation before he issued any summon? Another taxi driver Born Loser Seong literally screamed at one LTA officer when he about to snap a picture of his taxi. He screamed at the LTA officer that every car park in the entire Singapore is given a grace period of 10 mins. His taxi was there for barely 5 mins yet that moron wanted to issue summon against his taxi! Really langgar!

As Singaporeans and citizens of this country, we are really at the mercy of those foreigners whom given a little power begin to terrorize us with summons for every little minor infringement. No compassion or common sense at all. Unprofessionalism happens when it’s outsourced to cheap foreign labour! Some say that they get commission out of every summon issued? I’m not sure about that though. We are really helpless at our wits’ end. EM heartlanders say it’s time to seek revenge by sending a strong message across by voting against the ruling party. I only mentioned parking issues. What about other issues other than parking summons? Wonder no more during this period almost all enforcement actions cease. Those LTA morons suddenly disappear or lying very low. Few days before polling, particularly on the actual polling day you will notice all kinds of illegal hawkers surfacing in the bus interchanges or MRT areas selling all kinds of stuff with the relevant authorities closing both eyes!

Just like those summons quoted above, tough enforcement action will definitely lose them some votes! They understand that fact. No government during this 9 day election campaign lah! Normal operations – back to their nonsense will resume only after the GE. I’ve lived thru many GEs to understand this point.

Some voters living under the incumbent party will surely have some issues or unhappiness over the years. They are normal commoners struggling with daily high costs of living and the stress of high density living. Add up all these will definitely turn into a potent force as witnessed by the huge tremendous turnout at every opposition political rally. Most heartlanders are not highly educated professionals able to analyze the overall performance of the ruling party. We are no scholars but merely poor farmers minding our own plots of land to survive. Whether I drive my taxi or not, I still need to pay $132 rental per day!

Like I said earlier, the commoners do not appreciate that we’ve got the best Finance Minister in the world that even the United Nations is eyeing. Do they realize that without a capable Defense Minister, we could never have a powerful Air Force with more than a hundred super fighter jets for such a small country with only 5.3 million people? I ever mentioned on my previous blogs that every foreigner (100%) whether a tourist or expatriate always envy our current status. When I told them it looks nice on the outside with our beautiful highways and lego like buildings in town and in the HDB heartlands, we still have our own problems they may not know. They then retorted just look across to the north and compare. No need to look further. I don’t wish to elaborate. Certain things are better not said here.

Yup. There is no perfection in this world. Look around you – your family members, relatives and friends, they are never perfect. Like I related about my 7 summons earlier, the government is not perfect. They can never be perfect lah! I also got my fair share of grievances. But we will have to look at the bigger picture before we cast that vote on polling day. Think carefully before you decide to mark on that piece of paper. Whatever the outcome, we will have to live with it for the next 5 years.

If you analyze carefully, the ruling party need only to win over 15% of the votes to retain power. 33% of the voters will always support them with the other 33% hard core opposition. Taking into account of 3% spoilt invalid votes, only the 15% need to be sway to their side. Myself and many of us belong to this group. In fact, most heartlanders belong to this group of voters. That’s why the fight for the hearts and minds will always be at the HDB heartlands. They did not hold their press conferences introducing new candidates in the coffeeshops for no reason right?

Finally, my assessment for the mother of all elections on 9/11/15. Aljunied GRC, Punggol East SMC, Hougang SMC will go back to WP. Potong Pasir & Fengshan may fall. Tin P L will get to keep Macpherson. East Coast GRC hard to say. Overall percentage of ruling party will go up by few percentage points. After all, it’s their year – SG50 in a way is synonymous with the ruling party’s performance. The many programs rolled out such as Pioneer Generation package, Medishield subsidy, Quarterly Workfare for low wage earners etc etc. with even dialect clips shown on TV are sure winners.

Heavy bets have already been placed at EM. If the ruling party hit 60 points, Alberto will have to buy me a dozen beer. I’m looking forward to the countdown. It’s getting more and more exciting as we get nearer to the polling day!

Posted in Langgar | 4 Comments

A taxi driver’s reflections


My reliable Hyundai i40

On 5th Aug 2014, I took out my i40 taxi from Komoco. It’s now one full year. My contract with the taxi operator is over. I could return the taxi anytime if I do not want to carry on driving taxi. My options are now open. I now have a choice whether to continue driving taxi to earn a decent living or move on to another job.

I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on my trials and tribulations during this one year period as a hirer. I drive 7 days a week on the day shift from 6am to 6pm. On average I clock about 250km per day with about 15 to 20 trips. That’s about 20 passengers a day if we include some of the trips with more than one passenger. I could lay claim that I ferry about 600 passengers in a month. For the whole of one year, it’s approximately more than 7,000 passengers! Yup, I meet all kinds of people from the lowest food chain to the highest – the good, bad and ugly of humanity so to speak. Some of the interesting encounters I’ve previously blogged about and published on this blog. Of course, there are so many other interesting real life stories to blog about if only I have the time. I’ll come to that later.

Let’s analyze this taxi trade. Is it suitable for everyone? Unless they change the rule, only citizens can apply for a vocational license to drive a taxi. From my experience and conversations with other fellow taxi drivers, this profession is only suitable for the middle age preferably above 40 yrs. The best age to enter this profession is between 45 yrs to 50 yrs. It is definitely no go for those younger ones. Reason is that there is no CPF, no annual leave, bonus or sick leave etc. You need CPF to buy a flat, build up your nest egg for retirement, medisave etc. As such, you will need to build up your CPF first by working in a company. Taxi drivers do not have all these. Their daily takings are in hard cash. Not easy to save for the raining days.

Some may say that after retirement from a normal job, maybe could consider taxi as a post-retirement career. Taxi driver – subject to medical requirements, is allowed to drive till 75 yrs. Lao Si from EM put it succinctly when we had a mini conference about taxi driving. He said that if he were to retire at 62 yrs, he would not consider taxi as a career option even though he has driving license. Driving taxi especially at such an advanced age is not easy. Taxi drivers face all kinds of traffic summons if you are not careful especially now with cameras all over the place. Whatever you earn may not be enough to pay all the summons. What about safety considerations?

When you are older, your eyesight and reflexes are slow. If you are not alert, it may cost your life. The moment you sit in the driving seat of a taxi, the beautiful super highways and smoothly paved roads in front of you are minefields. One wrong step, game over! No second chance lah! I would add that if you are older, your memory may not be as good cuz you will need to remember the tons of landmarks and routes in order to earn a decent living as a professional taxi driver.

But it seems that nowadays no need taxi vocational license or any formal training, one could still ferry passengers around in a private car. Are we back to those days where “pirate” taxis roam the streets? Remember those unlicensed taxis or “pak ong che?”

Lao Si says that he would rather go to the idyllic park to work as a sweeper. You are paid to exercise as a road sweeper in the public park at about $1,200 a month (with workfare) working only 5 days a week from 7am to 3pm. Any thing above that is considered OT. You will get extra if you work on weekends. He knows a friend who just did that. With basic pay, OT, and workfare from the govt, he’s getting more than $2,000 a month as a road sweeper after his retirement. Yes, you are paid to exercise by working as a sweeper in our beautiful parks. If it’s raining, no need to sweep but income still come in. Whereas, if you drive a taxi, most taxi drivers would rather sit in the coffeeshops to wait out the rain. The safety aspect supersedes all else. 2 or 3 knocks NOT on the ceiling BUT on the ass of another vehicle you are out of the trade! Why take unnecessary risk by driving under heavy rains? No driving meant no income for the taxi driver. That explains Lao Si’s penchant to work as road sweeper rather than a taxi driver if he were to retire from his current teaching job! Really langgar lah!

But if your flat is fully paid up, children grown up and no more financial obligations, I would say driving taxi is quite a viable option. You are your own boss without much stress or pressure. You get to meet all kinds of people. Most importantly, you could even eavesdrop all kinds of conversations between passengers in your taxi or when they are talking in the phone. Always keep your ears open and your mouth shut whenever you hear anything. Unless you are asked, never talk much with passengers. Not every passenger likes to talk. But if they do, just entertain them by giving fair comments and honest opinions. Recently, I have ferried many expatriates from the Overseas Family School opposite Elias Mall which just shifted from Paterson Road. They would like to know about the neighborhood. I’ll just brief them on the amenities and landmarks around the vicinity with a bit of history thrown in.

The newly opened OFS and some of the condominiums at Pasir Ris link are my new customers. What about all those new and upcoming condominiums along Pasir Ris Drive 1 where calls are plenty. Whenever I leave my carpark, I am spoilt for choice with many bookings coming from these places. Of course, the HDB flats also do have calls but not that much. With all these extra dwellings, it has become more crowded. As we speak now, there are at least 3 more condominium clusters under construction – next to OFS, next to NV residences and two more at Pasir Ris link. With all these latest condominiums, there is still only one Elias Mall and the same Pasir Ris Drive 1. Try coming here on weekends for your breakfast, every stall is super long queue! What a langgar situation!

We could see the dilemma here. Without all those extra dwellings, I’ll have less business. The side effect is over crowding with less space for original inhabitants like myself. The roads in the neighborhood are jam packed in the early morning peak hours especially that junction near to the new flats underneath the MRT viaduct leading to Pasir Ris MRT. Vehicles ignore the yellow box junction and jam up all the traffic. Every morning it’s the same chaotic no govt situation. When we need enforcement action here, there is none! But they are always seen “terrorizing” residents armed with digital camera for petty parking offenses when there is no obstruction at all! Really langgar!

The above scenario is repeated all over the island. Large swathes of kampungs in Eunos, Ubi and Tai Seng areas where I used to roam as a child are now heavily built-up industrial areas. It generates business for my trade (and jobs for others also). I live all my life in the East especially Bedok, Ubi, Eunos, Tai Seng, Paya Lebar etc. Over the last 50 yrs, I’ve seen the immense transformation second to none in the world where the entire population as in those kampung areas were shifted to HDB towns with the former turned into mega industrial estates and industrial buildings! Is this desirable? Could we still go back to those kampung days? There is no easy straight forward answer indeed. It depends on what angle you are looking from.

Most of my passengers are foreigners and tourists. Out of the thousands of passengers I ferried over the one year period, I’ll put my head on the chopping block to say that every one – not one single foreigner who is not envy of our spectacular economic success. They admire our transformation from zero ground level to high-rise concrete buildings, from the vast timeless sea to reclaimed land with huge mini cities springing up with a blink of an eye. I used to tell foreigners that they don’t name “Beach Road” for nothing. It used to be a Beach nearby. The Americans would say crazy! Yup, what you see beyond Beach Road was once upon a time sea. No foreigner is not amazed at the artificial garden created on top of the hotel! Not forgetting the billion dollar Avatar Gardens by the Bay on reclaimed land! Again, they say it’s crazy! From nothing to something over one generation is indeed crazy by any standard of measure!

I could go on and on to paint a huge canvass on our glorified transformation from nothing to something. It is the next phase that worry me and citizens of my generation. Will it sustain for the next 50 yrs? Or will we disintegrate and bite the dust? This time round there is no more kampung to fall back on but tons of collapsed concrete. As Singaporeans, we will have to decide for ourselves which way to go cuz all these do not happen by chance or the kind act of God.

I think Charles Dickens’ opening paragraph … best describes the time we Singaporeans are living now … (credit to Dr Chan for reminding me when he quoted on his blog)

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us ….”

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Non-payment of taxi fare and a sympathetic taxi company


My brief report of non-payment of taxi fare…

On 14/4/15(Tue) @0837hrs, I picked up a pax (current call booking) from Point A to Point B. We arrived at the destination @0916 hrs. The fare was $25.25.

The pax wanted to pay by Nets but my POS (Point of Sale) terminal machine was not working. It hang. The pax claimed that he had no cash with him. There was also no ATM machine nearby. As he was late for work rushing for time, he informed me that he would transfer the fare of $25.25 to my POSB savings account. I then gave him my account number by writing it on my name card. He took my name card with my POSB savings account written on it promising that he would transfer the fare over to my account asap.

Up till today, it’s already past 3 days I have yet to receive the amount from him. As part of driver welfare, I hope the company could assist me to get back the non-payment of taxi fare from the pax.

Looking forward to your kind assistance. Best regards.

Reply from company…

Dear Cabby,

We refer to the non-payment report you filed with the company.

We will follow up with the case with the passenger for the taxi fare payment.

Meanwhile, management is sympathetic of your unfortunate encounter of this non-payment incident. On compassionate ground and goodwill, management has decided to reimburse you the taxi fare to offset your operation losses.

A letter stating the date and amount reimbursed will be sent to your registered address by month end.

Should you receive the payment from the passenger, please update us.

Yours sincerely,

Drivers Affairs

I started as a taxi hirer with my taxi company since 5th August 2014. This is the first time I encountered such an incident of non-payment by passenger. I didn’t know what to do when the passenger did not keep his promise to pay me the taxi fare. As a last resort, I tried seeking assistance from my company by emailing the management. The response was swift and comforting even though it’s a relatively small amount and it’s also not their fault. I should have insisted on his contact number and full particulars there and then. Since the passenger’s hp number was erased at the end of the trip, I could not contact him to claim back the fare. Only my company still has the details.

To quote Lohcifer, “The above episode clearly shatters all myths that taxi operators do not care about their hirers.” Prior to this incident, I did email to management about my taxi’s slight bald tires even after the monthly preventive maintenance. Straightaway, the workshop manager called me up to return to the workshop immediately to have the tires replaced. No questions asked. Yup, taxi operators do care for the welfare of their drivers. Safety is their primary concern.

Every few days, company will flash a message on our MDT (Main Display Terminal) to remind us to check our in-vehicle camera. If there is no blinking blue light, we will have to send it to the workshop for repair. The camera is to protect us in case of dispute in an accident with another vehicle. That camera really saved me one time when another vehicle hit against my taxi. Link

Once in a while, we also receive email from company reminding us not to pick up or drop off pax at locations with LTA cameras installed especially bus stops at certain locations. Even up to today, I still do not understand why taxi being a public transport is not allowed to pick up or drop off pax at bus stops even after restricted bus lane hours. Sometimes, I pity those pax especially those handicapped pax on wheelchairs waiting at bus stops on raining days for taxi. Talking about those LTA cameras, I had an unpleasant encounter with them when I personally went to LTA to appeal. I’ll blog about it other time.

Back to my non-payment of fare. If I had used 3rd party taxi app, do you think the company will bother to look into it? As such, I never use 3rd party taxi booking apps at all. Those 3rd party taxi apps do not operate and maintain fleets of taxis yet they shamelessly entice taxi drivers with all kinds of gifts if they hit booking targets. Is it fair to existing taxi operators with fleets of taxis to maintain not to mention the huge infrastructure costs incurred in its operations set-up? I’ll blog about 3rd party apps other time.

Suffice to say, those 3rd party taxi apps are taking an easy ride on the back of existing taxi operators when they take so many years painstakingly establishing and building up their taxi business operations. They blatantly advertise their 3rd party taxi apps as if it’s their god given entitlement hijacking existing taxi operators’ own taxi apps in the name of free trade and competition.

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