Singapore

Number of cabs hits 8-year low

Since arrival of ride-hailing apps such as Uber, the number of taxis has fallen by more than 10%

The taxi population has fallen by more than 10 per cent since the arrival of ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Grab.

According to the latest Land Transport Authority figures, the number of cabs hit an eight-year low of 25,699 as at June 30. This represents a 10.6 per cent drop from its peak of 28,736 in 2014 - a year after Uber and Grab set up here.

In fact, the cab population has been shrinking every year since then, with little or no prospect for an upturn in the foreseeable future.

The bleak outlook had prompted SMRT Corp, the third largest operator here, to enter into talks with Grab to dispose of its taxi business.

Cabbies themselves are leaving the trade in droves. According to a report by The Straits Times, the percentage of idle or unhired taxis hit 9.1 per cent in May - almost double what it was the same time last year.

UNHIRED RATE

Before Uber and Grab entered the fray, the unhired rate for cabs rarely went above 3 per cent.

Former cabby Alan Tang, 54, was among those who called it quits this year. Now in the security industry, Mr Tang drove a Comfort taxi for about three years before giving up.

"When I started in 2014, I was earning around $3,500 a month for a 12-hour shift. Just before I left, it had fallen to below $3,000," he said.

"Driving a taxi has its fringe benefits - such as freedom and access to a car for personal use - but it becomes not worth it when your earnings fall below $3,000."

Driving a taxi has its fringe benefits - such as freedom and access to a car for personal use - but it becomes not worth it when your earnings fall below $3,000. Former cabby Alan Tang

In his new job, Mr Tang said he makes over $3,000 easily.

"My pay last month was $3,800," he said, adding that he has days off, annual leave, dental and medical benefits, and most importantly, Central Provident Fund contributions.

"In the three years that I was driving a cab, I estimate that I lost close to $40,000 in CPF contributions," he said.

Like his former colleagues, Mr Tang blames the rise of private-hire players - and the inability of the taxi industry to respond adequately - as the main reasons for the falling popularity of taxis.

Since 2013, the number of rental cars here has more than tripled to 63,259 as at end-June. Of the lot, some 50,000 are estimated to be cars plying as private-hire vehicles.

In attempts to stem the exodus of drivers, cab operators have started cutting rental rates.

Industry leader ComfortDelGro has rolled out a $79 daily rate for Hyundai i40 cabs, which are above three years old.

This comes with conditions, but is far lower than the $125 charged for a new car.

The intense competition has spooked investors, with ComfortDelGro's stock price hitting its three-year low of $2.26 yesterday.

taxiuberLand Transport Authority