(Source: www.straitstimes.com)

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 (LTA) data, the number of cabs here hit an eight-year low of 25,699 as of 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 of an upturn in the foreseeable future.

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

Cabbies are also leaving the trade in droves. According to an earlier Straits Times report, the percentage of idle or unhired taxis hit 9.1 per cent in May, almost double what it was at the same time last year.

Before Uber and Grab entered the fray, the unhired rate for taxis 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, he drove a Comfort taxi for about three years before giving it up.

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    The number of cabs in Singapore as of June 30, an eight-year low

“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 fringe benefits, such as freedom and having a car for your personal use, but it is not worth it when your earnings fall below $3,000,” he added.

Mr Tang said he is “easily making more than $3,000” in his new job.

“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 lost close to $40,000 in CPF contributions.”

Like his former fellow cabbies, he blames the rise of private-hire players and the inability of the taxi industry to respond adequately for the falling popularity of taxis.

Since 2013, the number of rental cars here has more than trebled to 63,259 as of the end of last month. Of the lot, some 50,000 are estimated to be plying as private-hire vehicles. Not all, however, display the tamper-evident decal required from July 1.

Some operate under carpooling services such as GrabHitch or UberPool, which are not governed by the new private-hire rules.

Chinese daily Lianhe Zaobao reported over the weekend that Grab had terminated the services of some 200 drivers for exploiting this loophole by, for instance, breaching the two-ride-a-day cap stipulated for carpooling services.

To stem the exodus of drivers, cab operators have started cutting rental rates. Industry leader ComfortDelGro, for instance, has rolled out a $79 daily rate for Hyundai i40 cabs that are over three years old. This rate comes with various conditions, but is lower than the $125 charged for a new car.

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

Meanwhile, the number of private cars has also plummeted. According to LTA data, the cohort hit a nine-year low of 545,024 as of the end of last month – 10.3 per cent down from a high of 607,292 in 2013. Part of the contraction has to do with private cars being converted to become private-hire vehicles.

The total vehicle population has fallen to a seven-year low of 953,097 – 2.2 per cent lower than the high of 974,170 in 2013. This has to do with a three-month lag between the time a vehicle is scrapped and the time a certificate of entitlement is recycled back into the system.

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