Life as a Taxi Driver in Singapore

It's been about two weeks since I started my stint with SMRT taxis, looking after a handful of drivers under my care, and at certain times, doubling up as a taxi driver performing shifts.

I gotta take my hats off the veterans in this business siah.

➩The first step in applying to be a taxi driver is to make a visit to Land Transport Authority

The routine of driving all day to me was a rather tremendous one, waking up as early as 6am in the morning, and ending late at night at around 9pm-- that is if you intend to drive alone. One-man-show they call it. If you're lucky, you'll get a relief driver to cover you for the other shift.

I'm currently trying to break into my routine as a one-man driver, pulling long hours on weekdays, and doing the night shifts on weekends. But I have to tell ya that it is indeed a behemoth task!

Sure taxi drivers are considered self-employed, they have the luxury of time to either work or rest- but the painful part about this is that, when you're not running your cab, it means no income. BUT the rental of the vehicle goes on mind you eh.

The smart ones would be disciplined, they'll start off their drive early, and try to breakeven the cost of the cab rental, and fuel, before they start profiting for the day. And they do this every.single.day. Now I know why the cab drivers that I ever hitched a ride with before would almost proudly proclaim that they have been driving for years! It's their only trophy laden pride for all their years in the industry.

I have had alot of comments from passengers complimenting that I was the youngest ever driver they ever got. And not one-called me "Uncle" a common term that they would direct the cab driver to route them to their destination. That's how young I seem to them >.<

Anyway, I have to say that money CAN be made from driving a cab. Heck, any job will allow you to make money- if you're disciplined!

One thing I noticed about this job is that new drivers had no proper guidance at all.The company is ever so eager to pair drivers to rotting vacant vehicle in the carparks, but their support for drivers, are inadequate to me.

So for the benefit of aspiring cab drivers in Singapore, I went to great lengths to network with the staff from SMRT, and even the senior drivers in the company to jump-start my experience in the cab industry.

Rule #1 as a Taxi Driver

Don't miss on your rental. Once you lose a day, chalking up the rental costs would be putting you in a deficit rather than profiting. And in this case its going to be the taxi company that benefits from the debts you owe them for using their vehicle. How much you ask? A brand new vehicle like the Prius will cost about $132/day.

Rule #2

Be hardworking and disciplined. Be strategic and have a plan. The early birds catches the worms. Wake up a tad earlier than the other folks, and you'll break your rental earlier, and start profiting much earlier after deducting fuel costs as well.

Rule #3

Don't be driving around with empty back seats. Hunt your customers at ideal locations according to the time of the day. If you wake at 6 in the morning on a weekday, its students/teachers/shift workers getting to work in the morning. And when 8-10am arrives, its the white collar workers heading for work at their offices, its the same in the other end of the day.

Rule #4

Try to know more about Singapore. Add value to your service. There are THOUSANDS of taxi drivers out there who do the same thing you are, any many are hardworking and can run for miles and miles. How do you stand out? THINK. Know about our country's culture and history, touristic locations, go OUT of your way to appease your customer. In my first week, I've already had regular requests.

Rule #5

First impression counts. In accordance to Rule #4, the first few seconds are the most important in impressing your customers. I admit that I don't do it to EVERY customer, I'm selective. If I try to build rapport with all of them, I'll burn out not only to the long hours of driving, but to the mental torture as well.

Those are the the five golden rules that I always try to inculcate myself every time I drive out and passing it along to other drivers.

Why a licensed taxi driver?

Alot of passengers did ask me if the taxi driving industry was competitive- or not. I'd always reply it in from a passenger's perspective. Convenience. If  newer technology or application come along our way, it can only mean better for the commuters! But today,I just found out that if you're a passenger in a private hire vehicle such as Uber or Grab, you MAY not be insured if an accident strikes.[Editors edit: This has since been improved by the private vehicle hire industry. Passengers are now insured as all drivers have to have mandatory insurance coverage when driving]

Check this article published on Straights Times about an 18-year old who died in a uber driver accident. Good news is, the driver and his vehicle would have been insured, bad news is, it's most probable that the driver failed to purchase the correct insurance cover when he's ferrying passengers.

Now- this comes to the topic about being licensed. Why is it that LTA came up with regulations that taxi drivers has to be of a minimum age of 30, at least 2-3 years of driving experience and a citizen? If you'd ask me, it's simply about being a seasoned driver with amply good enough driving experience, one who knows the roads well. In comparison with the criteria to drive Uber-for instance, the minimum age is 20, AND you don't have to have a license to work for them. *Updates: LTA has since made it mandatory for all private hire drivers to undergo a course similar to what aspiring taxi drivers undergo-- kudos to LTA!*

Why then set regulations for licensed taxi driver to be aged 30, citizen etc etc??? But make it so easy for private hire vehicles to drive on our roads. The regulations which were set in place to safeguard lives, were easily violated by allowing younger and less experience drivers on our roads. Is it because Grab and Uber were brought in by companies related to our government? What do you have to say about this? Drop a comment below or send us a tweet at @LittleRedBlogSG

[2018 Update] 

My review on working my short time working for SMRT.

My stint working as a Taxi Driver was for 6 months back then was one that was tiring, strenuous and time consuming. Money can be earned if you put in the long hours, however at the expense of quality family time.. and your health.

For those looking to earn a living by driving with GRAB. Many have changed since I last drove, Grab has removed almost all incentives for drivers. Previously the incentives were; if you completed X number of trips, there were monetary bonuses if you hit a certain target. As of now, they have scrapped all the incentives as they are currently the leader in the private vehicle industry. 


Pak Nasir

Pak Nasir

Bringing you juicy news from our tiny red dot. And the areas surrounding it.

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