THE Land Transport Authority (LTA) will give taxi companies a grace period of another six months to meet stipulated standards that aim to make it easier for commuters to get cabs.
The standards were announced last year and implemented in January, and companies faced the prospect of being fined should they fall short.
But following feedback from some that they needed more time to adjust to the new requirements, the LTA yesterday gave them until December to meet the mark.
The standards essentially require a proportion of a company's fleet to ply the roads during peak hours and to clock a minimum daily mileage of 250km.
But some operators told the LTA they needed more time to adjust their operations and encourage drivers to better use their taxis.
"In view of the consistent efforts made by the taxi companies to meet the taxi availability standards, we decided to give them more time to adjust," LTA said in its statement yesterday.
Singapore has seven taxi operators which own about 28,000 taxis altogether.
In the first four months of this year, only Comfort and CityCab - both owned by ComfortDelGro with a combined fleet of 16,200 taxis - met both the peak hour and daily mileage standards.
Premier Taxi and TransCab failed to do so during the peak periods of 6am to 7am and 11pm to midnight.
TransCab could not meet the daily mileage standard from January to March, while SMRT failed in January and February.
The two smallest operators, Prime and Smart, failed on both counts every month.
While the taxi companies contacted cheered the news, an industry insider said the companies are already being penalised for not meeting the standards.
They are not allowed to increase their fleet in the first six months of next year.
Only Comfort and CityCab can do so.
TransCab general manager Jasmine Tan said her company is still seeking ways to coax its drivers to ply the roads more often.
More of the taxis need to have two drivers to meet the standards, she said. Currently, only about 54 per cent of TransCab's hirers have a relief driver. The proportion has to go up to 80 per cent, she added.
Premier managing director Lim Chong Boo noted: "We need the cooperation of drivers. A lot of them prefer to start at 7am instead of 6am."
Meanwhile, SMRT said its performance improved after rolling out a relief driving matching scheme and other incentives, such as a monthly lucky draw where drivers who met the quota could win a $500 diesel voucher.
Smart could not be reached for comment, while Prime deputy general manager Neo Chee Yong declined to elaborate on why his company did not meet the mark. But Mr Neo added: "Taxi operators need a transition period to meet the LTA's stringent service standards."
The LTA yesterday outlined several measures to help cabbies.
It launched an online portal to match hirers and relief drivers.
From next January, active drivers will need to pay only half of the vocational licence renewal fee and will undergo a shorter refresher course.
The LTA had also eased the Central Business District rule in January, making it easier for cabbies to pick up and drop off passengers in the city area.