TAXI fares could soon be raised in a move aimed at improving cabbies' income and at retaining drivers. There is speculation that market leaders Comfort and CityCab are planning an increase in the flagdown fare to S$3.80, with the meter adding 30 cents for every 400m travelled.
The flagdown fare for the two taxi companies' regular cabs is now S$3.70 for the Hyundai i40 model and S$3.20 for the older Hyundai Sonata; for both these models, the meter jumps 22 cents every 400m.
The price increase in distance travelled is said to replace the morning and afternoon peak-period surcharge of 25 per cent of the metered fare, which some commuters have said is confusing.
Comfort and CityCab are both owned by land transport giant ComfortDelGro; together, their two fleets account for 60 per cent of the approximately 28,500 taxis running on Singapore roads.
If these two industry heavyweights revise their fares, the five other taxi companies are expected to follow their lead.
A source said: "The big player sets the pace and influences the market price. But it will be good if their fares rise because it gives us an opportunity to do likewise."
When contacted, ComfortDelGro said it does not comment on fares.
The changes are said to be a response to the stagnant takings of taxi drivers in the last three to four years, even as rental rates of taxis have risen. The i40 costs almost S$132 a day to rent, and the Sonata, around S$110, both prices including GST.
Back in 2011, the Sonata cost under $100 to rent. ComfortDelGro began introducing the i40 only in early 2013.
The group was recently reported to have expected revenue from its local taxi business to rise with the replacement cabs, which command higher rentals, but some drivers have complained that their monthly income has not risen significantly despite increased demand for taxis in recent years. An average driver is understood to take home about S$2,500 a month, though their more hardworking colleagues can earn between S$3,000 and S$4,000.
Taxi companies have thus seen their pool of active drivers shrink as these cabbies leave the industry in search of better pay elsewhere, said a source, who claimed that one of the smaller operators has been left with about 10 per cent of its fleet idle.
"This is a problem that affects everyone because the taxi company doesn't have enough drivers and commuters don't have enough taxis."
He added that this is happening just as many "good, professional drivers" are turning 73, when they have to retire, and also when higher taxi availability (TA) standards are being enforced. TA standards require a company to have a minimum number of cabs plying the roads.
If fares are raised, drivers who make at least 25 trips a day can expect to earn almost S$20 more daily, which will swell their monthly income by up to 25 per cent.
The source said: "With this increase, I am sure it will encourage more cab drivers to stick to the profession."